White Sox: The Mount Rushmore of third basemen

Chicago White Sox third baseman Robin Ventura. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Kirn /Allsport
Chicago White Sox third baseman Robin Ventura. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Kirn /Allsport /
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Bill Melton of the Chicago White Sox. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /

Mount Rushmore of White Sox third basemen: Bill Melton

It wasn’t until the Chicago White Sox were in their 71st season the club was able to check another item off the franchise’s to-do list. Bill Melton helped them accomplish that in 1971 when he became the first player in franchise history to win the American League home run crown.

Melton signed with the White Sox in 1964 after playing baseball and football at Citrus College in California. The 18-year-old reached the Chicago in 1968, won the third base job in 1969 and remained with the White Sox for parts of eight seasons.

He reached his zenith with the home run title and his lone All-Star selection in 1971, although he had also slugged 33 long bombs the previous season to go with a career-high 96 RBI. But a herniated disc sustained in a fall during the offseason severely limited Melton’s mobility in 1972, when he was limited to 57 games as Chicago fell short of the Oakland A’s in the AL West.

He bounced back to full-time duty in 1973, hitting 20 homers with 87 RBI, but that season Dick Allen missed more than half the season with a broken leg and any hopes of catching the A’s went down the drain again.

After a pair of subpar seasons, the White Sox traded Melton to the California Angels as part of a four-player deal. He later played with the Cleveland Indians, retiring after becoming a free agent in the fall of 1977.

With the Sox, Melton hit .258 with a .772 OPS in 976 games and 4,012 plate appearances. He had 154 homers, breaking Minnie Minoso’s all-time franchise record of 135 with a blast off Texas Rangers reliever Steve Foucault in the second game of a doubleheader on Aug. 4, 1974. That mark stood for more than a decade before it was broken by Harold Baines on July 22, 1987.

He had 535 RBI for Chicago and scored 448 runs. He got a late start in broadcasting, but has worked as an analyst on White Sox broadcasts since 2005, though he cut back on his workload beginning in 2019.