When I was an aspiring sportswriter at Indiana University in the late 1960s, Bob Hammel was a role model. He was (and is) not only a splendid writer and reporter but also a man of extraordinary kindness and generosity.
I'm certainly not the only one in the Hammel fan club. Among the impressive accomplishments in his distinguished career at the Bloomington Herald-Times and newspapers in Huntington, Fort Wayne, Kokomo and Indianapolis are his inductions into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame and the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame as well as being the recipient of the Curt Gowdy Award from the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, the highest honor given to a basketball writer. He was also selected the Indiana Sportswriter of the Year on 15 occasions, has written several books and in the process amassed a legion of close friends and admirers including the legendary Bob Knight--and me.
I'm proud to say that I've stayed in touch with Bob over the years and we even happily embraced each other at the final game at Old Comiskey Park--which brings me to the subject at hand.
In addition to his professional accomplishments, Bob is an unabashed White Sox fan. When he saw the list of my all-time favorite Sox players, he naturally sat down and spent an afternoon creating his own roster of favorites.
With Bob's permission, I'm happy to share the list with you, which includes some good-natured shots at yours truly. That's fine with me, that's what creating my list was all about.
Ladies and gentleman, Bob Hammel's all-time favorite Sox:
I loved your list, loved the true-fan’s-illogic of it (No-Neck, Pablo Ozuna, Deacon Jones, Herbert Perry and even Dewayne Wise, without mentioning The Catch, examples of pure fan fantasy, which made your list great.
But, curse you, Arthur Berke, you also sent my mind racing, as Casey Stern and Jim Bowden obviously did yours. So this is my result:
My Pre-Art list:
1. Luke Appling – My first, my all-time sports hero. I dialed in as a White Sox fan with the team’s 5-0 start in 1945, Luke’s last year of Army service, but from ’46 through ’51 I never heard him bat, never scored a Sox game, without heart palpitations when he came to bat, fearing the ignominy of a strikeout or a double play or something besmirching to him. He gave me more rewards than regrets. I pointed out to ESPN last summer, when the raves were going about Derek Jeter’s unprecedented hitting at 38 at the draining position of shortstop, that Luke Appling played 140 games at shortstop in the suffering flannels of 1949 and hit .301, suggesting they might come back in four years and consider the un-precedent. (I was shocked a few nights later that they actually did put up Luke’s numbers during a Jeter genuflection. Maybe I wasn’t the only old fossil out there.) I didn’t mention that, as a high school freshman, I actually cried in the spring of 1950 when a young flash named Alfonso “Chico” Carrasquel took shortstop away from him. Luke stayed for a year at first and third and retired. His American League-record .388 (for shortstops) appropriately came in my birth year, 1936.
2. Chico Carrasquel – No disloyalty to Luke; the guy made me a big fan with his remarkable fielding. In the summer of ’54, I was in Comiskey Park for a night game with the Yankees when Chico and Phil Rizzuto made dazzling play after dazzling play. Sox lost the game, of course, 2-1, but I gave Chico the edge in the spontaneous duel.
3. Gus Zernial – The first true Sox slugger of my years (what have there been since: 3?)
4. Tony Cuccinello – Runnerup (at 37) for the AL batting championship in ’45 (by one point to Snuffy Sternweiss).
5. Jim Busby – A great centerfielder, a major part of Paul Richards’ Go-Go Sox in ’51, the first Sox team that introduced me to the radical concept of going into baseball games actually expecting to win.
(Even this lists omits my favorite pitchers of the era, Ted Lyons (pitching Sundays only in winding up a Hall of Fame career), Thornton Lee and Eddie Lopat, fat Pat Seerey, who gave the franchise its only 4-homer game, and my absolute favorite wartime outfield: 1945, Taffy Wright, Ralph Hodgin andRubber Glove Johnny Dickshot. My, what they would do with Johnny’s names now.
My How COULD You, Art list of omissions from your great list (and I will go in order of shock, as opposed to chronologically or alphabetically – such a wimp-out, Arthur):
1. Britt Burns – Second only to Billy Pierce among my all-time favorite Sox pitchers, my heart still bleeding for him for Jerry Dybzinski, Tito Landrum et al.
2. Carlton Fisk – A must, if only for the home-plate double play at Yankee Stadium and the verbal undressing of Deion Sanders.
3. LaMarr Hoyt – For a year the most untouchable Sox pitcher of my 68 seasons … our ticket to the ’83 Series if only the Dibber had scored.
