Friday, August 27, 2010
The Chicago White Sox All-Time Regional Team
The easy part was deciding what part of Illinois a particularly player was from: North, which means they're either in the Cubs' or White Sox' territory; or South, which means I've probably already listed them with, or considered and then rejected them for, the St. Louis Cardinals.
The hard part was deciding whether to put a player who qualifies for Chicago's region on the Cubs' or Sox' all-time regional team. If they -- whether from Illinois, Iowa or Indiana -- were associated with one or the other, it was easy. If they publicly stated a youthful preference for either team, that also helped.
If neither of those factors applied, then I had to guess. From Illinois, and north of the Chicago River? Cubs. South of it? Sox. In that western region of Northern Illinois between the river's branches? Split it down the middle. If I guessed wrong – if a guy was from, say, Bolingbrook, and I listed him with the Sox team, and he actually grew up a Cub fan, well, tough cookies, he should have told me.
Then there were the other 2 States. Iowa was easy: Despite its connection to the White Sox through the film Field of Dreams, Des Moines, the State Capital, is home to the Triple-A Iowa Cubs since 1981 – although Des Moines was a White Sox farm club, the Iowa Oaks, from 1973 to 1980! As for Indiana, the southwestern tail, including Evansville and Terre Haute, I gave to the Cardinals, while the southern half, including the city of Indianapolis, will go to the Cincinnati Reds.
But the northwestern quarter is White Sox territory. How do I know? That’s in tribute to Jean Shepherd, the legendary author and radio show host, whose book In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash became the basis for the film A Christmas Story, which he narrated. (He also played a middle-aged man at the department store who told Ralphie, based on his younger self, where the real back of the line was.) Although filmed in Cleveland, that city is a stand-in for Chicago, and his home town was Hammond, Indiana, just across the State Line.
Jean Shepherd liked to say, "If I was a colonel in some horrible war, and I needed volunteers for a suicide mission to take an enemy pillbox, I'd call out, 'Are any of you White Sox fans? Follow me!' And those White Sox fans would follow me, and we'd take that pillbox! Because White Sox fans are special. Fifty years without a Pennant? A hundred years? Doesn't matter. We're loyal."
So loyal that, when the new ballpark was rising across 35th Street in 1990, fans hung a banner from the upper deck of the old one, reading, "WE LOVE THIS COMISKEY PARK." And with the White Sox in the AL West race until nearly the end of that season, attendance spiked, and some fans hung a banner that read, "YUPPIE SCUM GO BACK TO WRIGLEY."
White Sox fans hate the Cubs, and especially Cub fans, a lot more than Cub fans hate the White Sox and their fans. To a Cub fan, a White Sox fan is a greasy, dirty, uncouth hood who likes heavy metal and marijuana -- an image probably ingrained due to the South Side's gritty reputation and Disco Demolition Night in 1979. To a White Sox fan, a Cub fan is a prissy, effete intellectual who is willing to accept losing so long as he has his ivy and his beer -- and, occasionally, his marijuana. In other words, except for the substance abuse part, George Will.
Jean Shepherd has been dead for a few years, but I'll bet he didn't like George Will. Will is still alive, and I'll bet he was never a Jean Shepherd fan, either. Will likes to talk about "creeping socialism"; Shepherd once wrote an article about squares who pushed the unfair parts of the Establishment's agenda, calling them "meatballs" and titling the article "Creeping Meatballism."
I think part of the Cub/Sox divide -- that is, the Sox fans hate the Cubs and their fans more than the Cub fans hate the Sox and their fans -- is partly due to the Cub-Cardinal rivalry. Cub fans have someone they hate more than they hate the White Sox.
The move of the Milwaukee Brewers, considerably closer to Chicago than St. Louis is, to the National League has killed the Sox-Brewers rivalry, which was never all that strong, but neither has it made Cub fans hate the Brewers all that much. In contrast, Brewers fans have grown to hate Cub fans, mainly because they were probably already sick of hearing about Cub fans, Wrigley Field and Harry Caray on "Superstation" WGN.
Hopefully, the White Sox' resurgence under manager Ozzie Guillen and general manager Kenny Williams will help them build rivalries with AL Central opponents Detroit, Cleveland and Minnesota, and they can have better attendance as a result of both the winning and the rivalries.
