The Chicago White Sox are a Major League Baseball franchise based in Chicago, Illinois. They currently play in the Central Division of the American League. Among other things, the White Sox are infamous for such incidents as the Black Sox Scandal of 1919, Disco Demolition Night in 1979, and almost anything current manager Ozzie Guillen has ever said. In contrast to the crosstown Chicago Cubs, who play on Chicago's wealthy North Side, the White Sox play in US Cellular Field on the more rough-and-tumble South Side of Chicago, a socio-economic divide between fanbases which makes White Sox fandom a source of fierce pride for many. Although the Cubs are famous for futility when the it comes to (not) winning championships, for many years the White Sox had an almost equally pathetic record of futility, going 87 seasons without a World Series title until finally winning again in 2005. Nicknames for the White Sox include "South Siders" and "Pale Hose."
The White Sox were one of 8 charter members of the American League in 1900, entering the new league under the ownership of Charles Comiskey, who moved a minor league team he owned from St. Paul, Minnesota to Chicago that year. The team was soon nicknamed the "White Stockings," taking up an old nickname recently discarded by the Cubs, and just as quickly this name was shortened to "Sox."
Led by pitching ace Ed Walsh, the White Sox found great success in their early years with a team focused around pitching and defense, winning the first American League Championship in 1900 and again in 1901. They then won their first World Series title in 1906 against the crosstown rival Chicago Cubs with a squad known as "The Hitless Wonders" because their .230 team batting average was the lowest in the American League.
Four years later in 1910, the team used its success at the turnstiles to build Comiskey Park, the most modern baseball stadium of the day and the home of the White Sox for the next 80 years. A notable feature of the park was its friendliness to pitchers, as it was designed to accentuate the team's strength at the time.
After a brief period of decline in the teens, the White Sox rebuilt around a more balanced approach of good pitching, great defense, and a strong offense, winning 100 games and the World Series in 1917 with a squad led by the likes of catcher Ray Shalk, second baseman Eddie Collins, pitcher Eddie Cicotte, and outfielder Shoeless Joe Jackson.
After an off-year in the war-shortened 1918 season, nearly the same squad returned to the World Series in 1919 as heavy favorites to beat the Cincinnati Reds. However the low salaries for ballplayers at the time and the heavy betting on the White Sox to win proved too tempting for gamblers and players, and the White Sox mysteriously stumbled in the Series losing 5-3 to the Reds. Investigations later suggested that several White Sox stars had conspired with gamblers to fix the series, and although a lack of evidence led to acquittal of the players in a 1920 criminal trial, newly appointed Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis decided to ban the accused players from baseball for life, including Cicotte and Jackson, who otherwise would have been surefire Hall of Famers. This so called "Black Sox Scandal" rocked the baseball world and led to sustained efforts to clean up the game.
The loss of so many star players all at once crippled the White Sox for decades thereafter, as attendance and revenues declined, creating a vicious cycle in which it was difficult to sign big-name players. Indeed, the White Sox never finished higher than third place in the American League between 1921 and 1956. Nevertheless, a few big-time stars did emerge during these lean years, including shortstop Luke Appling, and pitcher Ted Lyons.
The arrival in 1951 of speed merchant Minnie Miñoso, the former Negro Leagues star who became the White Sox' first "colored" player, signaled the beginning of the return to relevance of the Pale Hose. The newly speed-oriented "Go-Go Sox" led the AL in stolen bases every single season from 1951 to 1961, and the emergence of stars such as second baseman Nellie Fox, shortstop Luis Aparicio, catcher Sherm Lollar, and pitcher Billy Pierce made the team a perennial contender. Meanwhile, team management was improved with the arrival of manager Al Lopez and visionary new owner Bill Veeck.
The team finally managed to make it back to the World Series in 1959 after a 40-year hiatus, but was defeated by the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games. But although the White Sox remained a strong team well into the 1960s, thanks in part to the New York Yankees' utter dominance over the American League in those years, they were never quite put it all together, and would not return to the Fall Classic until another four decades had passed.
