Pitchers Dennis Lamp, Floyd Bannister, and Cy Young winner LaMar Hoyt. Fielders Harold Baines, Ron Kittle, and Tom Paciorek. Designated hitter Greg "The Bull" Luzinski. And to wrap it up, the penultimate catcher, Carlton "Pudge" Fisk. These men were just the core of my favorite baseball team roster, the 1983 American League West Championship-winning Chicago White Sox. The White Sox heretofore had not participated in a post-season game since 1959. Prior to that, there had been no post-season appearance since the 1919 'Black Sox' debacle. That's a long time to survive without a championship coffee mug.
|Winning UGLY! (Literally)|
I was living and working out-of-state in 1983. Beginning that spring, I listened to each White Sox game I could via radio. Soon it appeared that my Sox would be appearing in their first post-season game in almost a quarter of a century. A local friend assured me that a buddy of his in Chicago would be able to get us tickets for one game. We drove over 350 miles, but the 'assurance' never worked out. Standing on the northwest corner of 35th and Wentworth Avenue during a day in early October, we ended up scalping a pair of tickets for about a hundred bucks. Fortunately, the tickets were legit and decent. Unfortunately, the Sox lost the game (and the AL West series) to the Baltimore Orioles. Baltimore fielder Eddie Murray was on fire that year, and the Orioles went on to win the World Series.
LaRussa was fired in 1986, to the disgruntlement of many Sox fans. He was picked up by the the Oakland A's, winning a couple of AL championships and a World Series while introducing us to bash brethren Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire. In 1996, he was hired by the St. Louis Cardinals, where he led them to two World Series and multiple post-season appearances. With his retirement, he scores near the top of many "Coach with the Most" lists. Baseball Hall of Fame? Right this way, sir.
As for Chicago, there would be a stream of managers and notable players that would pass through the Sox clubhouse after LaRussa's departure. Fregosi, Torborg, Manuel; Belle, Thomas, and newly-announced manager Robin Ventura. Since LaRussa and the '83 Sox, the White Sox have gone on to appear in four post-seasons of play: '93, '00, '05, and '08. My sheer joy, delight, and jars of tears cannot be virtually shared regarding my man Ozzie Guillen and the 2005 World Series Champions, THE CHICAGO WHITE SOX!!
So thanks, Mr. LaRussa, for all you did for my team. As far as I'm concerned, you put the Sox on the modern map of baseball. I'm not a devote historian, nor am I a master of statistics. In the 80's, I was just a young man looking to feel good about my childhood team. To me, sir, you will always be the founder, creator, and father of modern Chicago White Sox baseball. And for that, this long-time south-sider will be extremely grateful. You brought respect to a historic southside team in need of acknowledgment for how they played, not for where they were located. You helped change the perception of the Chicago White Sox, and you personified a winning attitude. You lit the fire that became the flame.
Enjoy your retirement, Mr. LaRussa. God bless you, and thanks again. See you in Cooperstown.