After all, the Sox won a Pennant in 2005, something the Cubs still haven't done since 1945; and won the World Series that season, something the Cubs still haven't done since 1908. And yet the Sox are still "the Second Team in the Second City." The Cubs have outdrawn the Sox every season since 1993 -- even though the Sox won the AL West (in their last season before realignment). Actually, that's not that strange, as in 1984, with the Sox coming off an AL West title, they outdrew the Cubs that season even as the Cubs won the old NL East.
But the Sox' per-game attendance has not never surpassed their 2006 peak of 36,511. The Cubs have topped that figure the last 7 years in a row, and will make it 8: Their average in this season is currently 38,453, while the Sox' is at 27,352. The Cubs rank 7th in the majors, 4th in the NL; the Sox rank 17th, 7th in the AL, ranking behind the Cubs, San Francisco, Boston, Detroit and the new Minnesota park despite their having smaller seating capacities.
So what does a team have to do? Maybe they need to put this lineup out there:
The Chicago White Sox All-Time Regional Team
1B Ted Kluszewski of Argo, Illinois. Big Klu was best known as a Cincinnati Red, and they retired his Number 18, and have dedicated a statue to him outside Great American Ballpark, their post-Riverfront Stadium home. In 1954, he was 2nd in the National League's Most Valuable Player voting behind Willie Mays, and led the NL with 49 homers and 141 RBIs. He had a 123 career OPS+, 7 .300 seasons (and just missed 2 others), 5 100-RBI seasons, and 279 career home runs, despite injuries taking their toll to the point where his last full season came at age 31.
He didn't win a Pennant with the Reds, but arrived at his "hometown" White Sox to provide a little pop to their "Go-Go" squad that won the team's first Pennant in 40 years. He hit 2 home runs in the ChiSox's 11-0 Game 1 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers, and another in their Game 6 loss. Along with a homer by Sox catcher Sherman Lollar in Game 4, these would be the only homers hit by a Chicago player in World Series play between Phil Cavarretta in Game 1 in 1945 and Joe Crede in Game 1 60 years later.
Klu finished his career with the American League's expansion Los Angeles Angels in 1961, as his Reds were winning the NL Pennant. He coached for the Reds until heart trouble forced him to retire, and he died in 1988. One of the most popular players in Cincinnati history, and well-deserved.
An urban legend is that the misspelling of his name in a box score as "KLUSEWSXI" (or something like that) is what led White Sox owner Bill Veeck to start putting players' names on the backs of their jerseys in 1960. What is not a legend is that, due to his biceps (no weight training then, either), he had to cut off the sleeves of his Reds jerseys so they'd fit him. This began the trend of the sleeveless, vest-style jerseys often seen in the 1960s, most notably worn by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1960 World Series.
2B Dickie Thon of South Bend, Indiana. Richard William Thon actually grew up in Puerto Rico (his father had been teaching at Notre Dame in South Bend), and played more shortstop than 2nd base, but I needed to fill out the roster.
In 1982, the Houston Astro led the NL in triples. In 1983, he had 28 doubles, 9 triples, 20 homers and 79 RBIs. As a shortstop. Playing his home games in the Astrodome, which, unlike most later domes, was a pitchers' park. He stole a total of 71 bases in those 2 seasons, which sounds more like an Astrodome (or at least Astroturf) feat. He was 25 and appeared headed for legend.
But on April 8, 1984, he was hit in the face with a pitch by Mike Torrez, the 1977 Yankee hero and 1978 Red Sox goat, then pitching for the Mets, at Shea Stadium. He returned in the 1985 season, and recovered enough to hit 15 homers and drive in 60 runs with the 1989 Philadelphia Phillies. But 4 years later his vision problems returned, and he hung 'em up. His son Dickie Joe Thon is now in the Toronto Blue Jays' farm system.
SS Robin Yount of Danville, Illinois. Another slight cheat, as he went to Taft High School in the Woodland Hills section of Los Angeles. But this guy never got the credit he deserved. He and Hank Greenberg are the only players to win MVPs at 2 different positions, Yount doing so at shortstop in 1982, when he led the Milwaukee Brewers to what is still their only Pennant, and in center field in 1989.
Playing in Milwaukee instead of Chicago or another bigger city meant he only made 3 All-Star Games, but after debuting in 1974 at age 18, he gave the Brewers 20 years, 3,142 hits including 583 doubles, 126 triples and 251 home runs, and 271 stolen bases.