4. Early Wynn – Jeeeminy, Art, without him ’59 couldn’t have happened.
5. Sherm Lollar – That team’s Heart-and-Soul, proof that the race doesn’t always go to the swiftest.
6. Oscar Gamble – with a sweeping inclusion for all others in that beloved ’77 lineup, including Richie Zisk and Chet Lemon from your list, plus: Ralph Garr, Alan Bannister, Jorge Orta, Eric Soderholm, Jim Spencer (and his 8-RBI day in the wild July 1-3 sweep of the Twins), a nominee for baseball’s all-time worst base-running team, a contributing part of a summer of totally unexpected thrills).
7. Joel Horlen – a 1.91 ERA and stretch-run no-hitter in ’64, a five-year run averaging a 2.32 ERA and under 7 hits per game … c’mon, Art!
8. Jack McDowell and Alex Fernandez – I’ll lump them as key reasons why the Sox should have won a ’90s World Championship.
9. Bob Shaw and Richard Dotson – I’ll couple them as major second-spot-in-the-rotation reasons why October came in ’59 and ’83.
10. Jim Landis – Ted Williams called him the best centerfielder he ever saw (just ahead ot two I don’t quite couple with him though spectacular themselves in center: Aaron Rowand – his 3-game series in Yankee Stadium in August 2005 should be on film in Cooperstown – and, years before, Ken Berry).
11. Jose Contreras, Freddie Garcia and Cubbie-steal Jon Garland – with your man Mark Buehrle the architects of a Series sweep.
12. Joe Crede, for his whole 2005 Series, and Juan Uribe, for his if-it-was-Jeter-we’d-still-be-
13. Juan Pizarro – because of him and your pick Gary Peters, ’67 was so-o-o close.
14. Wilbur Wood – Don’t let yourself get hung up visualizing him in those shorts.
15. Beltin’ Bill Melton – A home run champ; can’t just throw one of those away.
16. Al Smith, whose 1959 Game 2 “triple” would have tied the game if The Senor – great as he was – had pinch-run for the tying-guy-on-first rather than the less-important guy-on-second. Not that we dwell on things like that, and the Dibber, and the Eddie Fitzgerald two-out two-strike wrong-field blooper that cost Billy Pierce perfection, or …
17. Carlos Lee – El Caballo, and a Cub-killer.
18. A.J. Pierzynski – Speaking of Cub-killers, have the Sox of your lifetime and mine had a better catcher?
19. Greg Walker, a great Frank protector, though he hardly needed one.
20. Duane Josephson, never became what I hoped, but I just liked the guy.
21. Joe Borchard, such a great-looking athlete, with a Stanford background, but he’s on this list because I was there for his One Shining Moment still on record as the longest homer at U.S. Cellular.
22. Rich Gossage, a Hall of Famer straight of the Sox farm system, traded because Bill Veeck, with good reason, thought he and Terry Forster, two hard-throwing closers, had no future with a team that would never be ahead. So, for a year, in came Zisk – no complaint here. It was a fun year.
23. Duane Josephson, who didn’t achieve the greatness I expected but I include him just because I liked him. And Bill Voss – much the same thing. Fell in love with his swing watching him at Indianapolis and foresaw long-time greatness, proving my wisdom in taking up writing rather than scouting.
24. Bucky Dent, whose stardom as a Yankee never bothered me – thanks to LaMarr Hoyt and Oscar Gamble..
25. Rudy Law, Lance Johnson, Tim Raines – the best of latter-day Sox leadoff men.
And then there is my Wahoos-We-Hardly-Knew-Ye list of Indians greats who gave us some kicks before retiring: Jim Thome, Hoosier Kenny Lofton, Roberto Alomar, Omar Vizquel,Sandy Alomar, even Albert Belle, and way, way back Herb Score and Rocky Colavito … not to mention Manny Ramirez, which seems right. While gratefully remembering that Minnie Minoso, Early Wynn, Al Smith, Tommy John and Tommy Agee were Indians gifts, too … not to mention Shoeless Joe, which seems wrong.
That kind of list didn’t include only Indians. Those were enjoyable farewell trips, too, by George Kelland Ferris Fain before ye and Moose Skowron, Freddie Lynn, Joe Cunningham, Greg Luzinski,Bo Jackson, Jerry Koosman, Darin Erstad and some others after, the others not including George Bell and, hoping lightning doesn’t strike, Ron Santo. Throw out the farewell part and I could have done without David Wells and Nick Swisher, too – don’t care much for guys who sulk and suck as Sox and sparkle as Yankees. Not that I ever allow myself to get bitter.
With memories still fresh of our getting together to say goodbye to Old Comiskey (when Hoosier Barry Jones got the last save and threw the park’s last pitch – and, thus, probably should be somewhere on my lists).