This Day in White Sox History: Short re-energizes the team & Shouldergate

This Day in White Sox History: Short re-energizes the team & Shouldergate
The White Sox acquired future Hall of Fame relief pitcher Hoyt Wilhelm as part of a deal that included fellow Hall of Famer Luis Aparicio. (Chicago White Sox)

January 14, 1963 - It was the move that re-energized the franchise and led directly to back-to-back-to-back 90+ win seasons in 1963, 1964 and 1965. Sox GM Ed Short traded shortstop Luis Aparicio and outfielder Al Smith to the Orioles for third baseman Pete Ward, outfielder Dave Nicholson, shortstop Ron Hansen and relief pitcher Hoyt Wilhelm.

Ward would be named Co-Rookie of the Year (with teammate Gary Peters) and would supply power for the next few seasons. Nicholson, who struck out far too much, still had 22 home runs and 70 RBIs in 1963. Hansen would be one of the best defensive shortstops in the league and hit as many as 20 home runs in a season, at a time when shortstops simply didn’t do that. Wilhelm became the top relief pitcher of the 1960s. In his six years with the Sox he’d win 41 games and save 98 others while producing some astonishingly low ERAs considering he threw the knuckleball.

When I interviewed Ward he told me about how he found out about the deal and his reaction to it.

"I got a phone call telling me about it. To be honest with you I didn’t know much about the White Sox at the time. I was playing in the outfield at Triple A. With Brooks Robinson at third base in Baltimore I knew I wasn’t going to play there. The plan was to move "Boog" Powell from the outfield to first base and I was going to take over, hopefully, for him. The one thing about being traded though is that you know you are going to get a chance to play and you know that the team that traded for you wanted you."

White Sox 'super-scout' and coach Charlie Metro insisted on Ward being a part of any deal with the Orioles. Here is what he wrote in his book, Safe By a Mile.

"I insisted on Pete Ward coming over to the White Sox in a deal with Baltimore because I had worked with Pete out in Vancouver. He was a pretty good hitter. He was very aggressive. He loved to play, quite a cocky kid. When the White Sox had a chance to make the trade, I said, ‘Make them throw Pete Ward in the deal. He can play, he can hit.’ Manager Al Lopez said, ‘Well, what kind of fielder is he?’ I said, ‘ Well, he’s not too good a fielder, but if you hit him a thousand ground balls at third base, he’ll do pretty fair. But he can hit, and he can drive in runs and has some power. Don’t make the deal unless you get Pete Ward."

Meanwhile here is what Ron Hansen told me when I asked him about the trade.

“I had a good year in 1960, I was Rookie of the Year, but then I had to serve time in the military and that set me back. I missed spring training and just didn’t have a good season in 1961. The Orioles had a chance to get Aparicio and Al Smith so that’s what they did. That’s part of baseball. I had made my home in Baltimore but got that call telling me I was traded to the White Sox.”

January 14, 2001 - The Sox acquired pitcher David Wells from Toronto basically for pitcher Mike Sirotka. Over the coming weeks and months, Sirotka and the Blue Jays claimed the Sox knew that Sirotka had a bad arm and couldn’t pitch. Sox GM Kenny Williams defended himself by saying that he told the Jays he thought Sirotka might be hurt and offered pitcher Jim Parque instead. Commissioner Bud Selig ruled in late March that the trade would stand. The whole episode became known as ‘Shouldergate.’

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