Of all players with at least as many stolen bases as he has, only Willie Mays has at least as many home runs and at least as many hits, although Yount has more doubles than Mays (but not more hits, triples, homers or steals), his ex-teammate Paul Molitor has more hits and steals and nearly as many homers, and Alex Rodriguez has a shot at joining them. His career OPS+ is 115.
The Brewers have retired Yount's Number 19, which Molitor wore to honor him went he went to the Toronto Blue Jays and found his Brewers number, 4, was already being worn. The Brewers also dedicated a statue of Yount outside Miller Park.
He was easily elected to the Hall of Fame, and while he's not the most popular player in Milwaukee baseball history -- both Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews were more celebrated there -- if you're a Wisconsinian my age or younger, he's the best you've ever had. (The Brewers play the Mets late in September, so the Milwaukee All-Time Baseball Team will probably be the last I do before the two New York squads.)
3B Oswald "Ossie" Bluege of Carl Schurz High School in Chicago. No Washington baseball team has ever won a Pennant without him -- and, at the rate the Nationals are going, that's likely to remain the case for a while. He helped the Senators win the 1924 World Series and the 1925 and 1933 AL Pennants.
Known mainly for his glove, it didn't help him that the Senators' ballpark, Griffith Stadium, had notoriously faraway fences which limited power-hitting potential. Had the All-Star Game begun sooner, he would have made more than the one he reached in 1935. He is honored on the Washington Wall of Stars at Nationals Park.
LF Greg Luzinski of Niles, Illinois. The Bull was a 4-time All-Star for the Phillies, and in 1975 he led the NL in RBIs with 120, total bases with 322 and intentional walks with 17, and finished 2nd in the MVP voting to Joe Morgan. The next year, the Phillies began a string of 4 NL East titles in 5 years, culminating with the 1980 World Championship. It wasn't one of his best seasons, as his weight began to catch up with him, and the Phils saw their future and decided it included Lonnie Smith (born in Chicago, but grew up in L.A.).
Fortunately, Luzinski's hometown White Sox picked up him, although the joke was that Comiskey Park's obstructed-view seats included any along 1st base when he played there. Still, in 1983, he clubbed 32 homers at a pitchers' park, and helped the White Sox to their only 1st-place finish between 1959 and 1993.
He finished with 307 home runs, served a few years as the head baseball coach at Holy Cross High School in Delran, New Jersey, and now runs Bull's BBQ stand at Citizens Bank Park, where he's also honored on the Philadelphia Baseball Wall of Fame.
CF Kirby Puckett of Calumet City, Illinois. It was humbling to see a fat guy hustle this much. For a generation, as Harmon Killebrew and Rod Carew had been before him, he was the Minnesota Twins. He helped them with the 1987 World Series, and in Game 6 of the 1991 Series, he saved the Twins with a great catch and a walkoff homer in the bottom of the 11th, leading to their Game 7 win. He reached 10 All-Star Games, won the 1989 AL batting title (a rare feat for a righthanded hitter), and led the AL in hits 4 times.
He was so admired in Minnesota that the address of the Metrodome was changed to 34 Kirby Puckett Place, the Twins retired his Number 34, and they dedicated a statue of him outside their new ballpark, Target Field, this past April. He was elected to the Hall of Fame despite playing only 12 seasons, with a .318 lifetime batting average, a 124 OPS+, 2,304 hits and 207 home runs.
Regrettably, glaucoma ended his career when he was just 36 years old. Things went from bad to worse. His weight ballooned, and his health suffered. He was arrested on a morals charge, and, though acquitted, his reputation was forever stained by a Sports Illustrated article which seemed intent on convicting him in the court of public opinion -- written by Frank Deford, who should have accepted the jury's verdict and not risked his own fine reputation.
Kirby suffered a stroke and died in 2006, age 45 -- aside from Lou Gehrig, the youngest Hall-of-Famer ever to die, not counting those who died young and were elected to the Hall later, such as Roberto Clemente.
Every time I see Tony Gwynn now, and see how much weight he's gained, I worry he'll suffer the same fate -- medically, that is, not judicially. Kirby was also the man who gave Don Mattingly the nickname "Donnie Baseball" after seeing how much batting practice he took.
UPDATE: Gwynn did die young, at 54 -- but from cancer, although his weight didn't help his compromised health.
RF Sam Rice of Morocco, Indiana. A teammate of Bluege's on the Washington Senators' 1924 World Champions and '25 and '33 Pennant winners, Edgar Charles Rice (it's not clear why he became "Sam") is one of several great players virtually forgotten because their team no longer exists in its current form. (They became the Minnesota Twins in 1961.)
