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Roland Hemond was architect of ’83 Winning Ugly team

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CHICAGO - CIRCA 1983: Harold Baines #3 of the Chicago White Sox poses for a photo prior to an MLB game at Comiskey Park in Chicago, Illinois with Ron Kittle #42 (L) and Greg Luzinski #19 (R). Baines played for the White Sox from 1980-1989, then during the 1996-1997 and 2000-2001 seasons. (Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
CHICAGO - CIRCA 1983: Harold Baines #3 of the Chicago White Sox poses for a photo prior to an MLB game at Comiskey Park in Chicago, Illinois with Ron Kittle #42 (L) and Greg Luzinski #19 (R). Baines played for the White Sox from 1980-1989, then during the 1996-1997 and 2000-2001 seasons. (Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /
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In 1970, the Chicago White Sox hired a man who would go on to build two of the more famous teams in club history, both of which are connected by a trade. Roland Hemond, who passed away at age 92 on Monday, was the architect of the 1977 “South Side Hitmen” and the “Winning Ugly” 1983 American League West Division champs.

Hailed by many as one of the most respected men to ever be a part of the game of baseball, Hemond knew his craft as well as anyone and managed to find the right people to help turn around a White Sox franchise that hadn’t seen a playoff game since the 1959 World Series.

The “South Side Hitmen” of Richie Zisk, Oscar Gamble, Eric Soderholm, and others that Hemond assembled hit a franchise-record 192 homers. However, it was a deal he made that year that brought over a player who would be an integral part of helping the club finally get back into the postseason.

Hemond struck a deal with the New York Yankees in which he moved shortstop Bucky Dent out east for Gamble, Bob Polinsky, and a pitcher named Lamar Hoyt. By 1982, Hoyt, who passed away this past November, let the AL know he was the real deal by leading the league in wins with 19, then backed that up in ’83 by leading the majors in wins with 24 and taking home the Cy Young Award.

Ironically, Hemond would send Hoyt to San Diego in 1984 in a deal that brought over Ozzie Guillen, who managed the White Sox to the World Series title in 2005. While the deal with the Yankees turned out to be a win-win for both sides, it was just one of several moves Hemond orchestrated before and during that season that made the “Winning Ugly” Sox a winner.

Roland Hemond was amazing for the Chicago White Sox during his tenure with them.

Hemond gave Tony LaRussa a chance to take over as manager in 1979 from then player/manager Don Kessinger. LaRussa finished out the season with a record of 27-27. The following year, LaRussa’s club went 70-90, which would be the type of record that would get a manager fired.

Yet, Hemond stayed with LaRussa and was rewarded with the team playing above .500 each year heading into ’83 when the team went 99-63, winning the division by 20 games over second-place Kansas City.

A major contributor to that team was Hall of Fame catcher Carlton Fisk, who Hemond signed away from Boston as a free agent in 1981. Hemond convinced owner Jerry Reinsdorf and team president Eddie Einhorn that signing the 33-year-old backstop would show the Sox were serious about winning a title. Fisk did not disappoint, batting .289 with 26 homers and 86 RBI.

To strengthen the pitching staff, Hemond signed free agent Floyd Bannister who was coming off an All-Star appearance with Seattle in 1982. Bannister led the AL in strikeouts that year with 209 and posted 193 K’s to lead the staff in ’83. That staff included lefty Britt Burns-who Hemond drafted in 1978-and Rich Dotson, acquired via trade with the Angels in 1977. Dotson went 22-7 and finished fourth in Cy Young voting.

Looking to upgrade as he felt necessary, Hemond went back to Seattle in June and landed second baseman Julio Cruz for Tony Bernazard. Cruz was seen as a spark plug for the team, which was wallowing at 27-33 on the day the trade was made. The Sox went 72-30 after it.

Under Hemond’s leadership, the organization assembled the pieces necessary to get to the playoffs. The Sox drafted Harold Baines in 1977 (led team with 167 hits and 33 doubles to go along with 99 RBI in ’83 season), added designated hitter Greg Luzinski in 1981 (32 HR), traded for center fielder Rudy Law in 1982(career-high 142 hits and team-leading 77 stolen bases) and first baseman Tom Paciorek (team-high .307 BA), and called up rookie Ron Kittle (35 HR and 100 RBI).

The Sox added the likes of Vance Law and Jerry Dybzinski into the mix and not only did all of that get the club a playoff berth, but it also landed Hemond his second Executive of the Year Award. In 1983, the Sox had five players finish in the top 20 of MVP voting, had the Manager of the Year in LaRussa, and the Rookie of the Year in Kittle.

Hemond would remain the team’s general manager for two more seasons before leaving in 1985. While he didn’t win a championship as a general manager with the Sox, he did serve as a special assistant to GM Ken Williams when the team brought home the title in ’05.

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