Sunday, March 28, 2021

I Love The 80s - 1982 Chicago White Sox

  This is a series of posts on a 1980's Frankenset. Each page features a different team, with 9 of my personal favorite cards from that year's team. You might find players repeated, you'll definitely see brands repeated, but hopefully you'll agree that there are some interesting selections from the 1980s!

The White Sox finished the strike shortened 1981 season in 3rd place in the AL west, thanks to a fast start. They finished the first half of the season 9 games above .500, then had a tough stretch to close the season. While the ownership change that year meant the end of the Bill Veeck era, the White Sox would forge ahead with a bigger wallet even if it meant losing a few style points. Veeck had signed Ron LeFlore and Ed Farmer to seven figure deals on his way out the door, and new owners Jerry  Reinsdorf and Eddie Einhorn wasted little time adding Catching great Carlton Fisk.

1982 would see another 3rd place finish, but improved their overall winning percentage by nearly 30 points. They struggled in June and July (just a 23-31 record for those two months), and were absolutely owned by the Kansas City Royals in the season series, losing 10 of 13 games. If not for that, the team was in good position to make it back to the postseason for the first time since 1959. They would make that next step in 1983, winning 99 games and finishing 1st in the AL West.

The Cards:

Topps #237 Rusty Kuntz - Now known mostly for his role as a first base coach with the Royals, Kuntz was a valuable reserve outfielder for parts of 7 big league seasons. He had a grand total of just 104 major league hits, and his most memorable plate appearance was an out. That out was a sacrifice pop up not far beyond the infield dirt in Game 5 of the 1984 World Series. Kirk Gibson was stationed at third base when Kuntz hit the bat into short right field, into the glove of Padres' second baseman Alan Wiggins. Noticing that his back was fully turned away from the infield, Gibson alertly sprinted home, giving the Tigers the run that would prove to be the game winner. For more on Kuntz, I recommend checking out his SABR biography, written by Mike McClary.

Fleer #343 Carlton Fisk - The undisputed field general of the White Sox was Carlton Fisk, now in his second full season on the South Side. Fisk was 34 years old in 1982, but still managed 17 stolen bases, while throwing out 44 would-be base stealers from behind the plate. 1982 was Fisk's 9th All-Star season, in his 11th full season in the big leagues. Fisk was named the best baseball player ever to come from Vermont (he was born there), and the best baseball player ever to come from New Hampshire (he grew up there and played high school ball there) in 1999 by two different publications. 

Donruss #291 Chet Lemon -  Lemon was traded to the Tigers before the 1982 season began, but the White Sox already had Ron LeFlore and Rudy May (correction: Law) playing in center field, so Lemon was deemed expendable. It turned out that Lemon was just developing into a star at the time of the trade, adding power to the speed and defense that he had displayed in his 7 seasons in Chicago. Lemon was a 2 time All-Star and had led the AL in doubles in 1979 leading up to the trade. Though he missed out on the White Sox 1983 run to the ALCS, he more than made up for it the following year in Detroit, helping the Tigers win the World Series following another All-Star season.

Fleer #335 Bill Almon - Perhaps better remembered for his early days in San Diego as the SS that Ozzie Smith replaced, Almon had a solid 2 year stint with the White Sox in 1981 and 82. He hit a career high .301 in 1981, and added another season with 10 doubles and 10 steals in 1982. Almon's best season came the following year in 1983 with Oakland. The erstwhile shortstop was converted to a utility role, which allowed him to play in a career high 143 games. He had 29 doubles and 26 stolen bases for the A's that year, also career bests. 

Topps Traded #54T Steve Kemp - Kemp was traded to the White Sox from the Tigers for Chet Lemon. Both teams were looking to change the shape of their outfield, with the Sox looking to add some power in the corners, and the Tigers hoping to have their Center Fielder for years to come. Kemp responded in 1982 with a great slash line .286/.381/.428 which was good for an OPS+ of 122. Kemp hit 19 homers, scored a career high 91 runs, and drove in 89 of his own. It turned out that Lemon would have a longer career, spending 9 seasons in Detroit. Kemp was a free agent following the 1982 season and signed with the Yankees, where he would spend a couple seasons before being traded to Pirates with Tim Foli for Jay Buhner(!), Dale Berra, and Al Pulido. 

Donruss #369 Jim Essian - With Carlton Fisk behind the plate, it was either a very easy or very tough job to be his back up. Essian made the most of it, hitting .308 in just 27 games. He'd bounce around in the next three seasons, playing for Seattle, Cleveland, and Oakland. His best year came in 1977 as the primary catcher with the White Sox, with career highs in nearly every offensive category, including 10 homers, 50 runs scored, and 44 RBI. Essian briefly served as Manager of the crosstown Chicago Cubs in 1991, and was also the manager of the Greek National team in the 2010 European Championship.

Topps #461 Richard Dotson - Dotson was one of several young arms for the early 80s White Sox, and was among the most successful. In 1981, he led the AL with 4 shutouts, and had another outstanding campaign in 1982 with a 3.86 ERA. He put it all together in 1983, when he finished 4th in the AL Cy Young race. Dotson won 22 games in 1983, anchoring the rotation that won the AL West for Tony LaRussa's White Sox. His father was 4 time All-Star pitcher Turk Farrell, though Dotson did not learn this until long after Farrell's passing in 1977. 

Donruss #568 Harold Baines - The 23 year old Baines was enjoying a breakout Sophomore season in 1982 following a stellar rookie campaign. He led the White Sox position players with 3.4 WAR, and topped 100 RBI for the first time. His career would be marked by consistent production, either as a corner outfielder, or as a DH. He led the AL in slugging in 1984, thanks to 28 doubles, 10 Triples, and 29 homers. His lone Silver Slugger award came in 1989 when he split time between the White Sox and the Texas Rangers. The White Sox tried to lessen the sting of trading him away by retiring his number- little did they know he'd still be playing more than a decade later, retiring in 2001 after two seasons back in Chicago, his third stint playing for the team. 

Topps #328 Ed Farmer - "Farmio" was the voice of the White Sox on radio for years, but made his reputation on the mound. It was a long road with many twists and turns that led Farmer to the 1980 All-Star game. He saved 30 games for the White Sox that season, which was then a franchise record. The kidney disease that would be the cause of his death in 2020 was an inherited trait that necessitated a donation from his brother in 1991. The same issue caused the death of his mother when she was just 37 years old, and Farmer was a long time organ donor advocate. He served on the Board of Directors of the Polycystic Kidney Disease Research Foundation.

What is your favorite card of a Chicago White Sox Player from 1982? Doesn't have to be one of these...

Thanks for reading!


  1. Replies
    1. dangit- that is a better Fisk. I don't know why I didn't use that one!

  2. Steve kemp looks out of place with his new uniform. My favorite 1982 chisox card is either the fisk in action card or the carlton & fisk/ steve & carlton card

    1. Fisk in Action is a better card than the Fleer one - I can't believe I didn't use it...

  3. Just wanted to tell you that it was Rudy Law not Rudy May

    1. Oops, you are correct of course. Thanks for bringing that to my attention.