He collected 2,987 hits, the closest any player has gotten to 3,000 without getting it. (Unless you count Stan Ross, the Bernie Mac character in Mr. 3000 -- who, if he actually existed, would have replaced Big Klu as the 1st baseman on this team.) Rice later said, "The truth of the matter, is I did not even know how many hits I had. A couple of years after I quit, (Senators owner) Clark Griffith told me about it, and asked me if I'd care to have a comeback with the Senators and pick up those 13 hits. But I was out of shape, and didn't want to go through all that would have been necessary to make the effort. Nowadays, with radio and television announcers spouting records every time a player comes to bat, I would have known about my hits, and probably would have stayed to make 3,000 of them."
He had a .322 lifetime batting average, a 112 OPS+, 498 doubles, 184 triples, and 351 stole bases. However, when this Hall-of-Famer is remembered at all, he is remembered for an amazing catch he made in the 1925 World Series, robbing Earl Smith of the Pirates of a home run to preserve the Senators' win in Game 3. He fell over the short fence at Griffith Stadium, then emerged with the ball. The Pirates and their fans were sure he'd dropped the ball as he tumbled over the fence, but the umpire ruled he had possession, so the ball was dead even if Rice did lose the ball when he fell. Too bad there's no film of this catch: While a highlight film did capture some action in that Series, the catch is not part of it.
DH Jim Thome of Bartonville, Illinois. The Thome-nator is our generation's Harmon Killebrew, albeit lefthanded: A big, chunky guy with enormous power, he started at 3rd base, couldn't field there, but his bat had to be in the lineup, and he was moved to 1st, where he was a little better.
He went from the Cleveland Indians to the Phillies, where he helped revitalize that franchise, before his injuries led to the rise of Ryan Howard. That made Thome expendable, and he went to his home-State White Sox as a DH (an option not available to Killebrew until he was 36), and bounced back big-time from his Philly injury. After a brief interlude with the Los Angeles Dodgers last season, he's now with the Minnesota Twins. At 39, he's slowed down, but he's still contributing.
He's made 5 All-Star teams. His career OPS+ is an amazing 147. He's got 582 home runs, meaning he trails only Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr. and (barely) Frank Robinson among honest players -- and Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire among steroid users. Has Thome used steroids? Many have speculated, none have proven; after all, he's had pretty much the same body type throughout his career, and, aside from 2005, he has been remarkably injury-free and consistent, hitting at least 30 homers every season but that one from 1996 to 2008.
He's been a winner, too: 8 postseason appearances, and it's likely to be 9 with this year's Twins. Only Manny Ramirez (steroids), Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Reggie Jackson (who played when there were just 2 postseason rounds) and Mickey Mantle (who played when there was just the World Series) have more postseason homers than Thome's 17.
For all that, though, Thome has played on just 2 Pennant winners, the 1995 and '97 Indians, and he has never won a ring. And with 2,386 strikeouts, he's only 212 away from surpassing Reggie Jackson as the all-time leader there. But, barring a steroid outing, he'll make the Hall of Fame, and the Indians should retire his Number 25, as he is their all-time home run leader with 334.
C Tom Haller of Lockport, Illinois. A University of Illinois graduate, he was one of the few players to be a good one on both sides of the Giant-Dodger rivalry (especially since the revival of the Brooklyn edition of the Dodgers in 1941, never mind both clubs' move to the West Coast). A 2-time All-Star, he had 18 homers and 55 RBIs with the 1962 Giants, despite being a rookie, only 331 plate appearances, and playing his home games in wind-swept Candlestick Park. The Giants won the Pennant that year, and it certainly wasn't Haller's fault that the Giants had near-misses in '65 and '66 -- particularly in the latter year, when he had career highs with 27 homers and 67 RBIs.
For a catcher in his era, playing most of his home games in Candlestick and Dodger Stadium, 134 homers was pretty good, and his 113 career OPS+ reflects this. He closed his career in 1972 with one more postseason appearance, backing up Bill Freehan on the AL East-winning Detroit Tigers. He once caught a game where his brother Bill Haller, a longtime NL umpire, was behind the plate; there is now a rule that an umpire cannot be assigned to a game where a relative is eligible to play or manage.
