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View Full Version : Totally Biased Book Review: Ron Kittle's Tales From the White Sox Dugout


Baby Fisk
04-13-2005, 10:07 PM
Ron Kittle's Tales From the White Sox Dugout - by Ron Kittle with Bob Logan (2005, 184 pp.)

The course of Ron Kittle's promising baseball career was forever altered in 1978, during his very first game as a minor leaguer for the L.A. Dodgers' Midwest League team in Iowa.

Kittle was injured in a violent collision at the plate and his right arm went numb. The youngster who routinely tormented baseballs with his booming bat suddenly found himself unable to take a full swing at the plate. He had broken his neck. The Dodgers paid the bills for Kittle's neck surgery, then promptly cut him, figuring his baseball career was through.

It was the lowest point of his life. He returned home to Gary, Indiana and took a job as a metalworker like his dad. His baseball career seemed over before it had begun.

Little did the depressed young man know, but while he was toiling away with steel and iron, there were discussions going on in Chicago between a couple of legendary figures in White Sox history. These discussions would help make Ron Kittle a White Sox legend too.

Former Sox pitching star Billy Pierce heard word from a friend that there was a kid named Kittle who had suffered a tough break in the Dodgers organization, but who could still hit a baseball a mile. After watching Kittle play in a local league game, Pierce called Sox General Manager Roland Hemond and encouraged him to give Kittle a tryout. Hemond accepted his good friend's advice and invited Kittle to a tryout at Comiskey Park in front of Sox brass, including owner Bill Veeck.

In his new book, Ron Kittle's Tales From the White Sox Dugout, Kittle recounts the day he became a White Sox:


After a few throws in the outfield, I said "I'm loose," grabbed a Bill Naharodny bat, and they put veteran right-hander Bruce Dal Canton on the mound to see what I could do with big-league pitching. His first one was right down the middle. I swung and missed it by 10 feet. The White Sox reserves, waiting their turn to hit, could have said, "Get this big lug outa here," but I guess they had been in my spot before. So they stood quietly around the batting cage while I dribbled the next few pitches on the ground.

I stepped out for a minute, took a deep breath, came back in and hit the next one into the upper deck in left field. All of a sudden, people were crowding around the cage, including George Brett and some other Royals, to watch me put on a show. I hit about eight or ten more into the stands, and one of them sailed out of the park through one of the big windows behind the stands. Somebody said, "Holy ****, this kid can hit." When I was through, Naharodny shook my hand and said, "If they offer you less than $1 million, don't sign." It was about $999,000 less than that, but I still think the Man Upstairs was looking after me.

On my last swing, the lens fell out of my glasses. If that had happened a dozen pitches earlier, I might still be climbing those iron and steel girders for a living.

Kittle played minor league ball in the Sox organization and hit 50 homers for the Sox AAA team in 1982. In 1983, he made the bigs as the Sox' left-fielder and played his best season ever: 35 HRs, 100 RBIs, and the A.L. Rookie of the Year award.

Kittle's book is part autobiography, part memoir of the 1983 season, packed with memories and anecdotes. The '83 Sox got off to a slow start, roared back in the second half to win the A.L. West by 20 games, but fell short in the ALCS against Baltimore. Kittle looks back on the "Winning Ugly" season and presents dozens of vignettes about his teammates, coaches and Sox management, key games, monster home runs, his appearance at the 1983 All Star Game at Comiskey Park, the clinching of the West, and the heart-breaking ALCS.

There are no jaw-dropping revelations in this book, save for an ugly incident between himself and Barry Bonds that Kittle still looks back on in anger (Bonds refused to sign a couple of jerseys for Kittle's Indiana Sports Charities and told Kittle: "I don't sign for white people.").

The rest of the book is quick reading with lots of goofy anecdotes from the man who hit seven monster homers onto the roof of old Comiskey:


We were playing the Detroit Tigers at Comiskey Park on August 4. Lou Whitaker led off the first inning for the Tigers with a line drive down the left-field line. I went over to cut it off, and I swear this is what happened -- a gopher scampered out in front of the ball. It hit him on the head, bounced over my glove and rolled into the corner while Whitaker took third base. He got a double and I got an error, but I don't know why the official scorer couldn't see that darned gopher. It should have been recorded as the first triple ever on a gopher ball, although I was upset because we lost the game 6-3, not on account of the error.

When the writers came in the clubhouse after the game, I told them about the gopher, but I guess they didn't believe me, either. One asked if I'd heard the fans booing me for letting Whitaker's hit get away. "Yeah, I did, but I was too busy yelling at the gopher to explain to them," I said.

Kittle writes with fondness and appreciation for having been able to be a part of that 1983 team, a team he describes as a loose, fun ballclub. It might be a good sign that the present Sox team has been described the same way.

No great baseball book is complete without photos. Two dozen black and white shots are spread throughout the book. Most of them show Kittle in action or posing for the camera. There's one nice one of Kittle and Robin Ventura in the old Comiskey dugout, wearing their retro Sox uniforms on Turn Back the Clock Day, 1990.

Unfortunately, Kittle's playing career was cut short from the lingering effects of his 1978 neck injury. While his potential was never fully realized, Sox fans are lucky to have had him around for most of the 80s and early 90s. This book is a nice reminiscence on that time, especially the Winning Ugly season. Highly recommended.

More information on Kittle's Indiana Sports Charities can be found here (http://www.indianasportscharities.org/).





--Baby Fisk

thepaulbowski
04-14-2005, 06:51 AM
Thanks for the review...I need some good reading material for this weekend while traveling. I will have to go pick that book up.

