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Today in White Sox History: January 30

Happy birthday to a unique 1980s player

The last out before Harold Baines ended a record 25-inning game 40 years ago? Birthday boy Dave Stegman.
| Associated Press
Brett Ballantini started at South Side Sox in 2018 after 20 years of writing on basketball, baseball and hockey, including time on the Blackhawks and White Sox beats. Follow him on Twitter @BrettBallantini and email your site feedback to brettballantini@yahoo.com

1923

The man who would grow up to be nicknamed “Moose,” Walt Dropo, was born in Moosup, Conn.

Dropo would grow to 6´5´´, 220 pounds (gargantuan for the time, still pretty big today!) and thus earn the double-meaning of his nickname. He came to the White Sox in time for the 1955 season, as part of a Frank Lane effort to add some heavier lumber to the lineup. He was just five years removed from his Rookie of the Year and sixth-place MVP finish for the Boston Red Sox.

However, Dropo really never had another good season in all his career after 1950 (3.3 career WAR, with 2.6 of that eaten up by his rookie campaign). His start with the White Sox in 1955 was the second-best season of his career (19 homers, 79 RBIs, 110 OPS+), but still yielded a mediocre 1.2 WAR. That year, he was benched in mid-May because of a hitting slump, but recovered well enough, clocking four grand slams over the summer.

By mid-1958, Dropo was placed on waivers, where the Cincinnati Redlegs picked him up for spot duty.

Dropo has some interesting comps, resonating with White Sox past. The closest overall player to him in all of major league history (95.9%) was Eddie Robinson, Dropo’s immediate slugging predecessor on the South Side. And the player comp closest to Dropo’s outstanding 1951 rookie season? None other than fellow Rookie of the Year José Abreu, with 96.7% similarity.


1954

Dave Stegman was born in Inglewood, Calif.

Stegman played in only 172 major league games over six seasons, and just his final two seasons (1983-84) on the South Side. However, he had two amazing games with the White Sox — within a week of one another — in the very last year of his career.

One came on May 16, 1984, when Stegman hit two homers in one game, both off of Kansas City’s Larry Gura; they were Stegman’s only two home runs of the season, and two of the eight he hit in his career.

Wilder still was Stegman’s role in the 25-inning marathon win over the Brewers on May 8-9. He entered the game in the eighth inning, pinch-running for Greg Luzinski — and then remained for eight at-bats, an all-time record for most at-bats in an extra-inning game by a player who didn’t start the game. With his only hit of those eight at-bats, Stegman later could have scored the winning run in the 23rd inning, but he was called out at third on a coach’s interference call (had the White Sox lost the game, manager Tony La Russa planned to protest the outcome with the league over the call). As it turned out in his next at-bat, Stegman was out bunting to lead off the top of the 25th inning — right before Harold Baines ended the game with a home run.


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