1983: Ron Kittle, American League Rookie of the Year
Ron Kittle defied the odds just to get to the major leagues. Signed as an undrafted free agent by the Los Angeles Dodgers out of high school in 1977, he was released a year later. The Chicago White Sox signed Kittle in September 1978 and he spent the next four seasons climbing the minor league ladder.
His power started to bloom in 1980, when he hit 12 homers in 61 games at Class-A Appleton before getting four more in 17 games for Double-A Glens Falls. He followed that up with 40 long balls for Glens Falls in 1981 and a whopping 50 at Triple-A Edmonton in 1982, earning a September call up.
Kittle struck out 12 times in 32 plate appearances during his cup of coffee, but did hit his first major-league homer off Minnesota Twins left-hander Frank Viola on the next-to-last day of the season.
Kittle won the left field job in spring training in 1983 and began crushing the ball almost immediately. He was Chicago’s lone All-Star representative in a season during which he hit .254/.314/.504 in 145 games, launching 35 homers with 100 RBI. In 570 plate appearances, Kittle struck out a league-leading 150 times with 39 walks and earned Rookie of the Year honors.
But he slipped to .215/.295/.453 with 32 homers in 1984 and by 1985 was sent to Triple-A Buffalo to straighten things out. Was was traded to the New York Yankees in 1986, coming back to Chicago in 1989 and again in 1991 after he had been dealt to the Baltimore Orioles at the 1990 trade deadline.
But his final stay with the White Sox lasted a little less than two months and he was released in August 1991.
In parts of eight seasons in Chicago, Kittle played in 657 games and hit .237/.307/.470 with 140 homers and 374 RBI in 2,433 plate appearances.