Fellow residents of Midwest League territory, I feel your pain. Well, I would if I could feel anything right now.
You don’t need me to tell you how cold it is outside today, but I hope to do my part in warming you up a bit, if only in your mind. Think about baseball in the heat of summer as you look at these photos of former Midwest League players wearing shorts in a major-league game:
That’s right, Rich “Goose” Gossage is among the members of the Chicago White Sox who wore shorts for a few games in 1976. He was the only future Hall-of-Famer on that team, so it’s probably safe to say he’s the only player to be enshrined in Cooperstown after wearing shorts on the field during a major-league game.
Gossage, of course, is one of only six Hall-of-Fame players who are alumni of the Midwest League. He was named the Midwest League’s Most Valuable Player in 1971, when he went 18-2 with a 1.83 ERA and 149 strikeouts in 187 IP for the Appleton Foxes. Gossage went 15-0 over a 17-start period that season, from May 23 to August 23. At one point he threw 37 consecutive scoreless innings — a streak that would’ve been 3 2/3-innings longer if one of his outings hadn’t been rained out.
Appleton had the best record in the Midwest League that year, but lost the championship series to the Quad Cities Angels, 2-1. Gossage lost the opener and also got a no-decision during the finals.
Bucky Dent — best known for his home run against the Boston Red Sox in the 1978 AL East playoff game — was also among the White Sox players who wore shorts in 1976. He played 122 games with the 1970-71 Appleton Foxes (39 games in 1970 and 83 games in 1971), hitting .241 with 4 HR and 41 RBI.
Before last year, Dent had the distinction of being the only Appleton player to later win a World Series MVP Award (as a member of the 1978 New York Yankees); that’s notable because Appleton has had a Midwest League team since 1962 (Fox Cities Foxes, Appleton Foxes, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers) and a team in other leagues before then. Now Dent must share that distinction with Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, who was named MVP of the 2013 World Series.
Ortiz was known as David Arias when he played with the 1996 Timber Rattlers, who were a Seattle Mariners affiliate at that time. He batted .322 with 18 HR and 93 RBI in 129 games.