Chicago White Sox

Sox Drawer: Remembering Tom Seaver's 300th win

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Sox Drawer: Remembering Tom Seaver's 300th win

Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2010
5:36 PM

By Chuck Garfien
CSNChicago.com

Time.

It goes by way too fast.

How else can you describe 25 years passing by, and yet the sights, sounds, and smells from that day remain so present you could swear it all happened last week?

I was reminded of this when I woke up today and thought of Aug. 4, 1985, a date which as I get older speeds further and further behind in my life.

For White Sox fans, it is known as the day Tom Seaver won his 300th game. But for me, its something more. Not just because I was there to watch the game in person, but because of the man who was sitting there beside me.

Maybe he is again.

In the summer of 1985, I had braces on my teeth and baseball on my mind 23 hours a day. The other hour was likely spent thinking about girls, which at the time was a puzzling exercise in teenage futility.

So I mainly stuck with baseball. Its what I knew best.

The Sox in 1985 were a team on its last fumes. Still clinging to the success of 1983 when they won 99 games and the AL West title, players like Britt Burns, Julio Cruz, Rudy Law, Ron Kittle and Tom Paciorek remained on the roster. Two years later, all of them, including manager Tony La Russa, would be gone.

Such inevitable roster moves were of no concern to me back then, especially when my mother made an announcement in the Garfien household, telling me that my grandfather wanted to take me to New York City to watch the White Sox play the Yankees. It was the kind of bulletin that if my life was a TV channel, you would see running in bright red letters at the bottom of the screen:

Breaking News: Garfien headed to NYC to watch White Sox.

My grandfathers name was Joe Garfien. But to me and his eight other grandchildren, he was simply Papa Joe, a man who came to America in 1926. Or was it 1927? He and his mother left behind their home in Austria. Or was it Poland? The geography in Europe kept changing back then. So did Papas year of birth. Details of such trivial facts remained blurred for decades.

But not Papa Joes early memories of watching sports in Chicago.

He saw the great Babe Ruth play at Comiskey Park. He saw Carl Hubbell pitch at Wrigley Field. Name the athlete (Red Grange) or historical figure (Al Capone), Papa Joe saw them live and in the flesh. Now, we were both embarking on a journey together, sharing memories of our own on a special weekend between grandfather and grandson, and our common love for baseball.

Back in July when the trip was planned, we got two tickets for two games: Aug. 3 and Aug. 4. As the weekend drew closer, we became the beneficiaries of an extraordinary coincidence: Tom Seaver, the White Sox 40-year-old pitcher was in line to start on Sunday, Aug. 4, in search of his 300th career victory.

In Chicago, this was a big deal. But in New York, where the former Mets legend would try to make history inside enemy territory, Yankee Stadium, it was even bigger.

You got a sense of the enormity of the event during the Saturday game when a rabid Mets fan hung a massive 50-foot sign over the first-base upper-deck railing that said three simple words:

Tom is God.

Yankees fans were furious. You could hear their displeasure in the profanity-laced tirades that were coming from all angles around us.

But those jeers would soon be replaced with cheers. Don Mattingly, Ron Hassey and future Sox slugger Dan Pasqua all went deep off White Sox starter Bill Long (remember him? I dont). The Sox got pounded 8-4.

Papa Joe and I went back to our hotel disappointed, but looked forward to the Seaver game on Sunday, as well as the festivities planned for Saturday night.

On the plane ride to New York, my grandfather raved about us seeing the Rockettes, the famous dance company known for their sky-high leg kicks that could poke an eye out. But when we arrived at Radio City Music Hall for their show, something wasnt right.

Little kids were everywhere. Were talking 5- and 6-year-olds overdosed on candy, running through the aisles as if they were nervously awaiting the arrival of Big Bird and Kermit the Frog.

Suddenly, the curtain rose, and there they were: the Rockettes! They danced and kicked in perfect unison, much to Papa Joes delight. For five solid minutes they owned the place ... until they exited the stage, and never came back.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Rockettes!

It turns out Papas favorite dancers were just the opening act. What everyone came to see that night was something different.

A two-hour Disney cartoon.

I think it was Bambi. I frankly dont remember. My grandfather was asleep by the opening credits. I was out soon after that.

But Sunday, as we headed back to Yankee Stadium for the Seaver game, we were wide awake. Our tickets were in the upper deck on the first-base side, close to where that Mets fan declared his religious love for Tom the day before.

Seaver might have been 40 years old at the time, but that season he was pitching in his prime. He came into the game with an 11-8 record and an ERA under 3.00. And from the very beginning, you knew this was going to be Seavers day, which just so happened to be Phil Rizzuto Day at Yankee Stadium.

So much for that.

Other than an RBI single by Ken Griffey Sr., the Yankees couldnt touch Seaver. At one point, the future Hall of Famer retired 10 batters in a row. The Yankees managed six hits for the game. All singles.

Seaver went the distance, striking out seven, ending the game with a Don Baylor fly-out to Reid Nichols in left.

Win No. 300 was his. This incredible moment between my grandfather and I was ours.

As you get older, you learn that life is rarely that perfect.

Papa Joe would live another 20 years. He passed away in May 2005, missing the White Sox winning the World Series by five months.

Somewhere in the Comcast SportsNet library lives a tape of the Seaver game. Somewhere in my mind lives the memories of a grandfather who always wanted the best for his grandson. I was lucky to have him.

Chuck Garfien hosts White Sox Pregame and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet with former Sox slugger Bill Melton. Follow Chuck @ChuckGarfien on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox news and views.

