The Chicago White Sox have been an American league franchise since 1900. They have a long history on the South Side, although fans would have preferred a few more championships along the way. Over the last 121 years, they have had many players come and go, some more famous than others. Some of those players endeared themselves to Sox fans to the point that they became fan favorites.
If one were to poll White Sox fans on the most popular players of all time, there would nothing anywhere near a consensus on the most popular Sox player of all time. Still, no matter how one slices it, in the pantheon of White Sox fan favorites over the years, Ron Kittle‘s name certainly belongs on the list.
Nobody would suggest that Ron Kittle is the best sox player ever; that would just be silly. While he had some solid years for the Pale Hose, his career was fairly short, and his overall numbers don’t exactly scream Cooperstown. However, popularity is one of those things that do not always equate with talent, as baseball lore is full of players who had forgettable careers on the field, yet still resonated with the fans. That may be a slight understatement for Ron Kittle, as he still has a large following on the South Side almost 40 years after his Major League debut.
Ron Kittle’s Achievements on the Field
Kittle made his MLB debut in September of 1982 and hit .241 with one home run and seven RBIs. The good news for Kittle from his debut is that he retained his rookie status into the 1983 campaign. The rookie designated hitter/left fielder broke out in a major way in his official rookie season. Kittle hit .254 and compiled 35 home runs and 100 RBIs to help lead the White Sox to their first playoff appearance in the divisional era. He had an OPS of .818, a solid season for a rookie. He parlayed his season into a Rookie of the Year award, and the saga began.
Unfortunately for Kittle, his rookie year turned out to be his best. In 1984, he did hit 32 home runs and had 74 RBIs, but all of his numbers dropped from his rookie season. In 1985 and 86, his numbers continued to fall, and he was traded to the Yankees in the middle of the 1986 season. That was also the last season in which Kittle hit 20 home runs. From 1987 to 1991, his last season, the most home runs Kittle hit in a season was 18. These seasons also saw him suffer through some injuries, which limited his playing time. He played for Cleveland in 1988, returned to the White Sox in 1989, then played for the Orioles before finishing his playing days with the Sox in 1991. By then injuries had taken their toll, and Ron Kittle retired after the 1991 season.
Ron Kittle finished his MLB career with a slash line of .239/.306./473, and an OPS+ of 110. He hit a total of 176 home runs and drove in 460 runs. He appeared in one postseason, in 1983 with the White Sox. In their series against the Orioles, Kittle did not hit a home run, but he did hit .286 with and OBP of .444 and a slugging percentage of .429. Interesting, Ron Kittle’s 162 game average was 34 home runs and 88 RBIs. While those are not necessarily Hall of Fame numbers, they are certainly respectable. Overall, objective fans would say that Kittle had a productive MLB career.
Ron Kittle, Fan Favorite
Even though Ron Kittle will never have a plaque in Cooperstown, Sox fans will always love him. While his rookie year was a big factor, it was Kittle’s personality that endeared him to Sox fans. Not to mention that Kittle hit seven, that’s right, seven roof shots in old Comiskey Park. (If that sounds like a foreign concept, ask your dad or your grandpa.) In fact, he mentions that and more on his own site, which gives even more insight into his colorful personality. He was and is truly a man of the people who never forgot his blue-collar roots. A fun-loving, self-deprecating man who never took himself too seriously will always have a place in the hearts of many South Side fans.
Finally, while some fan favorites may fade away, Ron Kittle is still very active in the Chicago area. His sense of humor is still very much intact, just as it was during his playing days. A favorite example of his sense of humor, and self-awareness came after he struck out four times in one game. Kittle was asked if he had ever struck out four times in a game before. His response was priceless: “yeah, there are people back home washing cars who did it to me.” Classic Ron Kittle, and just one more example of why many Sox fans still love the guy to this day. If one were asked to design the perfect player to represent the South Side of Chicago, one could do a lot worse than Ron Kittle.
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