As the new year approaches, we’re counting down the top White Sox stories from 2018.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum has had an injection of White Sox flavor in recent years.
After Frank Thomas was inducted in 2014 and Tim Raines went in last year, this year saw further representation, with Jim Thome enshrined and Harold Baines elected to grow the contingent of former South Siders in the Hall.
Thome’s election was a no-doubter. The five-time All Star and four-time top-10 MVP finisher ranks eighth all-time with 612 home runs. He’s sporting a Cleveland Indians hat on his plaque, but his induction was well loved in his native Illinois, where he spent four seasons as a member of the White Sox, during which he launched 134 of those home runs.
None of those dingers was more beloved than his solo shot in the Blackout Game in 2008, the only run scored in the one-game playoff against the Minnesota Twins that won the White Sox their most recent AL Central title.
A whole career of moments like that got him a trip to Cooperstown, where he was inducted over the summer.
Baines’ election, which just happened earlier this month during the Winter Meetings, was the complete opposite, a huge surprise, but no less appreciated on the South Side, where Baines spent 14 of his 22 big league seasons. While Baines’ election by the Today’s Game Committee — which included team chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and former White Sox manager Tony La Russa — generated disbelief across the internet, the White Sox celebrated his joining the ranks of the game’s all-time greats.
“I think the people with the White Sox might be happier than Harold because we all love Harold so much,” Reinsdorf said the night of Baines’ election in Nevada. “We’re just so happy for him. But he deserved it. He got in because he deserved to get in — not because he’s a great guy. He is a great guy.
“He just deserved it. It was just a shame he didn’t get in sooner than this. Harold is a great player. You look at the numbers he put up in the ’80s and the ’90s and played in the majors for 22 years. I don’t think he ever had a bad year. Of course, there’s no finer person than Harold Baines.
“When the game was on the line in the eighth or ninth inning, and you can pick somebody to you wanted up, it was Harold Baines.”
Controversy aside, both Thome and Baines joined baseball’s most elite fraternity in 2018, which came as terrific news to their biggest fans on the South Side. Of course, both Thome and Baines remain part of the organization. Baines was a longtime coach after his playing career ended and is still involved around Guaranteed Rate Field. Thome is a special assistant in the White Sox front office and reportedly helped deliver their pitch to mega free agent Bryce Harper this winter.
That makes them both members of the White Sox family, and their achieving baseball’s highest honor was celebrated as much at the corner of 35th and Shields as it was in the Thome and Baines households.