White Sox: The Mount Rushmore of Sox first basemen
Mount Rushmore of White Sox first basemen: Zeke Bonura
It took a bit longer for Zeke Bonura to climb out of the minor leagues, but he made sure he made an impact once he got to the bigs.
Bonura graduated from high school in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, in 1927 having set an American record in the javelin two years earlier at the National AAU championships, according to the Society for American Baseball Research, and studied business for two years at Loyola University of New Orleans before signing with the local professional baseball team in 1929.
Bonura played two years for the New Orleans Pelicans before his rights were acquired by the Cleveland Indians in November 1930. He remained on the farm for another three seasons, playing in New Orleans, Indianapolis and Dallas before the White Sox purchased his contract in August 1933.
He made his debut for Chicago at first base on Opening Day in 1934, powering a career-high 27 homers while hitting .302 with a .925 OPS in 127 games and 576 plate appearances. He added 35 doubles and 110 RBI.
In 1936, Bonura drove in a career-best 138 runs and scored a career-high 120 in 148 games, hitting 39 doubles, seven triples and 12 homers while batting .330 with a .908 OPS.
The following season, his .345 average and .984 OPS were career-highs and he drove in 100 runs despite being limited to 116 games due to a groin injury incurred while stealing home — one of just 19 stolen bases in his career.
During spring training in 1938, the White Sox traded Bonura to the Washington Senators for Joe Kuhel in a straight-up swap of first basemen. Bonura later played for the New York Giants, did a second tour with the Senators and spent part of the 1940 season with the Chicago Cubs before fading back to the minors at age 31.
He played a season in the minors in 1941 before serving four years in the Army during World War II. Upon his return, he was a player and manager for several minor league clubs until 1954.
A life-long bachelor, Bonura later got into the New Orleans real estate market and died in March 1987 at the age of 78.
In his four years for the White Sox, Bonura hit .317 with a .914 OPS in 529 games and 2,378 plate appearances, notching 79 homers and 440 RBI.