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Big Finish Gives White Sox Hope for 1988

October 11, 1987|MARIO FOX | Associated Press

CHICAGO — If the Chicago White Sox season were a book, it might be titled, "Beauty and the Beast."

Beastly is the only way to describe the beginning, when the club quickly sank to last place and lost 45 of its first 70 games.

Beautiful is how the White Sox finished, winning 17 of their last 21 games as the hottest club in baseball.

"It's a good sign of things to come," insists Chicago Manager Jim Fregosi, looking ahead to 1988.

Catcher Ron Karkovice and his .071 batting average seemed to symbolize the early, desperate days of the campaign, before he was dispatched to the White Sox' Hawaii farmclub.

And if the winning ways of season's end needed an embodiment, it was pitcher Jack McDowell -- with his 3-0 record and 1.93 ERA in four brilliant starts after being the team's top pick in the June amateur draft.

"We had some ups and downs this season," admits Fregosi.

The question facing the Sox is will Beauty or Beast -- or another mixture of both -- be lurking around the corner in 1988?

Also unanswered is will Fregosi want to come back for another season? Fregosi, who took over at mid-season last year from fired Tony LaRussa, reportedly wants a multi-year pact, but may get only a one-year deal from General Manager Larry Himes.

Four years after winning the American League West title, the White Sox under Fregosi finished 77-85 -- one game back of fourth-place Seattle and two games out of last. Their 43-34 record was the best in the division after the All-Star break.

But, they struggled to draw 1.2 million at home, the club's worst attendance figure since the strike-shortened 1981 season.

Veteran catcher Carlton Fisk thinks if Chicago hadn't suffered through a 7-21 June, the team would have had a solid chance to compete with Minnesota, Kansas City and Oakland for the division title.

"If it weren't for June, we'd have been in that crowd," Fisk said.

Himes says he was pleased the job done by Fisk, designated hitter Harold Baines, pitcher Floyd Bannister, outfielder Ivan Calderon, second baseman Fred Manrique, first baseman Greg Walker, reliever Bobby Thigpen and young center-fielder Kenny Williams.

"I've still got a lot to learn," says Williams, who batted .284.

Calderon was a pleasant surprise, leading the team in batting average, at .293, and in homers, with 28.

Baines lost his right-field job because of knee surgery but still finished second on the club for RBIs, with 93 -- one less than Walker had.

Bannister won eight of his last nine decisions to finish 16-11, and Thigpen had a club-leading 16 saves.

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