Baseball history runs deep on the south side of Chicago. It’s where the Chicago White Sox, an original member of the American League, has hoisted three World Series trophies, retired the numbers of a dozen legendary players, and headlined the most-(in)famous scandal in the history of the sport. And the club with such a storied past appears to be on the brink of an exciting future.
Initially formed as the Sioux City Cornhuskers, of the Western League, the team was purchased by Charles Comiskey in 1894. He moved the team to St. Paul, Minn. before a permanent transition in 1900 to the south side of Chicago—Comiskey’s home town. Known as the Chicago White Stockings in the early years, the team won the first-ever American League Championship in 1901.
Members of the press began shortening the “White Stockings” nickname to the “White Sox”. The shorter moniker was seen in publications as early as 1906, the same year the team won its first World Series.
Chicago's 1906 championship is considered one of the greatest upsets in World Series history. The White Sox had the lowest batting average in the American League that season (.230) and faced the crosstown-rival Cubs, which won 116 games.
The “Hitless Wonders” batted only .198 in the series, but defeated the Cubs in six games, largely behind the dominance of Hall of Fame pitcher “Big Ed” Walsh.
One of two pitchers in the twentieth century with 40 wins in a season, Walsh was famous for his spitball. He pitched for the White Sox from 1904-1916, and still holds the MLB record for lowest career ERA (1.82). In Game Three of the 1906 World Series, he struck out 12 and allowed just two hits in a complete game shutout. He overcame six errors by his defense in Game Five to pick up a second win in the series.
Eleven years later, speedy Hall of Famer Eddie Collins scored the decisive run of the 1917 World Series for the team’s second championship. The White Sox logged 100 wins in 1917, which remains as the team’s only campaign to reach triple-digit victories.
Collins hit .331 in 12 seasons with the White Sox (.333 in all), collected 3,315 total hits, and even won 174 as player-manager for the White Sox in the 1920s. (He took over for “Big Ed” as manager in 1924.) Collins hit .409 in the 1917 World Series.
In 1919, the team found itself back in the World Series, this time mired by great controversy. Several White Sox players threw (intentionally lost) the 1919 series against the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for money from New York racketeer Arnold Rothstein’s gambling syndicate. The “Black Sox” scandal ended with eight players permanently banned from the sport—including “Shoeless Joe” Jackson, a career .356-hitter who was one of baseball’s premier players of the time.
It took 40 years for the team to win its next American League pennant. The years between were highlighted by promotional stunts and Hall of Famers who spent their entire playing careers with the White Sox.
Pitcher Ted Lyons won 260 games for the White Sox from 1923-1946. Though Lyons once threw 42 straight innings without a walk, he is the only Hall of Fame pitcher to have more walks (1,121) than strikeouts (1,073).
Shortstop Luke Appling was a 2-time batting champ who played for Chicago from 1930-1950.
Ownership of the team had passed down through the Comiskey family until Charles Comiskey’ s granddaughter Dorothy Comiskey sold her majority share to Bill Veeck 1958.
The White Sox brought the American League pennant back to the south side in 1959 with a club loaded with star power. It lost the World Series in six games to the Los Angeles Dodgers, but featured Major League Baseball’s Cy Young Award Winner Early Wynn, and League MVP Nellie Fox. Shortstop Luis Aparicio finished second in MVP voting. Chicago won 94 games and Al Lopez was named Manager of the Year by the Associated Press. All four, along with power hitter Larry Doby, were later inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Fox was an All-Star in 12 of his 14 seasons in Chicago after being traded to the southside from the Philadelphia Athletics for Joe Tipton in 1949. In 1957, he was the first Gold Glove winner at second base. He won two more gold gloves in his career, including the 1959 season when he and Aparicio combined for a rare middle-infield sweep of awards.
For Aparicio, the 1959 award was part of nine-consecutive Gold Glove Awards. He was a 10-time All-Star and the first Latino player to win Rookie of the Year (1956). Aparicio had 56 steals in 1959. It was one of nine straight seasons to lead the league in steals.
Those speed-and-defense “Go-Go White Sox” enjoyed 17 straight winning seasons (1951-1967), many fueled by the dazzling speed and power of “Mr. White Sox” Minnie Miñoso—the first black player in Chicago MLB history. Miñoso was not a part of the 1959 season, traded to Cleveland for Wynn in 1958, and back in 1960. Veeck presented Miñoso an honorary ring when he returned.
After 1959, real rings wouldn’t return to south Chicago for another 46 years.
The team faced uncertainty in regard to its location in the early 1970s. Then in 1972, the White Sox traded Tommy John to Los Angeles for Dick Allen; a move some think kept the White Sox in place. In 1972, Allen’s first season with the team, he walked away with the MVP award after he led the league in a number of offensive categories, including 37 home runs a club record at the time. In 1974, he walked away from the team before the season finished. But the slugger is still credited by many with rekindling baseball fandom on Chicago’s southside.
The decade came to a dark close for the team, as an explosive 1979 promotion (Disco Demolition Night) ended in riot.Owner Bill Veeck sold the team following the season to an investment group led by Jerry Reinsdorf.
In 1980, Miñoso returned for the final series of the season to become one of only two players to play in five different decades. He recorded his final hit for Chicago in 1980 at age 50.
Chicago won its first Western Division title in 1983. White Sox teams of the 1980s were led by team legends like Carlton Fisk and Harold Baines, failed to finish better than third in the A.L. West for the rest of the decade.
The 1990s brought the “Big Hurt”. Winning back-to-back MVP Awards in 1994 and 1995, Frank Thomas was among baseball’s most-feared hitters. The White Sox leader in home runs smacked 448 in 16 years with the club (521 total), while hitting .307.
Manager Ozzie Guillen led the team to its most recent World Series title in 2005, the franchise’s first since 1917. Guillen, who played shortstop for the White Sox from 1985-1997, became the first Latino manager to win a World Series. Outfielder Jermaine Dye was named MVP of the Series after hitting .408. Six-time All-Star Paul Konerko, catcher A.J. Pierzynski, and lefty hurler Mark Buehrle co-starred as fan favorites.
New manager—and former White Sox infielder—Robin Ventura, along with dominant left-handed starter Chris Sale ushered in Chicago’s 2010s. Ventura’s first season with the club was his only season to post a winning record. Sale finished in the top 5 for Cy Young Award voting in each of his last four seasons with the Sox before getting traded to Boston before the 2017 season. Ventura was replaced by Rick Renteria as manager the same year.
Though the team hasn’t made the playoffs since 2008, there is plenty of reason for optimism. Lucas Giolito broke out in 2019 as one of the game’s elite young pitchers. Hot prospect Luis Robert joined Giolito at the highest level in 2020. Robert is regarded as an other-worldly talent. He has shown himself capable of superstardom with an incredible start to his 2020 rookie season. Left-fielder Eloy Jimenez and third baseman Yoan Moncada figure to be prominent figures in the lineup for a long time to come.