The 1983 White Sox trail the 1969 Cubs for the title of “most beloved team that never won anything.” The ’83 team is getting a season-long tribute in honor of the 30th Anniversary of winning the AL West.
Lost in all of the hoopla is the fact that it is also the 20th Anniversary of the 1993 team winning the AL West. I still believe that the ’93 team was far more talented than the ’83 squad, but that’s a story for a different day.
The gauzy memories of Julio Cruz crossing the plate at ComiskeyPark on September 17, 1983 have wiped out the fact that the ’83 Sox started slow. They were an awful team during April and most of May. They showed signs of competence, and managed to pull themselves above .500 by the All-Star Break.
Between Mid-July and Mid-September, they played out of their minds. We’re honoring the team that played six weeks of incredible baseball, and not the team that was mediocre from April to June.
Some of the things that were written about the ’83 team in the early going are eerily reminiscent of the things that are being written about the current squad. Errors? Here’s Jerome Holtzmann of the Tribune on April 6, 1983. The Sox committed a bunch of errors in a 4-1 loss at Texas:
“The Rangers capitalized on three of those blunders Tuesday night and won a breezing, 4-1 victory that wasn’t nearly as close as the score indicates.”
“Excuses work in high school,” Catcher Carlton Fisk said, “not here.”
“We’re playing bad baseball, and it doesn’t make any difference if it’s the second day of the year or the 52nd.”
Hmm….the Sox giving away runs…sounds familiar….
Here’s Tribune writer Bob Logan describing a 6-2 loss to the Brewers in Milwaukee:
“(Floyd Bannister) and the Sox offense both came up short again, putting up only token resistance against the American League champs. Bannister’s inconsistency was the biggest problem facing Sox manager Tony LaRussa while the Sox headed for a three-game visit to Toronto. With Britt Burns on the disabled list, Bannister was elevated to the No. 1 spot in the rotation.”
The book Miracle on 35th Street goes into great detail about the trials and tribulations of the first half of 1983. The season took place in the aftermath of Jerry Reinsdorf’s purchase of the White Sox two years before. The anti-Reinsdorf faction of Sox fandom still pined for Bill Veeck, Harry Caray, and Jimmy Piersall.
Piersall’s radio show on WMAQ-AM served as a government-in-exile for the Sox fans who hated the new regime…and wanted Tony LaRussa fired.
I’m guessing if the 2013 season continues in a similar fashion, Chris Rongey is going to be taking more and more calls from people who want Robin Ventura fired.
After 19 games in 1983, the numbers were not pretty. Here are the stat lines:
Rudy Law - .186
Harold Baines - .250
Ron Kittle - .250
Carlton Fisk - .145
Vance Law - .204
The only semi competent hitters were Greg Luzinski and Greg Walker.
Oh, and game 19 in 1983 was an 8-0 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.
30 years later, we have the following:
Jeff Keppinger - .171
Alejandro De Aza - .230
Paul Konerko - .242
Tyler Flowers .224
Adam Dunn - .101…with an OPS of .397
The only semi competent hitters are Alex Rios and Alexei Ramirez.
Four games separate last place from first place in the AL Central, and there’s nothing wrong with the White Sox that can’t be fixed by a five game winning streak.
The 2013 White Sox are wearing the 1983 uniforms on Sunday. But that is a tribute to the team as it played in August…not April. As we learned 30 years ago, a team can go from “lost” to “found” in an instant.