His Disco Night Failed, But Bill Veeck's Jersey Idea Stayed Alive
Southsiders have a lot to look forward to in the 2020 regular season, the most noteworthy of which is to see a jersey with the name Grandal on the back. The club early last winter signed coveted free agent catcher Yasmani Grandal, who will provide leadership along with veteran sluggers Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Abreu.
All three of those All-Stars will play along side some very talented but still unknown young players. In addition to blossoming youngsters like outfielder Eloy Jiminez and reigning batting champion shortstop Tim Anderson, the White Sox also boast several future stars still considered in the prospect status.
In the latest issue of Baseball Digest three of the top five rookies in the American League Central belong to the White Sox, starting with pitcher Michael Kopech. Second baseman Nick Madrigal and outfielder Luis Robert are the other two, so the White Sox fans will likely see even more new names on the backs of jerseys at the ball park.
Learning those names wil be much easier now than it would have been exactly sixty springs ago, thanks to a practice started by innovative owner Bill Veeck. It was on March 13,1960 when Veeck had his players wear their last names on the backs of their jerseys, the first time such an idea had been used in Major League Baseball.
It is true that several of the 1960 White Sox were easily identifiable by the fans, most notably the second baseman. Nellie Fox had been selected as the American League Most Valuable Player the previous season, and he had been with the club for over ten years of a career that would end with a plaque in the Hall of Fame.
Nor did Fox's double play partner, shortstop Luis Apparichio, need his name on his jersey to be recognized by the fans. Although newer to the league than Fox, Apparichio by 1960 had already made a name for himself as one of the best baserunners in the game and would join Fix in Cooperstown at the end of his career.
Left fielder Minnie Minosa would most likely have been identified without his name on his back, as would Early Wynn on the days he took the mound. Still, it was generally beneficial to the fans that Veeck put the names on the jerseys, even though it must have appeared quite odd when they debuted in that spring training game sixty years ago.
The concept might be even more appreciated in 2020, considering the mix of new players and young players who will be taking the field at least 81 times at Guaranteed Rate Field. If all goes well, the White Sox could be wearing shirts with the words World Series Champs on the front.