Late last month, the Morris Public Library hosted a presentation by Chicago White Sox historian Richard Lindberg called “The White Sox” – From the Very Beginning’, and the timing was great for the event considering that the dawning of the 2014 baseball season was at hand.
Since that time, the Sox have broken spring training camp and are off to a 7-6 start (through Sunday), which, for a team that looked so clueless in losing 99 games last year, is not all that bad. Other than the fact that Avisail Garcia already is lost for the year with a torn labrum in his left shoulder, the team at least looks like it is going to be competitive this year.
Anyway, perhaps Lindberg’s best known piece of work is the Total White Sox encyclopedia – a 683-page research book on the history of Chicago’s South Side team. That came out in 2006 and, funny enough, I got two copies for Christmas that year.
Lindberg’s presentation at the library included an old-fashioned slide show detailing the history of the Sox from their inception and first season as a minor league team in 1900. According to Lindberg, much of the Sox’s statistical database, including streaks and feats, was compiled by him. A credentialed member for Sox games since 1979, Lindberg explained to me how he grew into the position he currently holds as the official Sox historian.
“I began sending in statistical data to the White Sox in the late 1970s. It was because before every game they put out game notes and I had been in the press box and could tell they had no clue as to their history. I published my first book in 1978 called Stuck on the White Sox – it was a little memoir/paperback of growing up as a White Sox fan on the North Side,” Lindberg said. “They were familiar with me because they knew about the book, and I began sending them data. In 1979-80, I was doing some work for a publication called Chicago Sports Report. It was a short-lived sports publication. From that point, Don Unferth, who had been with them for 30 years; I applied for a press pass through him and to my astonishment, I got it. This even though I wasn’t affiliated with a major daily (newspaper) or radio station.”
That got Lindberg in the door at what was then Old Comiskey Park. It was at that time when he got a look at what was then their historical database.
“In 1981, I found two battered filing cabinets, and they literally had no historically statistical data prior to 1950. I underwent a project that lasted five years, and I literally, from 1900 to 1966, tracked down the results of every single White Sox game,” he said. “With the winning and losing pitcher, the game results and attendance. All of that data had disappeared. In 1966, that was when they began printing all of the previous results in their press guides.”
Although he was highly respected already, all of that work Lindberg put in paid off for both him and the Sox. It was then that he got the moniker as the official Sox historian.
“After that, they began to call me because they would get calls from the media all of the time about some historical thing and they would just scratch their head,” Lindberg said. “In 1986, Paul Jensen, the media relations director at the time, when the White Sox were down in Texas and Joe Cowley struck out the first six batters against the Rangers. He called me from the press box and said, ‘Rich, who holds the team record? And I said, ‘Howard Judson 1949.’ He had seven. So, from that time on, and it was at a banquet I was a guest of the White Sox where Paul Jensen had won a prize for having the best media baseball guide, and he accepted the award and he got up on the dias and said, Tthis could not have been put together without help of Rich Lindberg, who is our team historian.”
Lindberg was gracious with his time that day. Right up until the library locked its doors and gently kicked us out. It would be nice if they would ask Lindberg to come back again some day in the future. Hopefully, in the middle of writing a new chapter in his book about another team championship.