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  • A Conversation With Chet Lemon...

    A Conversation With Chet Lemon...


    By Mark Liptak
    White Sox Historian

    A few weeks ago, I brought you my interview with former Sox outfielder Carlos May, a guy who overcame a potential career ending injury to have a very good career on the South Side.

    Now I bring you the story of another terrific outfielder, Chet Lemon. Lemon also overcame an illness that almost cost him his life after leaving the White Sox.

    Some teams are known for certain positions. The White Sox historically have been known for pitchers, shortstops and center fielders. Lemon was among the best center fielders to ever play in Comiskey Park ranking right up there with players like Gold Glove winners Jim Landis and Ken Berry along with other very good outfielders in Mike Hershberger and Lance Johnson.

    I’ve lost touch with Chet since my interview with him in 2004. I wish I could get back in contact with him because, as I think you’ll see in the interview, there aren’t many guys as open and honest about life and baseball as he is. He was just a great guy to talk with.

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    It’s amazing what you forget. Take this example. In the 2004 White Sox media guide on page 294 under the heading of ‘Career Batting Leaders,’ you find this in the top right-hand corner. Under the listing for ‘Top Career OPB + Slugging Leaders’, sitting in the 5th position all time is Chet Lemon at .814. Ahead of him is Frank Thomas at #1, Magglio Ordonez, "Minnie" Minoso and Eddie Collins. Not bad company.

    Lemon is another one of those very good White Sox players that few knew about, primarily because for most of his career in Chicago, Chet played on some bad, nondescript clubs. He had to go to Detroit before getting national recognition and getting a World Series ring with the 1984 Tigers.

    But make no mistake... Lemon was pretty damn good.

    He was with the Sox from September 1975 through the 1981 season, playing in two All-Star
    ...
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  • A Conversation With Carlos May...

    A Conversation With Carlos May...


    By Mark Liptak
    White Sox Historian

    He was a very good player for the White Sox during the first half of the 1970’s. Carlos May was overshadowed at times by guys like Dick Allen, Bill Melton and Wilbur Wood but he could play the game, combining surprising speed for a man of his size with good power. He made the All-Star team in 1969 and 1972 which was probably his finest season.

    But to know the story of Carlos you have to know what he went through to even get back to the Major Leagues after a horrible accident while with the Marine Reserves cost him his thumb and put his playing future in grave danger.

    When I talked with Carlos in 2004 he went into detail about the accident, how it impacted him and how White Sox fans responded to his situation. This is the interview with him for your enjoyment.


    Also, May is the only player in MLB history (that I know of) that has his uniform reflect not only his last name “May” but also his actual birthday, “May 17!”

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    When you think about it, the career of Carlos May and the history of the White Sox franchise seem to coincide quite a bit. May was a tremendous prospect and when he came up for good to the Sox in 1969 he was one of the better players on a team that didn’t have many of them, a lot like the career of Luke Appling in the 40's, Chet Lemon in the late 70's, Ozzie Guillen in the late 80's and Frank Thomas in the late 90's. May suffered what could have been a potentially career ending injury, like ill-fated Sox players “Monty” Stratton, Paul Edmondson and Johnny Mostil, only to come back and have a solid career. He finally got his chance at post season play but naturally, it had to come with a team other than the White Sox, like countless others.

    While May was on the South Side, he showed he could pound a baseball, hit for average and surprisingly to some, steal bases... a lot of them, for a man his size.

    ...
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  • A Conversation with Brooks Boyer...

    A Conversation with Brooks Boyer...



    By Mark Liptak
    White Sox Historian

    In the winter of 2008, I had the chance to have a long conversation with Brooks Boyer of the White Sox front office. Brooks as many of you know, has a number of duties but most of his time is occupied with marketing and working with the White Sox broadcasters. I enjoyed this interview because I strongly sensed Brooks’ interest in my questions and he was willing to give detailed information on how the Sox look at things like promotions, ad campaigns and how broadcasters are hired. Much like Bob Grim’s interview this gives the fans a peek at how Sox decisions are made. And you may find particularly fascinating Brook’s thoughts on Sox fans in general. Much of his comments you’ll find are still relevant today.

