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White Sox slugger Frank Thomas was visiting Japan last January
on a promotional tour for his new line of Reebok Big Hurt
baseball shoes when he heard that his team had just completed a
trade with the A's for rightfielder-designated hitter Danny
Tartabull. The acquisition marked the third significant move of
the off-season by the White Sox's front office, along with the
free-agent signings of DH Harold Baines and outfielder Tony
Phillips, and completed a much-needed shakeup of the lineup
after the disastrous 68-76 campaign of '95.

Suddenly the gloom that had seemed to shroud Thomas for the past
few months lifted like the morning fog around Mount Fuji. Just
like that, the 6'5", 257-pound giant felt a spring again in his
size-14 step, and there appeared a new radiance on his innocent,
Gary Coleman-like visage. The new additions clearly pleased
Thomas. "After each one I said, 'All right. Now we're moving,'"
he recalls. "To beat Cleveland, you have to keep up with the
Joneses. I believe we've done that."

Well, not quite, big fella. To say that the Sox have a realistic
chance of catching the Indians for the AL Central title would be
stretching it a bit. But the flurry of off-season moves should
make Chicago a wild-card contender. To start with, the Sox have
Thomas, baseball's version of Godzilla. Last season the Big Hurt
again hung up MVP-type numbers, finishing second in the AL in
home runs, fifth in RBIs and in the top 10 in five other major
offensive categories.

But as the 27-year-old Thomas knows all too well, even his
shoulders aren't broad enough to carry the Sox all alone. Last
year Chicago opened the season with a washed-up Chris Sabo
hitting cleanup behind Thomas and followed with a washed-out
John Kruk. Neither performed as hoped, and opposing hurlers were
therefore able to pitch around Chicago's biggest weapon.

This year manager Terry Bevington, who guided the Sox to a 57-56
record after replacing the fired Gene Lamont on June 2, will
have the lefthanded-hitting Baines to protect Thomas. Baines,
37, has slowed down significantly from the days when he was a
South Side fan favorite, anchoring the Chicago offense in the
1980s, but he can still hit. Besides Baines, whose number 3
jersey will be "unretired" by the White Sox, Tartabull will also
see time at DH and in the cleanup spot.

Once a solid power hitter (31 homers in '93), Tartabull has now
suffered through two straight injury-plagued seasons with the
Yankees and A's. White Sox G.M. Ron Schueler--who has had
success taking similar gambles in the past with Ellis Burks,
Darrin Jackson and Mike Devereaux--thinks Tartabull is fully
recovered from the pulled rib cage muscle that slowed him last
year. He also points out that the 33-year-old is in the last
year of a contract that pays him $5 million in '96. "He has some
things to prove," says Schueler.

If Tartabull can regain his form, the White Sox offense could
keep home plate at Comiskey Park as busy as O'Hare Airport. With
one of the game's better leadoff hitters in the newly acquired
Phillips, a fleet number 2 hitter in second baseman Ray Durham,
and sweet-swinging third baseman Robin Ventura batting sixth,
the Sox should have plenty of productivity at the top of the

But with its shaky defense and pitching, Chicago will need to
score a lot of runs. Last season the Sox committed 25 errors in
the first 10 games and finished next to last in the league in
fielding. Consequently, they decided not to re-sign free-agent
outfielders Tim Raines and Lance Johnson. The Sox feel Phillips,
37, gives them a better glove than Raines did in left, while
free agent Darren Lewis, a '93 Gold Glove winner for San
Francisco, provides a better arm than Johnson's in center.

Defensive lapses also preyed on the confidence of Chicago's
young pitchers. Starters Alex Fernandez, Wilson Alvarez and
Jason Bere finished a combined 28-34 with a 4.88 ERA last
season. Their struggles were also attributed to a lack of
conditioning after the 232-day baseball strike; all three
pitchers vow to stay in shape this season. Just in case, the Sox
signed veteran righthander Kevin Tapani to a one-year, $1.2
million deal.