Lip Man 1
04-14-2005, 11:18 AM
Ron Kittle discusses both of those quoted incidents and more in his WSI interview:

http://www.whitesoxinteractive.com/rwas/index.php?category=11&id=2152

Lip

mike squires
04-14-2005, 11:31 AM
Just got back from Borders to see if by chance they had it in stock. Wouldn't you know it, there sitting on the shelf was..............a few new Cub books and a new book with Tonly Larussa on the cover but no Kittle book. :angry: I was hoping to get it by Wednesday so I could read it on the way to Florida. Is this book only available in the Chicago area or can you expect to find it in the bigger cities as well?

ilsox7
04-14-2005, 11:36 AM
I gotta go out and get this one! Kitta was my hitting coach back when i was 13, 14, and 15 years old.

mike squires
04-14-2005, 02:25 PM
You gotta tell us osme stories man! Most of my experiences with him led me to believe he was real goofy and nice. YOu gotta have a few stories in the bag.

cubsuck
04-14-2005, 02:27 PM
Ron Kittle was probably the MOST pompous person I've ever met in my life. I've worked in sports my entire career, and he's still the most egotistical person I've ever met. I went to school at Valparaiso University and he used to help out with our baseball team. The book sounds interesting, but I doubt that guy can masturbate without a mirror, if you know what I mean...

mike squires
04-14-2005, 02:33 PM
save for an ugly incident between himself and Barry Bonds that Kittle still looks back on in anger (Bonds refused to sign a couple of jerseys for Kittle's Indiana Sports Charities and told Kittle: "I don't sign for white people.").

That is real dissapointing~Yeah, like none of that money wouldn't have gone to young black boys. Just another fact that tells us Barry is a poor excuse of a human being.





--Baby Fisk[/QUOTE]

cubsuck
04-14-2005, 02:39 PM
Barry, Bonilla, and Van Slyke... told me to "go away" at Spring Training when I was 9 years old. All I wanted was an autograph. Good stuff Barry...

TornLabrum
04-14-2005, 05:47 PM
Ron Kittle was probably the MOST pompous person I've ever met in my life. I've worked in sports my entire career, and he's still the most egotistical person I've ever met. I went to school at Valparaiso University and he used to help out with our baseball team. The book sounds interesting, but I doubt that guy can masturbate without a mirror, if you know what I mean...

I've spent some time around Ron Kittle off and on for about 10-15 years and have found him to be anything but pompous.

SpammySosa
04-14-2005, 05:58 PM
I've spent some time around Ron Kittle off and on for about 10-15 years and have found him to be anything but pompous.

I agree with Hal 100%. I have spent a decent amount of time talking to him at promotional appearances,as well as chatting with him when he frequented a business I used to work at.He is outspoken for sure,but that shouldn't be mistaken for being pompous.It appears as though cubsuck has an attitude problem and that probably clouded his mind and wasn't conducive to learning when Kittle helped out with VU baseball.

Paulwny
04-14-2005, 06:47 PM
I've spent some time around Ron Kittle off and on for about 10-15 years and have found him to be anything but pompous.


Kittle was rehabbing in Buffalo, don't remember the year. After his final rehab game he emerged from the clubhouse and spent ~ an hour signing autographs and talking with fans. Most guys coming off rehab would just jump into the limo and head for the airport.
I'll always remember that he gave some of his time to a group of minor league fans and kids.

cubsuck
04-15-2005, 09:38 AM
Guys,

It's just my opinion...! I don't have an attitude problem because you don't agree with it! :) I just felt the guy rubbed me the wrong way...that's all. Besides, VU Baseball needs more than Ron Kittle to help us out *lol*

-cubsuck

mike squires
04-15-2005, 11:34 AM
AH, yes, I called another bookstore here in Champaign/Savoy and they had it. Just picked it up. It will look nice next to the rest of my 83 stuff after I'm done reading it.:cool:

thepaulbowski
04-15-2005, 12:46 PM
Ron Kittle was probably the MOST pompous person I've ever met in my life. I've worked in sports my entire career, and he's still the most egotistical person I've ever met. I went to school at Valparaiso University and he used to help out with our baseball team. The book sounds interesting, but I doubt that guy can masturbate without a mirror, if you know what I mean...

:rolleyes:

TDog
04-15-2005, 02:03 PM
Guys,

It's just my opinion...! I don't have an attitude problem because you don't agree with it! :) I just felt the guy rubbed me the wrong way...that's all. Besides, VU Baseball needs more than Ron Kittle to help us out *lol*

-cubsuck

Seriously, though, how could you consider Ron pompous?

Wsoxmike59
04-16-2005, 03:54 PM
I definitely want to pick up a copy of the book. There are far too few White Sox books on the shelf nowadays, and when there is one, I tend to pick it up.

I've met Ron Kittle a few times at Soxfest and a couple of autograph signings, and he's ALWAYS been nothing but cordial and friendly with the fans who show up. I've always enjoyed Kittles' comments and humorous quips over the years.

I've always wondered how White Sox history would've played out, had Larry Himes NOT traded Ron Kittle at the tail end of the 1990 season to Baltimore for Phil Bradley, what type of #'s would "Kitty" have put up if he were playing everyday in the New Comiskey Park in the early 90's??

Had the Sox kept Kittle for a few more seasons, then would GM Ron Scheuler have any need to deal Sammy Sosa to the Cubs for George Bell, who was brought in to give a little protection to Frank Thomas in the line up.