Rummaging through my old closet, I found this gem from the 1989 Topps Traded Series. Ron Kittle, the 1983 Rookie of the Year, had three tours with the White Sox. One with the horrible SOX across the chest uniforms and the last one with the traditional pinstripe Sox uniform.
This card has him with the totally forgettable cursive C hat after his brief turns with the Yankees and Indians.
I have yet to meet a White Sox fan my age who doesn’t LOVE Ron Kittle. The main reason I included Kittle in my Home Grown vs. Acquired White Sox entry was his special place in the hearts of Sox fans. It could be that he helped homer the Sox to the unexpected 1983 West title as a rookie. It could be that he was a humble midwesterner playing for a midwestern team. The fact that he wore glasses made him seem less like an athlete and more like a regular guy who could hit one out. It could be that he was one of those old fashioned right handed sluggers who was swinging from his heels, struck out a lot but could launch it when he got a hold of one.
Whatever the reason, mention his name to a White Sox fan my age and watch for the inevitable big smile.
We should also think about players like Ron Kittle as this Hall of Fame vote will be announced. No, I am not saying the Kitty Man belongs in Cooperstown. But let’s take a name that is on the ballot. Just a random name… Oh let’s say MARK McGWIRE.
Like Kittle, McGwire exploded onto the scene as Rookie of the Year and helped slug his team to the post season (McGwire did it in his second year.). And McGwire also hit a ton of homers and struck out a lot. By the time Kittle was 28 years old, injuries began to catch up with him. Same with McGwire.
The injuries eventually were too much to overcome and Kittle played his last big league games on August 13th when he played both ends of a double header. He homered off of Mike Henneman that day.
When McGwire was in HIS early 30s, he recovered from his injuries and suddenly became the greatest power hitter of all time and in the Hall of Fame discussion.
Kittle never made a million dollars a season.
McGwire made $11 million his final season alone and earned over $70 million in his career.
Can you imagine if Ron Kittle had injected Lord knows what into his body? If his body were able to recover from his injuries… if his line drives went a little further… if his 20 home run seasons became 30 home run seasons… if he piled up homers into his 30s…
Maybe people would have brought HIS name up in a Hall of Fame discussion. Maybe he could have been cashing $10 million checks.
But then again, nobody looks at HIS stats with suspicion. Memories of HIS home runs are positive.
Nobody questions the validity of his 7 homers that reached the roof top of old Comiskey Park.
Ron now does motivational speaking and now does something super cool.
He makes benches.
I am not kidding, these are cool.
The seats? Made of bases.
The backs? Made with bats connected by baseballs.
And you can design the benches to have which ever team and which ever players you would want to honor.
You can have the benches shipped to you… or if you live close enough, Ron Kittle will deliver it
How unbelievably awesome is that? Having Kittle show up with the new bench!
And no doubt he would be HAPPY to talk about the past.
So I salute you Ron Kittle.
You showed us all terrific home run power and you did it right.
No wonder Kittle will always be loved in the South Side of Chicago.