SP Urban "Red" Faber of Cascade, Iowa. A member of the White Sox teams that won the 1917 World Series and the 1919 Pennant, he did not appear in the 1919 World Series and can't be considered one of the players who "threw" it. Bouncing back, he won 23 games in 1920, and after the "Eight Men Out" were suspended and later banned for life, he won 25 games in 1921 and 21 in 1922 (and led the AL in ERA both seasons), despite the decimated Pale Hose winning just 62 and 77 games respectively as a team.
He was basically a .500 pitcher for the rest of his career, as the team's inadequacy caught up to him. But his career record of 254-213 is backed by an ERA+ of 119. He's in the Hall of Fame, although the White Sox have never retired the Number 18 he hung around long enough to wear.
SP Paul "Dizzy" Trout of Sandcut, Indiana. He didn't have a full season until he was 27, and got that mainly because he was 4-F during World War II. But he made the most of the chance he got, winning 20 games in 1943 and 27 in 1944 (leading the AL with a 2.18 ERA) for the Detroit Tigers, forming a superb righty-lefty tandem with MVP Hal Newhouser. He won Game 4 of the 1945 World Series, which the Tigers won.
When the Yankees', Red Sox' and Indians' best players came back from the War, the Tigers' performance suffered, and Trout was a part of that, although he did go 13-5 in 1950 when the Tigers finished 2nd, their best performance between 1945 and 1961. His career record was just 170-161, but his ERA+ was a strong 124.
His son Steve Trout became a lefthanded pitcher for both Chicago teams (but was a bust with the Yankees and Seattle Mariners afterward), and although I considered him for this team, his career record of 88-92 and a 96 ERA+ weren't good enough. And his son Steven Trout was briefly a minor league infielder.
SP Bob Friend of West Lafayette, Indiana. Having grown up in the town that's home to Purdue University, he went to that school before reaching the majors. He's the only pitcher ever to lose 200 games in the majors without winning 200: 197-230. But that was mainly due to the Pittsburgh Pirates being terrible for most of his tenure, including their disastrous 52-112 season in 1952, when Friend was 7-17.
When they got good, so did he. He went 22-14 in 1958, and in their 1960 World Championship season, he went 18-12. He had another 18-win season in 1962 and 17 the next year. But he got old in a hurry. In 1966, he closed his career by becoming the 1st player ever to play for the Yankees and the Mets in the same season. (In 1977, Dave Kingman became the 2nd, although he started the season with the Mets, then went to the Padres and Angels before the Yanks became his 4th team of the season.)
SP Jim O’Toole of Leo High School in Chicago. His career was relatively brief, with an injury knocking him out at age 30. In Ball Four, Jim Bouton wrote of O'Toole trying a comeback with the expansion 1969 Seattle Pilots, and ending up with a semi-pro team back in the Chicago area. But he went 19-9 for the Cincinnati Reds as they won the 1961 Pennant, and 17-7 in 1964 as they nearly did it again. He was 98-84 for his career, and deserved better.
SP Mark Mulder of South Holland, Illinois. Another one knocked out early by injury, he had his last full season at age 27 and he retired in 2008 at age 30. But in 2001, at age 23, he went 21-8 for the Oakland Athletics, and 19-7 the next season. How many guys win 40 games over a 2-year span in this era of 5-man rotations -- especially at age 25? Part of the "Big 3" along with Tim Hudson and Barry Zito, he helped the A's reach the postseason in each of his 1st 4 seasons (2000-03), and was 88-40 from 2001 to 2005.
The injury that struck in 2006 did not stop him from winning that year's World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals, but it did limit his career record to just 103-60, still a .632 percentage.
Dishonorable Mention to Denny McLain of Mount Carmel High School in Chicago. He could have been the most talented of these. In fact, Dennis Dale McLain could have been one of the greatest pitchers of all time. The White Sox had this native South Sider in their system, but let him go to the Tigers. Huge mistake: In 1964, at age 20, he was just 4-5, but with a stronger lineup behind him, his 1.210 WHIP might've helped put the White Sox over the top, as they finished 1 game behind the Yankees. He blossomed to 16-6 in '65 and 20-14 in '66, and in '67, when the White Sox finished just 3 games behind the Red Sox, the Tigers finished just 1 back, due in large part to McLain's 17 wins.
In 1968, the Year of the Pitcher, he went 31-6, which makes him, now, the only living person to win 30 games in a major league season. His ERA was 1.96, and his WHIP was 0.905, so he didn't just benefit from the Tigers' hitting. They won the World Series that year, despite him being outdueled by Bob Gibson of the Cardinals in Games 1 and 4 -- McLain did win Game 6 on 2 days' rest. He was named the AL's MVP and Cy Young Award winner.
