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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Memo to Fox!
by Hal Vickery

Memo

From: White Sox Interactive
To: Fox Sports

Subject: Curses

Yes, we know that you need some angle with which to market your coverage of the World Series to the masses. However, if you’re going to talk about curses, perhaps you should have talked about such things with us before you put on that hokey bit with a mediocre (at best) actor posing as Shoeless Joe, the Black Sox, and the curse.

The only Sox fans who believe in curses are those who have jumped on the Sox bandwagon within the past couple of weeks. These are otherwise known as “front running Cubs fans.”

They have a history of blaming their club’s misfortunes on curses. Sometime after the collapse of their 1969 team, they invented the “Billy Goat Curse” to explain their team’s futility since 1945. Those who have followed the Cubs closely over the years can vouch for the fact that before the 1980s no one ever heard of this curse. It may very well have been a media creation similar to the one you are trying to manufacture out of whole cloth.

When they came within five outs of going to the World Series in 2003, they placed the blame on their failure on a poor schmuck who happened to reach for a foul ball inside the stands. This may or may not have interfered with their left fielder’s ability to go for the ball, but it gave yet another excuse for losing. They called it the “Bartman Curse.”

Some fans of last year’s World Champions may have placed some stock in another manufactured curse, the “Curse of the Bambino,” that blamed all of their team’s post-season failures on a former owner’s whim of trading Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees. Again, no one heard of this so-called curse until sometime in the 1970s or ‘80s. We suspect very strongly that this curse, like the “Bartman Curse” and possibly the “Billy Goat Curse,” was also a media creation.

However, Sox fans will have nothing to do with your lame attempts to manufacture a “Curse of Shoeless Joe,” alternately known as the “Black Sox Curse.”

We will grant you that Judge Landis’s permanent banning of at least five or six of the Black Sox did a great deal of damage to the club in the 1920s. A lot of that might have also had to do with the fact that Charles Comiskey wasn’t as good a judge of talent as he liked to think he was.

Witness the five year drought between the first two Sox pennants and the eleven year drought before they managed to win a third one. That’s damn few pennants for a club that was the cornerstone of the newly formed American League.

You can put the blame on whomever you want for the 1919 incident, but what followed was over a decade of Comiskey signing lots of mediocre players for big bucks. If you doubt us, we have just two words for you: Zeke Bonura. Shoeless Joe and the Black Sox had nothing to do with putting his horrible defense out there for the world to laugh at.

Until 1990 the Sox played in a park that was built for pitching, speed, and defense. Cavernous was the only word to describe Comiskey Park. The problem was that most of the people running the Sox during those years forgot to include some kind of offense other than speed on the base paths. It was a wise man who said, “You can’t steal first base.”

Rich Lindberg told the story in one of his excellent books on the Sox of how during one game, the Sox managed to scratch out a run in the top of the first inning. While staring pitcher Billy Pierce was warming up, second baseman (and roommate) Nellie Fox supposedly said to him as he walked by the mound, “There. We gave you your run. Now hold ‘em.” Whether that story is true or not, it does pretty much explain what was wrong with the Sox until the current ownership bought the club.

Starting in 1981 with their purchase of the club, the Sox became offensive minded. Most of the teams since then have featured pitching and offense, and the offense was very much power minded. The Sox went from a team that in 1967 could challenge for the pennant with their top batting average a measly .245 to one that would club 200 home runs per season or more.

Then again, although they would do things like give the highest salary in baseball to the likes of Albert Belle, they saw fit to hire managers with no previous experience to guide the team. The main criterion for hiring managers, at least after Ron Schueler (aka Clueless Schu) took over the reins from Larry Himes, seemed to be that they had to work cheap.

Thus, as Sox home run totals soared, we saw the likes of Gene Lamont, Terry Bevington, and Jerry Manuel (aka Gen. Disarray) at the helm. Lamont thought that the team could conduct a shortened spring training just like any other year, leading them to a terrible start in 1994 following the strike. Bevington is the guy who signaled to the bullpen for the lefty who wasn’t there. Manuel is the guy who thought games played up to the All-Star break were extended spring training.

The current owners also were philosophically opposed to general managers with any experience. Hence, the replacement of Roland Hemond with Hawk Harrelson, Harrelson with the inexperienced Larry Himes (whose only sin was that he wasn’t a people person), Himes with Clueless Schu, and Clueless with Kenny Williams (formerly known as Prof. Chaos).

Hawk, thought it was a good idea to have a 1:1 ratio of coaches to players. Himes was great at drafting players but managed to alienate most of them, Schue was always negotiating the big deal that never seemed to happen, and Williams endeared himself to the fans by trading three major league arms for Todd Ritchie.

It wasn’t until a few great trades that it was apparent that unlike his predecessors, Williams was growing into the job. Still, the Sox could never seem to get beyond the first round of playoffs on those rare occasions they actually won a division.

We’ve sometimes likened the way a baseball team should be put together as being like a milking stool. It has three legs, and without any one of those legs, the stool collapses. In baseball those three legs are pitching, defense, and a balanced offense. For most of the past 86 years, the Sox have tried to get by with only one or two of those legs. Their performance during that time period shows exactly how successful that approach has been.

In summary, there is no curse on the White Sox. The only curse the Sox have ever had was bad ownership and bad management. The fact that the Sox are currently in the World Series is simply evidence that there are now people in the front office who realize the mistakes that have been made for the past 86 years and who have now decided to do things the right way.

We trust that in the future, before you start talking about such foolish things as curses, you actually do a little research and find out what is really the problem with a team that can only make the World Series twice in 86 years. Feel free to ask us for such assistance any time.


Editor's Note: Hal Vickery has been a White Sox fan since 1955 when he was five years old. For much of that time he also had a secondary rooting interest in the Cubs, which he has shown the good sense to abandon. When not cheering for or writing about the Sox, Hal teachers chemistry and physics at North Boone High School, in Poplar Grove, IL. Hal commutes there daily from Joliet, where he lives with his wife Lee, and their dog, Buster T. Beagle. Hal's opinions are not necessarily those of North Boone High School, his wife, or Buster T. Beagle. You can write Hal at hvickery@svs.com.

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