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    It is a challenging and often thankless part of any Major League Baseball operation. But in today’s game where so much of the “action” takes place off the field, it is of vital importance that your marketing department be first rate and increase any and all options to promote your franchise, which ultimately brings in more revenue.

    For the White Sox, that area is handled by Brooks Boyer who has the official title of Vice President/Chief Marketing Officer.

    What struck me as I spoke with him were his core characteristics. He was open, honest, candid, and funny. His passion for the White Sox organization and for his role in it came through loud and clear but what also struck me, and this surprised me, was Brooks’ desire to know as much about me as I did about him and his work. Throughout the interview he peppered me with questions like, ‘Where are you from in Chicago?’’ “What’s your honest opinion of ownership?” In addition, when I told him stories of incidents that happened to me regarding the White Sox or what some of the other interview subjects had to say about certain areas, he responded, “I love to hear those kinds...
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  • A Conversation with Bob Shaw...

    A Conversation with Bob Shaw...



    By Mark Liptak
    White Sox Historian

    Before the start of the 1959 season White Sox manager Al Lopez stepped out of character and made a predication. “The Yankees can be beaten.”

    Lopez felt that the Sox with their team speed, solid defense, ability to execute fundamentals enough to score some runs and excellent pitching would overcome the “Bronx Bombers” and their power potential.

    History showed he was right. But as sometimes happens an unexpected source, think Eric King in 1990, Jason Bere in 1993 or Esteban Loaiza in 2003 was a real difference maker.

    In 1959 that difference maker was a right-handed pitcher named Bob Shaw who came over in a deal with the Tigers in 1958 and immediately fell under the wing of Sox pitching coach Ray Berres.

    In early 1959 when Shaw got his chance, he was ready…by the time the season ended he pitched in 47 games, 26 starts, 230 innings, went 18-6 with three saves, had an ERA of 2.69 and beat Sandy Koufax in the World Series.

    Not bad for a guy who wasn’t expected to make that much of a difference.

    After he left the Sox he continued to be successful making the All-Star game in 1962 with Milwaukee as he went 15-9, going 16-9 for the Giants in 1965 and even winning in double figures with a sub four ERA for the 1966 Mets who lost 95 games.

    After he retired Bob became a very successful businessman in Florida. He died in 2010. This is my interview with him from 2006.

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    The 2005 season for the Chicago White Sox organization, players, coaches and fans will long be remembered in the annals of this charter American League franchise. Winning the World Series and roaring through the playoffs in a way more associated with such historic teams as the 1927 New York Yankees and the 1975 Cincinnati Reds tends to do that.

    But the 2005 season also did one other thing. The season created...
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  • A Conversation with Bob Grim...

    A Conversation with Bob Grim...


    Bob Grim (right) with Sox
    announcer Jason Benetti

    By Mark Liptak
    White Sox Historian

    You may not recognize the name but he was an important part of the operations of the White Sox. Bob Grim was the Director of Broadcast Operations for the club among other duties and he along with Roland Hemond, Bill Melton and the late Billy Pierce were responsible for bringing the White Sox Alumni Association back to life.

    Bob also was involved in the historical aspect of the franchise, that's how I got to know him as he was the person I'd send along the historical audio (a 12 CD collection I put together starting with highlights from 1953) and print material I'd collected over the years. The White Sox unfortunately did not have a lot of their history and I just wanted to do what I could to help.

    Bob always treated me well when I'd return to Chicago, often we'd watch the game from his box along with Chris Rongey and Bill "Moose" Skowron.

    Bob retired after 30 years with the club this past November.

    This interview with him is from 2008 and the discussion around some of the White Sox television issues and Major League Baseball's TV issues are still relevant especially when it comes to the "blackout" areas which are still convoluted and cause fans a lot of headaches.

    One other personal note about Bob, for many years he was a certified basketball official working the Chicago area for high school and college games...you may have seen him if you attended a game and may not have known who he was!

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    Ask a White Sox fan to name some of the front office members and you’ll get the usual answers…Kenny Williams, Rick Hahn, Brooks Boyer, and Scott Reifert. But naturally a front office of a Major League franchise is composed of more than four people and sometimes the folks who are very important are the ones that you hear the least
    ...
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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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