Zalusky: Could Sunday be a Hall of Fame day for Minoso, Allen, Pierce and O'Neil?

  • White Sox great Minnie Minoso signs autographs prior to the team's 2001 home opener. Minoso, who died in 2015, could be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame Sunday.

    White Sox great Minnie Minoso signs autographs prior to the team's 2001 home opener. Minoso, who died in 2015, could be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame Sunday. Associated Press

  • Former Sox slugger Richie Allen -- here in Chicago in June 2012 -- will find out Sunday if he's been elected to the Hall of Fame.

    Former Sox slugger Richie Allen -- here in Chicago in June 2012 -- will find out Sunday if he's been elected to the Hall of Fame. Associated Press

  • White Sox legendary pitcher Billy Pierce tosses the ceremonial first pitch before the Sox hosted Cleveland June 29, 2013.

    White Sox legendary pitcher Billy Pierce tosses the ceremonial first pitch before the Sox hosted Cleveland June 29, 2013. Associated Press

  • Buck O'Neil stands with a statue of himself in February 2005 in the Negro League Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Mo.

    Buck O'Neil stands with a statue of himself in February 2005 in the Negro League Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Mo. Associated Press

 
Posted12/4/2021 8:00 PM

Even with yet another lockout and only a trickle of free agent signings, Chicago baseball fans might still have something to cheer this year.

This weekend the Golden Days Era (1950-69) and the Early Baseball Era (pre-1950) committees meet in Orlando, Fla., to decide the fate of 20 vintage candidates for the Hall of Fame.

 

Results will be announced at 5 p.m. Sunday on the MLB Network's "MLB Tonight."

Each committee will consider 10 players, among them several with Chicago connections.

For Cubs fans, the pre-1950 group includes Bill Dahlen, a member of the Chicago Colts, an early incarnation of the Cubs managed by the legendary Cap Anson.

A hot-tempered shortstop and manager who was ejected from 65 games, Dahlen was his era's iron horse. By the time he retired as a player in 1911, he was the active leader in homers with 84 and the all-time leader in games played, with 2,444.

Dahlen set a major league mark by hitting in 42 consecutive games, a record broken by Wee Willie Keeler in 1897. In one of those Hollywood-worthy baseball coincidences, Dahlen was present at Yankee Stadium when Joe DiMaggio broke Keeler's mark in 1941.

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Another key Cubs figure is Buck O'Neil, a Negro League player and manager hired by the North Siders in 1962 as major league baseball's first Black coach, six years after the team signed him as a scout.

Known to fans of Ken Burns' "Baseball" as a walking oral history of the Negro Leagues, O'Neil was Ernie Banks' manager with the Kansas City Monarchs. As a scout with the Cubs, O'Neil would discover such future stars as Lou Brock, Oscar Gamble, Lee Smith and Joe Carter.

The majors' first full-time Black scout, John Donaldson, is also on the ballot.

A Negro League and pre-Negro league pitcher who won more than 400 games, Donaldson was signed as a scout by the White Sox in 1949. He scouted one of the first three Negro League players signed by the Sox, Curley Williams, in 1950.

The Golden Days Era roster has several White Sox stars.

Minnie Minoso, the Sox's first Black player, brought a "Go-Go" spirit to the team that still shines forth in newsreel film from the 1950s. There is one memorable sequence from a game at Comiskey Park against the Yankees that begins with Minoso legging out a run-scoring fielder's choice. He advances to third on a wild pitch and then tries to take home on the same play while the Yankees argue he was tagged out at third.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Technically, Minoso also belongs to a later era, since former Sox owner Bill Veeck brought Minoso, then a coach with the team, back for some final at-bats in 1976 and 1980. In 1976, he lined a single to left off the Angels' Sid Monge, leading WSNS announcer Harry Caray to exclaim, "There was nothing fluky about that hit."

Minoso teammate Billy Pierce is also on the Golden Days ballot.

Pierce compiled a 211-169 record with a 3.27 ERA in 18 seasons, 13 with the Sox. A seven-time All-Star, he led the league in complete games three straight seasons and had the lowest ERA in the American League, 1.97, in 1955.

Sox fans of the '50s fondly recall his duels with Whitey Ford of the hated Yankees.

Pierce pitched for the 1959 AL pennant winners. He also won Game 6 in a complete-game start for the San Francisco Giants in the 1962 World Series against the Yankees. The losing pitcher? Ford.

Another player with a Sox connection is Ken Boyer, although his best days were behind him when he joined the team for parts of the 1967 and 1968 seasons.

Sox fans of a particular stripe -- red pinstripe -- will be pleased if Dick Allen is elected.

Allen could single-handedly change a game and even a season -- he saved the franchise in 1972. Go to YouTube and watch him break up what looked like a sure no-hitter by the Angels' Nolan Ryan with an infield hit in the bottom of the ninth on Aug. 7, 1974 and completely reverse the momentum of a game the Sox won on a single by Bill Sharp.

During the magical season of 1972, Allen was called back from the clubhouse, where he was eating a chili dog, to pinch hit in the bottom of the ninth of the nightcap of a doubleheader against the Yankees on June 4. Quickly donning a uniform, he hit a walk-off homer.

Allen's teammate Jim Kaat -- the winner in the Ryan game -- was a late-season addition to the Sox in 1973. He had already won 190 games with the Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins. But, reunited with his former pitching coach, Johnny Sain, he was a 20-game winner and a Gold Glover in 1974 and 1975. He won 16 consecutive Gold Gloves from 1962 to 1977.

The Chicago contingent will face stiff competition, with Tony Oliva, Maury Wills and Roger Maris on the ballot.

Chicago has one ace on both committees, Cubs great Ferguson Jenkins.

It would be fitting if Allen were inducted, seeing that the 50th anniversary just passed of the trade that brought him to the Sox. It would have been nice, too, if one of the players the Sox traded, Tommy John, had been included on the Golden Days list.

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