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After a long and boring winter for the White Sox, things got a bit more exciting last week.
Until now the biggest news was the signing of third baseman Jeff Keppinger, whose talents include not striking out very often. Although he hit .325 last season for Tampa Bay, his sixth team in seven major league seasons, 100 of his 125 hits were singles, and he drove in just 40 runs.
Shades of Jim Morrison, who manned the position for the Sox in the early '80s. We all remember him.
But I'm willing to be hopeful on account of anyone who might be able to offset the strikeouts of the Sox's big signing two years ago, that being Adam Dunn. When Dunn tried to bunt down the third base line in an exhibition game against the Angels recently, I figured this was newsworthy. If he could convince the opposition that he's capable to of going to the left side - thus negating the shift that everyone uses against him - there's no telling how high his average might rise. Two-fifty wouldn't be out of the question.
Yet neither of these developments quite matched up to Florida Gulf Coast University being the first 15th seed in NCAA history to advance to the round of 16. What's that got to do with the White Sox? We'll get to that in a moment.
"Where the hell is Florida Gulf Coast at?" inquired Charles Barkley on CBS Saturday, his opening question for FGCU coach Andy Enfield.
Apparently Sir Charles has yet to discover Google, and he doesn't give a hoot about ending a sentence with a preposition. However, Sox fans didn't need to search for the school's location. After all, this is the alma mater of Chris Sale.
First Robin Ventura names Sale his Opening Day starter, and then his school's basketball team becomes the darlings of the tournament. Now that's big news!
But there's more. Calling Michigan State's blowout of Memphis on Saturday, Verne Lundquist had a brain fart when the Spartans' Keith Appling left the court with an injury. Explaining that Appling wasn't likely to return, he called him none other than Luke Appling, who, of course, was a White Sox staple for 20 seasons. How marvelous!
Lundquist, who has covered basketball, football, golf, the Olympics but not baseball, was only 10-years-old in 1950 when Luke appeared in his final game. Appling played more games - 2,422 - in a Sox uniform than anyone in the team's history. Lundquist grew up in Minnesota and Texas according to Wikipedia, yet somewhere in his gray matter the name Luke Appling was buried. And poof! - it surfaced on Saturday. I was delighted.
These hidden gems are two of very few news items that Sox fans can glean from this off-season. Especially with all the commotion emanating from the North Side.
In bygone days, most Chicagoans knew all about the 11th Ward, the home of the White Sox and the Daleys. They occupied a box next to the Sox dugout. They may not have been transparent when it came to politics, but the family made no bones about the fact that they favored the South Siders, while nary a peep was heard north of Madison.
But things are all messed up now. It's 44th ward alderman Tom Tunney who grabs all the headlines. One has to dig deep into the sports section to read about the Sox. Meanwhile, the Cubs, Tunney, the Rickettses, the rooftops, the dump they call Wrigley Field and its scoreboard, Rosemont, WGN, Waveland Avenue - you get the picture - have remained front page news for weeks. Maybe it's not the kind of news Theo Epstein had in mind before he made the move west, but as P.T. Barnum said, "I don't care what you say about me, just spell my name right."
At the risk of imbibing in this maelstrom, I must say that the signage controversy has me confused. The two signs in or around a ballpark that are most vivid in my mind are the neon Citgo at Fenway and the old Baby Ruth sign - having been replaced by rooftop bleachers - across Sheffield Avenue above the right field bleachers at Wrigley. Neither, of course, resides (or resided) inside the stadium which is where the Rickettses want to locate new advertising.
Another icon from my childhood was the Gem razor blade sign on the right field wall at Brooklyn's Ebbets Field. And that was, for the most part, before the days of television. So why not tear out the ivy at Wrigley and fill the walls with ads? Replace green ivy with green money.
With the season just a week away, we Sox fans will simply have to be content with a tedious ballclub. Not since Ozzie Guillen departed has there been any controversy, turmoil, disagreements, or other negative buzz creating headlines. The Sox have no rooftops; the advertising at the Cell is overwhelming; the scoreboard needs no makeover; Addison is a distant memory; and quick - who is the 11th Ward alderman?
Our best player of the century, Paul Konerko, never has taken PEDs, never has been charged with a DUI, seems to be a solid family man, and when was the last time you remember him even raising his voice?
Our new general manager went to New Trier, Michigan, Harvard Law and Kellogg for heaven's sake.
We have a catcher whose last name is Flowers, for crying out loud.
Our Cuban shortstop performs poorly in April and May apparently because cold weather makes him uncomfortable. Poor baby.
Adam Dunn's two-year White Sox batting average is .184, and he's struck out 399 times.
Yet I can't recall ever seeing him slamming down his bat on the way back to the dugout.
He doesn't turn down media interviews, and he doesn't complain.
Our second-year manager is in a close charisma (or lack thereof) race with none other than Dale Sveum from the other side of town. Neither emotes much, and their post-game interviews - win or lose - are more or less the same. Actually ours more charismatic. I can't quite come to grips with Sveum's five o'clock shadow.
Of course, all this could change where it really counts - on the field. Let's hope that beginning next week things will become much more interesting and stimulating on the South Side than they'll be up north.
Roger Wallenstein is our man on the White Sox. He welcomes your comments.