In 1969, he went 24-9, and, in a tie vote, shared the AL Cy Young with Mike Cuellar. He was 25, great, charismatic, and enormously popular. He was 114-57. And he was married to the daughter of Hall-of-Famer Lou Boudreau. He had it all. The sky was the limit.
He did not reach the sky. Legal trouble and injuries meant that his career would end just before the 1973 season, right after his 29th birthday, and he went just 21-41 the rest of the way, for a total of 131-91, although his career WHIP remained fine at 1.163. He was traded to the Washington Senators, then the Oakland Athletics, and finally the Atlanta Braves. When he was able to pitch without pain, he was still great.
But the pain of his shoulder became nothing compared to what happened when he trusted the wrong people and made the wrong business moves. Twice, he was convicted of crimes and served time in prison, including once after he had seemingly rehabilitated himself by becoming a popular host on a Detroit sports-talk radio station. His 2nd conviction was later reversed, but only after he'd been in the joint for a few years. He now writes a column for In Play!, a Detroit-based sports magazine.
In an amazing twist of events, McLain's last big-league appearance was on September 12, 1972, for the Braves against the Reds. The last batter he ever faced in the majors? Pete Rose, eventually even more scandalous. Rose never batted against Roger Clemens, as they were in different Leagues. In his last season as a player, 1986, Rose managed against a rookie named Barry Bonds, but they never played in the same game.
RP Ed Farmer of Evergreen Park, Illinois. A journeyman, he did manage to save 30 games for his hometown White Sox in 1980. But his luck was bad: He left the Phillies right before they started winning NL East titles, the Orioles right before their 1979 AL Pennant, the Brewers just as they were getting good, the White Sox right before their 1983 AL West title, and the Phils decided to get him back, then traded him in a deadline deal that helped them win the 1993 NL Pennant. He's now a broadcaster for the White Sox.
RP Don Stanhouse of Du Quoin, Illinois. Now, here is a twist of events: When McLain went from Washington to Oakland, one of the guys he was traded for was Stanhouse, then a mere prospect. But the Senators, who then became the Texas Rangers, didn't know what to do with this stereotypically weird pitcher. They sent him to the Montreal Expos where he did well as both a starter and a reliever. Then they sent him to the Baltimore Orioles, and he did great for them out of the pen, helping them win the 1979 Pennant. He became a very popular figure, for his success and his weirdness, gaining the nickname "Stan the Man Unusual."
But an injury knocked him out (is there an echo?), and he was basically finished at 30. In 1991, when the Orioles closed Memorial Stadium, they invited several former players back for the finale, and each wore a uniform contemporary to his period in Baltimore. Stanhouse was the only one who wore one of those hideous bright orange Oriole jerseys with black lettering. Why? Because he was Stan the Man Unusual, that's why. (He was only 40: Given good health, he could still have been pitching.)
MGR Charlie Comiskey of Chicago. While playing for the team then known as the St. Louis Brown Stockings of the American Association (they moved to the NL in 1892 and became the Cardinals in 1901 as their uniform color changed, and are not to be confused with the AL's St. Louis Browns), he practically invented the way the position of 1st base was played.
As a player-manager, he led the proto-Cards to 4 straight AA Pennants from 1885 to 1888. "The Old Roman" helped found the American League, and, leaving the managing to others, the White Sox he owned won the 1st AL Pennant in 1901, the World Series in 1906 and 1917, and another Pennant in 1919.
How much he knew of the World Series fix has been debated. What's not debated is that he was a cheap bastard -- in spite of the fact that he was, himself, a player and a damn good one by the standards of his time. Supposedly, his players were already called the Black Sox by 1917, not for the fix that was yet to come, but because their uniforms were always dirty, since Comiskey wouldn't shell out the cash to get them laundered on the road.
The ballpark he built in 1910 would bear his name, and beyond his death in 1931, his family would continue to own the team in full until 1959 and still in a small part today. He was not a good person. But for his contributions to the game, as a player, a manager and an owner, he does deserve his place in the Hall of Fame.
Although the White Sox' new home no longer bears his name as the old one did, and is now called U.S. Cellular Field, the park has a statue of him, and a concession stand called Old Roman's Pizza -- even though Comiskey was Irish, not Italian.