Even with Tapani and better pitching from the other starters,
the Sox will need more than a little luck to stay in the
wild-card hunt. A shaky bullpen (Roberto Hernandez had 10 blown
saves, the most by an AL closer in the '90s), average team speed
and an aging lineup could haunt them by season's end. If so,
Thomas's hopes of keeping up with Cleveland will once again go

--Marty Burns

COLOR PHOTO: JONATHAN DANIEL INSET [Varies by region] Frank Thomas Likes the Fit of the New Sox

COLOR PHOTO: DAMIAN STROHMEYER Thomas says the holes in the Sox are fixed, but can this team top the Tribe? [Frank Thomas in game]


1995 Team Statistics (AL rank in parentheses)

Batting Average .280 (2)
Home Runs 146 (8)
ERA 4.85 (10)
Fielding Pct. .980 (13)

Their Kind of Town

Michael Jordan retired ... and came back. Ditto Ryne Sandberg.
Denis Savard spent five years with Montreal and Tampa Bay
between stints with the NHL's Blackhawks. In January the Cubs'
Shawon Dunston signed with the Giants. That leaves Ozzie Guillen
as the senior player, in terms of continuous service, on
Chicago's five major professional sports teams. Guillen made his
major league debut in 1985, three weeks before the NFL's Bears
drafted Kevin Butler. The Cubs' Cap Anson and the Blackhawks'
Stan Mikita share the alltime record for most consecutive
seasons played for one Chicago pro team (22).

Longest Current Streaks of Continuous Service in Chicago

League Starting date

Ozzie Guillen,
White Sox MLB April 9, 1985

Kevin Butler,
Bears NFL Sept. 8, 1985

Scottie Pippen,
Bulls NBA Nov. 7, 1987

Mark Grace,
Cubs MLB May 2, 1988

Jeremy Roenick,
Blackhawks NHL Feb. 4, 1989


As a guard at LSU in 1988-89, Lyle Mouton often played in the
same backcourt as Chris Jackson (now known as Mahmoud
Abdul-Rauf, of the NBA's Denver Nuggets). Last year, however,
the 6'4", 240-pound Mouton made a name for himself as a major
league outfielder, becoming just the fourth White Sox player in
the last 20 years to hit .300 or better in his first major
league season (joining Frank Thomas, Dave Gallagher and Carlos
Martinez). Mouton, a fifth-round amateur draft selection by the
Yankees in 1991, came to Chicago from New York last April as the
player to be named later in the Jack McDowell trade. Mouton
started 33 of Chicago's final 37 games, raising his average as
high as .369 (on Sept. 5). The Sox see him this season as a top
reserve who will play often against lefthanded pitching.



LF Tony Phillips[**] .261, 27, 61, 13
2B Ray Durham .257, 7, 51, 18
1B Frank Thomas .308, 40, 111, 3
DH Harold Baines[**] .299, 24, 63, 0
RF Danny Tartabull[**] .236, 8, 35, 0
3B Robin Ventura .295, 26, 93, 4
C Ron Karkovice .217, 13, 51, 2
CF Darren Lewis[**] .250, 1, 24, 32
SS Ozzie Guillen .248, 1, 41, 6


OF Lyle Mouton .302, 5, 27, 1
OF Dave Martinez .307, 5, 37, 8


RH Alex Fernandez 12-8, 3.80
LH Wilson Alvarez 8-11, 4.32
RH Jason Bere 8-15, 7.19
RH Kevin Tapani[**] 6-11, 4.92*
RH Scott Ruffcorn (R) 0-0, 7.88


RH Roberto Hernandez 32, 3.92
RH Kirk McCaskill 2, 4.89
RH Brian Keyser 0, 4.97
LH Larry Thomas 0, 1.32

*American League statistics
[**] New acquisition (R) Rookie