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  • A Conversation...with Billy Pierce

    A Conversation...with Billy Pierce


    By Mark Liptak
    White Sox Historian

    This one is personal for me…

    On July 31, 2015 I got an e-mail in the afternoon from Dr. David Fletcher of the Chicago Baseball Museum. He told me Billy Pierce had died and asked if I’d do the obituary story for the web site.

    This was one of those situations where you have to read, then re-read the e-mail to make sure you grasped what it said…Billy Pierce was dead of gall bladder cancer at 88.

    I didn’t even know he was sick, he kept everything very close to the vest. I was in a state of shock. I did the story through tears at the loss of my friend but felt I had to do it in order to do the man justice.

    And what a man he was.

    A few years before he died Dr. Fletcher and I put together a story for the Veterans Committee on why Bill should be in the Hall of Fame.

    One metric jumped out at me…

    Billy Pierce by WAR was the best pitcher of the decade. Not the best pitcher of 1953 or 1956 or 1957 but the best of the decade. Better than “Whitey” Ford, than Jim Bunning, than Robin Roberts, than Early Wynn, than Warren Spahn.

    I’m convinced that if Bill pitched for the Yankees or the Dodgers he’d already be in the Hall of Fame. It’s a travesty that he is not.

    But as good of a player Bill was, he was a better person.

    He raised millions of dollars through Northwestern’s Cancer Research Charity for Children, as a White Sox ambassador he’d visit kids, retirement homes, people at the ballpark, he was beloved by the city.

    One personal example, when I’d return to Chicago, I’d visit Bill and his wife Gloria. We’d have lunch, go back to their house and have a relaxing afternoon. This time instead of taking the train back to Oak Lawn my uncle said to call him and he’d come get me. So, he and my mom did.

    Bill greeted them and they talked in his driveway for 15-20 minutes about the...
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  • A Conversation...with Bill Mercer

    A Conversation...with Bill Mercer



    By Mark Liptak
    White Sox historian

    This time around we do something a little different as we bring you our conversation with former White Sox broadcaster Bill Mercer who came from "Deep in the heart of Texas" to join the Sox as part of their broadcasting team. Bill was a broadcaster for the Dallas Cowboys and was the first play by play broadcaster for the Texas Rangers. He had been doing minor league baseball since the early 50's and continued to call games into his 80's! For many years he also taught broadcasting at North Texas University. Bill is still with us retired and living in Durham, North Carolina. He's now 95 years old. I was able to speak with him in 2010.

    One additional note, Bill also was a news reporter for television station KRLD in Dallas, the CBS affiliate. When John Kennedy was shot and killed he and his colleagues reported live for three solid days that November. They provided the basic information to Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather as to the situation and the ramifications. Later Bill and his associates wrote a book describing those three days called "When the News Went Live." I highly recommend it for those interested in broadcasting history.

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    It was a very strange time for the White Sox from a broadcasting standpoint. The early/mid 1970’s saw the arrival of one of the franchise’s most popular voices, Harry Caray, who actually made listening to Sox baseball in good times or bad, interesting.

    But some baggage came with Harry and outside issues took place that shaped the broadcasting end of things in ways that were hard to understand. In fact, some things happened that have never happened before or after to a Major League team.

    Despite 17 consecutive winning seasons, nationally known players and almost yearly pennant races from 1951 through 1967, by the start of the 1971 season, the White Sox had lost their commercial AM broadcasting
    ...
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  • A Conversation...with Bart Johnson

    A Conversation...with Bart Johnson



    By Mark Liptak
    White Sox Historian

    Time and circumstances often make one forget about certain players, they tend to fall through the cracks as it were. Bart Johnson, White Sox pitcher was one of those guys. Possibly the greatest athlete to ever play for the franchise he along with teammates Terry Forster and "Goose" Gossage were the "kiddie relief corps" for the Sox in the late 60's and early 70's and those guys literally put fear in opposing hitters because of how hard they threw and because sometimes even they didn't know where the ball was going to go.

    I had the pleasure of meeting Bart twice in person. The first time was when I returned to Chicago and spoke with him as part of my historical story on the White Sox relationship with the media through the years. The second time was when I co-hosted the 40th anniversary celebration, with Richard Roeper for the 1972 club, Dick Allen's M.V.P. year. They were the club that in Roland Hemond's words, 'saved' the franchise.

    I knew Bart had back issues from his injury when playing for the Sox, he told me he couldn't stand for more than a few minutes at a time but I had no idea, as it was disclosed, when he passed away in April 2020, that he also suffered from complications from Parkinson's Disease. Bart was 70 when he died.

    His career had numerous twists and turns, triumphs and tragedy's most of them because of Bart's decisions and who he was...but one thing's for sure...it was never boring.

    One quick story on him that wasn't included in the interview I did with him in 2006, at the end of the three day celebration for the 1972 club everyone went back to the Drake Hotel in Chicago where all the out-of-town participants stayed. I was in the corner having a beer with Gossage and fellow Sox pitcher Tom Bradley. We were talking pitching and I asked them who threw the hardest among that staff. (And keep in mind Bradley was no...
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