Meanwhile, health problems had forced Veeck to sell the team to the Allyn brothers in 1961, and thereafter the venal Allyn brothers enmeshed the team in all manner of schemes designed to secure Bud Selig's dream of having a major league ballclub return his hometown of Milwaukee, including having the White Sox play home games in Milwaukee in 1968 and 1969, and an abortive attempt to move the White Sox to Seattle so that the Seattle Pilots could move to Milwaukee.
In 1975, however, Bill Veeck repurchased the team and was determined to return them to respectability. Assuming that power-hitters were what fans loved most, Veeck began trading top-flight young talent to get aging sluggers in their walk years. This did produce a very entertaining team in 1977, known as the "South Side Hitmen," which slugged a then team-record 192 home runs, but the lack of corresponding attention to pitching and defense meant the Sox teams in the 1970s were never a serious threat to win a championship.
It was also during the 1970s that the Sox became known for two of the most outrageous marketing stunts in baseball history. Veeck had a long history of pulling outrageous stunts (including once sending a midget up to bat in a real game) and he seemed to only get crazier as he aged. During the first game of a double header against the Kansas City Royals on August 8, 1976, the Sox became the first and so far only team in history to wear shorts in a major league game (they also wore shorts in spring training and in their team picture that year), and on July 12, 1979 he staged the infamous Disco Demolition Night at which he invited fans to bring their disco records to be burned in a bonfire during the break between two games of a doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers, but which instead produced a drunken riot that caused extensive damage to Comiskey Park and led to a White Sox forfeit of the second game, which was called off.
By 1980 however, Veeck had become disenchanted with the new free agency system, and sold the team to a group headed by Jerry Reinsdorf. The new owners spent big bucks to try to build a competitive team, but despite some very strong squads, the team had trouble advancing beyond the first round of the playoffs. The Sox were particularly strong in the early 1990s, when, bolstered by a new, state-of-the-art stadium built in 1990 (New Comiskey Park, now renamed US Cellular Field) and big-time stars such as designated hitter Harold Baines, third baseman Robin Ventura, pitcher Jack McDowell, and first baseman Frank "The Big Hurt" Thomas, the team went as far as the ALCS in 1993 and was leading the division when the players' strike began in August, 1994, wiping out the rest of the season.
The White Sox continued to be big spenders and sometime contenders in the 2000s, led by a new generation of stars including pitcher Mark Buehrle, outfielders Magglio Ordoñez and Jermaine Dye, and first baseman Paul Konerko. Finally, under the leadership of general manager Kenny Williams and fiery field manager Ozzie Guillen, the White Sox put it all together for one glorious season in 2005, leading the division from wire-to-wire and sweeping the World Series in 4 games over the Houston Astros to end their 87-year championship drought.
The White Sox by the Numbers:
American League Pennants: 7 (1900, 1901, 1906, 1917, 1919, 1959, 2005)
World Series Appearances: 5 (1906, 1917, 1919, 1959, 2005)
World Series Championships: 3 (1906, 1917, 2005)
American League Most Valuable Player Award winners (4):
Nellie Fox, 1959
Dick Allen, 1972
Frank Thomas, 1993
Frank Thomas, 1994
Cy Young Award winners (3):
Early Wynn, 1959 (MLB)
LaMarr Hoyt, 1983 (AL)
Jack McDowell, 1993 (AL)
Rookie of the Year Award winners (5):
Luis Aparicio, 1956
Gary Peters, 1963
Tommie Agee, 1966
Ron Kittle, 1983
Ozzie Guillen, 1985
Retired Numbers (10):
2 - Nellie Fox
3 - Harold Baines
4 - Luke Appling
9 - Minnie Miñoso
11 - Luis Aparicio
16 - Ted Lyons
19 - Billy Pierce
35 - Frank Thomas
42 - Jackie Robinson*
72 - Carlton Fisk
* Although never a member of the White Sox, Jackie Robinson's number was retired by all Major League teams in 1997 in honor of his role in breaking the color barrier.