Why Yoan Moncada's slow start with White Sox could soon be a thing of the past

Why Yoan Moncada's slow start with White Sox could soon be a thing of the past

Yoan Moncada wrapped up his first Crosstown Series — in front of the closest thing to a playoff atmosphere he’ll experience in, likely, a while — with an 0-4 showing in the White Sox 6-3 loss to the Cubs on Thursday. 

The 22-year-old had mixed results facing the defending World Series champions, striking out four times in five at-bats on Monday and hitting his first career home run off Jake Arrieta on Wednesday. His final numbers for these four Crosstown games: 17 plate appearances, two hits, two walks, two runs, eight strikeouts and one hit by pitch. 

Moncada is off to a slow start in his second stint in the majors, but he’s drawing plenty of walks (12.5 percent) and probably has been victimized by some bad luck (a .118 batting average on balls in play which, to say the least, is exceedingly low). 

Manager Rick Renteria, though, likes Moncada’s even-keeled demeanor and his ability to handle the ups and downs of the day-to-day grind of the regular season. 

“What he’s going to be able to do is minimize how much he gets wrapped up in frustration, as opposed to taking the at-bat, the last at-bat, going through pitch by pitch and trying to figure out what it was he wrapped in his approach,” Renteria said. “Younger players usually get very, very frustrated and lose that moment to gain some knowledge. Failure is not in and of itself a bad thing. It’s actually something that can produce a lot of positives. The thing is to try to get them to understand as quickly as possible so they can take those moments and gain information. 

“That’s why his even-keeled approach and even-keeled attitude (will help). He’s got fire. It’s not that he doesn’t care. That’s where people — for a lot of players who are calm or even-keeled, they have fire, they have desire, but they know how to compartmentalize and separate those things and try to gain something from every moment, positive or negative.”

Moncada already took that clear-eyed approach to self-evaluation in the minor leagues, and said that hasn’t changed now that he’s at baseball’s highest level. 

“I’m just keeping the same routine that I was using in the minors,” Moncada said through an interpreter. “And the whole year, I’m just keeping with the things that have been giving me results.”

There’s not much of a common thread between Moncada’s brief call-up with the Boston Red Sox last September and his first few games with the White Sox. Moncada was overmatched in his 2016 debut, striking out 12 times in 20 plate appearances and only drawing one walk. He had four hits, though, so his way-too-small-sample-size BABIP was .571. 

Moncada looks like a different player this year, carrying over his strong Triple-A walk rate (13.6 percent) to his nascent tenure with the White Sox. Eventually, the hits are likely to start falling as long as he doesn’t get out of the approach that got him here — and made him baseball’s biggest prospect in the process. 

“He’s been doing all the work that he has to do to adjust to this level,” first baseman Jose Abreu said through an interpreter. “He’s been doing his same routine from Triple-A and I think that’s something good because you have to stick with the things that are giving you good results.” 

Anthony Rizzo: More than talent needed for successful rebuild

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USA TODAY

Anthony Rizzo: More than talent needed for successful rebuild

Nearly eight months into their rebuild, the White Sox have accrued an eye-popping amount of young talent. The franchise continues to receive kudos even in trading a pair of relievers this week to add depth to what might be the best farm system in baseball.

But having the best farm system -- the White Sox have eight of MLBPipeline.com’s top 100 prospects -- won’t mean much until it’s realized.

Well versed on the subject having experienced it on his own, Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo acknowledged before Thursday’s 6-3 win over the White Sox just how uncertain the rebuilding process can be. In Rizzo’s eyes, it wasn’t just talent that got the Cubs over the hump, it was timing, too.

“It happened fast, but it could have went the other way, too,” Rizzo said. “We’re lucky with how everything turned out. Plus, a lot of hard work has gone into it.”

[MORE: Aaron Bummer on what it's like to get called up to the majors]

Similar to Yoan Moncada’s arrival last week, Rizzo was the first [hyped prospect to be promoted] after Theo Epstein’s plan went into place. Acquired the previous winter from San Diego, Rizzo reached the majors midway through the 2012 season with the Cubs only a few months into their rebuild. The three-time All-Star didn’t know it at the time, but he was the first new face the Cubs would introduce to their audience. While Rizzo often [was aware of skepticism of Epstein’s plan], he said he never felt the same pressure from fans. Rizzo also said he can understand why not all the Cubs faithful were on board.

“I think I was naïve and happy to be back in the big leagues,” Rizzo said. “You’ve just got to focus on playing baseball and not worry about everything else that you can’t control.

“I didn’t feel (pressure) at all. I know people were calling for the upper front office’s jobs. But they had a plan and they had a vision and they preached it the entire time.”

“As a fan I can understand why you get upset because you want to win. As a fan of football or whatever sport, if my team doesn’t win, I get mad. But obviously they knew what they were doing.”

So far the White Sox fan base has been mostly supportive of Rick Hahn’s efforts and embraced the idea of building through the farm system. But not everyone is on board with a 25-man roster teardown that appears to have the club hurtling toward its first 100-loss season since 1970.

This week’s Crosstown series is a reminder there are tough times ahead for the White Sox.

The Cubs lost a combined 197 games in 2012 and 2013 and 89 games in 2014. The second half of the 2017 season could be extremely difficult for a White Sox club that has traded Chris Sale, Adam Eaton, Jose Quintana, Tommy Kahnle, David Robertson, Todd Frazier, Anthony Swarzak and Dan Jennings all since December.

Rizzo thinks the way the Cubs handled those difficulties played into their success in 2015 and 2016.

“It’s life,” Rizzo said. “There are tough times in anything. There are going to be good times and bad times so it’s all about how you approach it and how you handle it.

“We always knew the potential we had, it was just a matter of going out and doing it. Ball’s bouncing your way, calls going your way and staying together.”