Mount Rushmore of White Sox center fielders: Johnny Mostil
Johnny Mostil was a product of the Chicago sandlots in the early 20th century and lived out any kid’s fantasy when he was plucked off one of those playgrounds, driven to Comiskey Park for a tryout and signed to a contract with the Chicago White Sox. Mostil spent the entire 1918 season on the big-league roster, though he played in only 10 games.
He then spent the next two seasons playing for Double-A Milwaukee, thus avoiding any complications with the 1919 World Series scandal. He returned to the majors in 1921, replacing the banned Happy Felsch in center field, but was limited to 100 games due to injuries.
But Mostil hit .301 that season and would top the .300 mark three times in the next five seasons, leading the American League in 1925 with 135 runs scored, 43 stolen bases and 90 walks. In 1926, he led the league with 35 steals and finished second in the MVP voting after hitting .328 with an .882 OPS.
But by 1927, things were tough for Mostil. Wracked by dental pain and neuritis, an inflammation of the nerves, Mostil was in pain almost constantly. Arriving in Shreveport, Louisiana, for spring training, he was treated for the dental problems, but was hit in the chest with a ball during his first round of batting practice.
The next day, after practice was cancelled by rain, Mostil attempted to take his own life at the team’s hotel. He recovered from his wounds to play in 13 games late in the season and returned to full-time duty in 1928. In May 1929, he tripped over home plate while executing a double steal and never played in the majors again.
He wasn’t done with baseball, not by a long shot. Mostil played another 12 seasons in the minor leagues, finishing up with a couple of appearances with Waterloo in the Class-B Illinois-Indiana-Iowa League in 1942, at the age of 46.
Later, Mostil was a White Sox scout for nearly two years, retiring in 1969. He died a little more than a year later, in December 1970, at the age of 74.
In parts of 10 seasons with the White Sox, Mostil hit .301 with an .812 OPS in 972 games and 4,103 plate appearances, hitting 209 doubles and 82 triples. He scored 618 runs, drove in 375 and stole 176 bases.