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BRDSR
05-15-2010, 12:26 AM
Last summer I made my first such post, about Red Faber (http://www.whitesoxinteractive.com/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=114570), inspired by a 1921 baseball card I purchased. I intended to do more posts as I picked up cards of significant White Sox players, but didn’t get any for some time. However, I recently bought a card of long-time White Sox pitcher Joe Horlen, and thought I would do a similar post.

The story of Joe Horlen, often known as Joel, is perhaps most about why he isn’t much of a story. He’s not really a part of baseball lore, or even an immediately recognizable name for many White Sox fans. Yet he is one of only five pitchers to start at least 15 games in ten consecutive years for the 110-year-old franchise, from 1962-71. (The others are Doc White (ten seasons, 1903-12), Red Faber (13 seasons, 1919-31), Ted Lyons (11 seasons, 1932-42), and Billy Pierce (13 seasons, 1949-61). Mark Buerhle will join the exclusive club with seven more starts this season.) Why isn’t Horlen a bigger part of White Sox history?

For one thing, Horlen didn’t win all that many games. His 113 wins are good for 9th on the White Sox all-time list, but he also lost 113 games. The numbers are a little mind-boggling by modern standards. Over the course of his career he posted a 3.11 ERA and finished one game under .500 (he went 3-4 for the Athletics in 1972, the only season he pitched for a team other than the White Sox). For five straight seasons (1964-68) he posted sub-3.00 ERAs, yet only won more than 13 games once (19, in 1967). In 1964 he started 32 games and posted a 1.88 ERA, but won only 13 games, approximately 40% of the games he started. His won-loss record earned him a nickname of Joe “Hard Luck” Horlen.

In addition, although the White Sox finished above .500 for each of Horlen’s first seven seasons, they never made the playoffs while Horlen was on the roster. Before the advent of the League Championship Series, the White Sox finished 2nd from 1963 to 1965, twice to the Yankees and once to the Twins. Horlen pitched in the playoffs for the first time in the 1972 ALCS, appearing only once and recording no outs while giving up one run in relief. He gave up one run in 1.1 innings of work in Game 6 of the 1972 World Series, which the Athletics lost. While he did get to enjoy the eventual Championship with the Athletics, he could hardly be said to have made a name for himself in post-season play.

Of course, Horlen had some highlights in his career. He is supposedly the only person in history to have played on teams that won the Pony League World Series (the first, in 1952), the College World Series (in 1959 with Oklahoma State), and the World Series (in 1972 with the Oakland Athletics). The 1967 season was basically one big highlight reel for the right-hander. He went 19-7 and led the league with a 2.06 ERA, making the All-Star team, finishing fourth in MVP voting, and finishing second in Cy Young voting to Jim Lonborg who, although he won 22 games and struck out more than twice as many batters as Horlen did, finished the season with an ERA more than one full point higher. Horlen claims that he earned himself five free suits from manager Eddie Stanky that season, who promised each pitcher a new suit if they threw 21 ground balls in a game, whether hits or not. Horlen earned one on Sunday, September 10, throwing the only no-hitter of his career and the White Sox only one of the 1960s. He did it without walking anyone; Detroit’s only runners found their way to first base via an error and a hit-by-pitch, and one was erased on a double play. Finally, as he played before the adoption of the designated hitter, Horlen had one of his “better” years at the plate, hitting .169 and collecting 14 hits, one of which was a double, one of his five career extra-base hits.

The White Sox’ player’s representative at the time, Horlen was released by the club during spring training of 1972, after the team voted unanimously in favor of a player’s strike. He played the 1972 season with the Athletics, but retired after collecting a championship ring. He says that he had roomed with Early Wynn during the beginning of his career, and that Wynn “really struggled” in his quest to win 300 games. Describing himself as having a lot of pride, Horlen says he promised himself early that he wouldn’t follow the same course. He was out of the game for some time, but eventually returned as a coach, primarily for the New York Mets and San Francisco Giants. Never a strikeout pitcher himself, he made an interesting deal with Jason Grilli while both were part of the Giants organization: Grilli would pay Horlen $5 for every strikeout he recorded, in an effort to stress longevity over flashiness.

Horlen was, perhaps, one of the more underrated pitchers in White Sox history, but he had at least one line that will keep baseball fans smiling for all time. Asked what he threw the Red Sox’ Tony Conigliaro, who had homered to beat the White Sox 1-0, Horlen said with a straight face: “It was a baseball.” Maybe he just had a dry sense of humor, but more likely he was frustrated at another hard luck loss.

Authored by Brad Sauer. Research compiled from a variety of sources; contact author for more information.

Lip Man 1
05-15-2010, 09:57 AM
http://www.whitesoxinteractive.com/rwas/index.php?category=11&id=2755

Lip

LITTLE NELL
05-15-2010, 12:58 PM
http://www.whitesoxinteractive.com/rwas/index.php?category=11&id=2755

Lip

What I remember most about him especially his early years with the Sox was that he was the ultimate hard luck pitcher. Look at his first 4 years before his great 67 season and he had real low ERAs but was only a couple of games over .500.
Our present day pitchers need to do what Horlen, Peters and John did in the sixties, they knew the Sox were not going to score a lot of runs so they pitched their hearts out and won a lot of 2-1, 3-2 and 4-3 games.

BRDSR
05-15-2010, 02:10 PM
http://www.whitesoxinteractive.com/rwas/index.php?category=11&id=2755

Lip

Lip, your excellent interview actually was NOT one of the sources I used for my writeup, just because I didn't look for it. Obviously should have. Having read through it, though, I think I did alright.

On a different note, the fourth baseball card down on your interview (the one with the penant) is the one I just purchased. That's one of the dugouts at Old Comiskey in the background, right? I never went (moved to Chicago in 1991), but it looks like the dugouts in a painting my wife got me of Old Comiskey hanging in my family room.

Lip Man 1
05-15-2010, 04:25 PM
BRD:

Not slamming you, just thought if fans wanted to know more about Joe from his own mouth, that was the location to do so.

Lip

BRDSR
05-15-2010, 04:45 PM
BRD:

Not slamming you, just thought if fans wanted to know more about Joe from his own mouth, that was the location to do so.

Lip

Absolutely, never took it as a slam at all. Enjoyed reading the interview myself.