SI Vault
Frank Deford
May 19, 1980
Also known as the White Sox of Comiskey Park in Chicago, they're a ragtag outfit that's living the high life in the American League West
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May 19, 1980

The Bad News Bears Of Kaminskey Park

Also known as the White Sox of Comiskey Park in Chicago, they're a ragtag outfit that's living the high life in the American League West

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Burns, from Birmingham, proudly wears a gold chain that reads HOSS, which is what his teammates have taken to calling him. All his life he blew the ball past everybody, and now he loves to get cute. "When we were playing the Yankees the other day," he says, "Bruce called for a change-up on 3-2, and I couldn't believe it." He struck the guy out, swinging, although he hasn't the foggiest notion who it was. "I never was a fan," Hoss says. "I knew about Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle and those old guys, but the modern players, I never knew them. But, boy, I was pleased. I thought about that: I'd heard about guys who could throw the change on 3-2, and here I had thrown a change on 3-2."

Ross Baumgarten, 24, is home, a Chicago boy. He is a Cubs fan, and before coming to work at Kaminskey Park the other day, he went up to Wrigley Field to see the Cubbies. You know, they play days. Baumgarten's brother is a vice-president at Paramount.

Steve Trout is 22, the ninth child (of 10) of Dizzy Trout, who, his name notwithstanding, was a righthander. Dizzy was the first employee Veeck hired (in public relations) when he originally took over the Sox in '58. The elder Trout bought an abandoned convent to hold his brood, but he died when Steve was only 14, and the son was molded less by his father, the pitcher he became, than by two older brothers, a professor and nutritionist.

The two aging portsiders are Richard (Tex) Wortham, 26, and Ken Kravec, 28. Wortham, the team's player representative, is the only father among the southpaws. Scholarly-looking in horn rims, he belies his cool appearance; he is a thrower. Kravec, a newlywed, is an assortment pitcher, and he was the pick of the litter from last season, when his record was 15-13. Wortham was 14-14, Baumgarten 13-8, Trout 11-8.

But there is an old pitching axiom that Earl Weaver likes to quote: Six is too many, 12 not enough. Which means that when things are going bad a dozen pitchers can't get a man out; when the going's good, half your staff is superfluous. Late in spring training, LaRussa walked out to Wortham, who was running in the outfield, and told him he was sorry but he was sending him to the bullpen. Wortham had won 14 games in his first full major league season—"Future stardom for the hard-throwing southpaw," declares the press guide—but now here was Dotson, only 21, and Burns, 20. Wortham, 26, reminded one of a line F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote right after he got out of college: "She was a faded but still lovely woman of 27."

Last week, when Trout had a little shoulder soreness, LaRussa left him out of the rotation and brought Wortham in for his first start. He pitched a three-hit shutout against Kansas City for seven innings, and Farmer topped it off. Final score: 2-0. Six is too many. There are bullpens. There are options.

The Roomies Thad Bosley is 23, tall, swift, strong. Since 1977 he has had 532 at bats in the majors, hitting almost .300, but has never played a full season. When he first came up, to California, the general manager told him he would be the Angel centerfielder for 15 years. He was traded to Chicago a few months later. Last spring Kessinger assured Bosley he would be a regular, but he sat him on the bench for a month and then shipped him to Iowa. Bosley couldn't understand. He hit a weak .264. "How do you do it, Bobby? How?" he asked Molinaro.

It is a month into the season now, and Bosley is hitting .292—but has only 24 at bats. Harold Baines has 90 at bats, and he's a rookie, barely 21. Everybody gathers round just to watch Baines take batting practice. "Just like Billy Williams," says Orlando Cepeda, the Sox' roving batting instructor, whom Veeck hired after he was released from jail after being convicted for importing and possessing marijuana. Baines' back foot is up on its toe, a dancer's pivot. "Oliva did that some," somebody says. " Earl Battey," says another. Jim Frey, the Royals' manager, watches one swing, then another. He spits. "What's it matter?" he says. "I seen enough. He could hit with one leg up in the air. The kid hits." He's lefthanded, just like Bosley. And a right-fielder, just like Bosley.

Also, they share an apartment, Bosley and Baines. Bosley comes home after sitting, again, and tries to calm himself, playing the flute or the piano.

"Somehow this is good for me," says Bosley. "Some September, maybe this one, they're going to turn to me, and I'll remember this, what I'm going through now, and I'm going to be smokin' when it counts. And they're going to see it then, and they'll say it: Bosley is a gamer."

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