Aloha! It’s your favorite friend with questionable character, Aloha Mr. Hand. I haven’t written much lately because there hasn’t been much to write about. The corona, and not the kind served at the ballpark, has the world on edge. The news for our favorite sport leaves something to be desired because it is becoming clear that we fans will not see baseball in person in 2020.
As a result of what is going on in the world, we have seen a lot of “Top 5” and “Best Players” lists, so I decided to sit down and document both. This story is specific to MY Top 5 players. The rule I have put in place for this is I have to have seen the player in person, so this immediately rules out the likes of Luis Aparicio, Nellie Fox, Billy Pierce, and Shoeless Joe Jackson among others. As always, these lists are based completely on personal preference, as well as when and where you were in your life when you saw the player. With all that said let’s get started.
HAROLD! HAROLD! HAROLD! That was the familiar chant that echoed through the ballpark as Harold quietly and confidently walked to the plate. Harold always seemed to be striding to the plate at a key moment in the game and he always seemed to deliver, or so the highlights we see suggest. He was the man who hit the sac fly to score Julio Cruz for a division title in that magical 1983 season. He was the man who ended that two-night 26 inning game against Milwaukee in 1984. He debuted in 1980 and produced from day one, achieving a home in Cooperstown in 2019, amid a lot of controversy. All I can say about Harold is this: people can question whether or not he is a Hall of Fame player but there is no question that he is a Hall of Fame person!
Another relatively quiet player. Robin was the 3rd baseman of the Sox teams of the ’90s. A man who had a 58, yes 58, game hitting streak in college, ironically broken in a college world series game started by Jack McDowell. A five-time gold glove winner who had a knack for hitting Grand Slams. Who can forget the one he hit against Goose Gossage on July 31, 1991 to lead the Sox to a win over the Texas Rangers. He would end his career with 18 Grand Slams and currently is 6th on the All-Time list.
The tarp sliding, quick pitching ace of the 2000s White Sox teams. A true franchise icon who the beer vendors hated. This is a guy who pitched a 1 hour 39-minute game, yes that is correct, in April 2005 against Seattle, with Ichiro getting the only three hits he allowed. To look at his body and watch him pitch led you to think he was nothing impressive, but the numbers speak for themselves. He was the definition of the modern-day workhorse. He pitched over 200 innings 14 straight seasons, falling 1 1/3 innings short in his attempt to reach that milestone for the 15th and, as it turned out, final season. He has a no-hitter and perfect game to his credit. He started Game 2 of the 2005 World Series and saved Game 3. He’s a 4-time Gold Glove winner who hit an interleague HR in Milwaukee. That is just part of the reason his jersey number is retired. To watch him pitch was a thing of beauty. No wasted time. No wasted motion. If a runner got on base, he could pick them off.
The Big Hurt. Very easily should and could have been #1 but falls at #2. A well-deserved first ballot hall of famer who won two MVP awards, and was denied a third by Steroid Jason Giambi, is a member of the 500 HR club, won a batting title, and had one of the greatest nicknames in baseball history. Frank’s at bats in the early to mid ’90s were events, where you stopped what you were doing to watch. His offensive onslaught was a site to behold and having the good fortune to see him his entire career it is no surprise that he is the Sox leader in several statistical categories. He is also a sad figure in White Sox history because he, and we the fans, were denied seeing what he could have accomplished in a complete 1994 season as well as an injury causing him to miss the 2005 World Series. The end of his time in Chicago, and especially his departure, were sad and handled poorly by all sides.
As a young fan I cannot explain the sense of excitement that I had when the story broke in March 1981 that the White Sox signed Fisk. This was an impactful moment in my fandom. I couldn’t believe the guy waving the Home Run fair in the highlight at the beginning of the NBC Baseball Game of The Week was going to be playing for the White Sox. As a kid I was a catcher, and I won’t bore you with Engleberg jokes, so my favorite players tended to be backstops. The signing also signaled what I thought was a new era for White Sox baseball because this was one of the first moves by the new Reinsdorf – Einhorn group. While with the White Sox, Fisk set the record for games caught and home runs by a catcher. He helped lead the team to the 1983 A.L. West Title and served as a mentor for the 1990 White Sox team, one of my favorites to watch and the beginning of the good 1990s teams. In some of the seasons he was the only reason to go watch a Sox game. He led the team into the new ballpark where some young guy named Frank took over as the face of the franchise. He could be surly at times and there are plenty of jokes about some things that happened to him after his playing days ended, but the impact and performance make him my #1.