Jimenez just might be a throwback White Sox player after all

Eloy Jimenez of the Chicago White Sox (left) is back on the injured list again.
Eloy Jimenez of the Chicago White Sox (left) is back on the injured list again. / Quinn Harris/GettyImages

Eloy Jimenez would have fit in perfectly with the 1973 Chicago White Sox.

Jimenez, just 26, has somehow channeled the spirit of the White Sox of 50 years ago, starting with his enormous promise, potential, and talent right down to his frustrating inability to avoid injuries.

Is it a coincidence that Jimenez wears red batting gloves that would have been a perfect complement to the red pinstripe White Sox uniforms of the early 1970s? Maybe not.

This year is the 50th anniversary of one of the most frustrating and aggravating injury-cursed seasons in White Sox history.

Eloy Jimenez may bring back some tough memories for White Sox fans.

White Sox fans should remember the tragic 1973 season.

The White Sox of 1973 were coming off a thrilling 1972 season in which first baseman Dick Allen won the Most Valuable Player award.

The 1972 Sox, despite an injury that limited home run champion Bill Melton to 57 games, won 87 games and finished just 5.5 games behind the West Division champ Oakland Athletics.

The Sox traded for center fielder Ken Henderson and pitcher Steve Stone from the San Francisco Giants and shortstop Eddie Leon from the Cleveland Indians after the season. The team that had lost 106 games just three seasons (1970) before was now expected to compete for a division title.

Those expectations, however, took one punch to the gut after another.

The 1973 season, much like the 2021 and 2022 seasons, was buried under an avalanche of injuries. Sox fans blamed general manager Stu Holcomb for his lack of inactivity after the injuries started to pile up in 1973, just like last year with GM Rick Hahn.

But Holcomb resigned in late July of 1973 (giving way to Roland Hemond) so most of the blame for the 77-85 finish in 1973 was put on the injuries.

Henderson, a switch-hitter, was hitting .311 and playing the best center field Sox fans had seen since Ken Berry when the Cleveland Indians came to Comiskey Park on May 25, 1973, to face the 24-13 White Sox.

Henderson singled in the second inning off pitcher Dick Bosman and went to third on a single by Rick Reichardt. Ed Herrmann then hit a grounder to first baseman Chris Chambliss as Henderson took off for home.

Chambliss fired home to catcher Dave Duncan, Henderson's spikes awkwardly got caught up in the dirt, and Duncan made the tag for the out. The Chicago Tribune ran a photo the next day of Henderson sprawled out on his back near the plate.

It was also the precise moment the Sox season went belly-up.

Henderson's injured knee would limit him to just 73 games in 1973 and just 262 at-bats. Henderson would come back on July 1 and saw his average plummet to .252 by July 17. He started his last game on July 30 and didn't play after Aug. 7 as the pain in his knee became unbearable.

The Sox would go 53-72 starting the night Henderson injured his knee against the Indians.

Just six days after Henderson's injury, the Sox sent rookie Brian Downing into the game on May 31 against the Detroit Tigers to play third for Bill Melton with a 10-2 lead.

On the very first pitch of Downing's career. a knuckleball from Eddie Fisher to the Tigers' Dick McAuliffe, Downing fell victim to the curse of the 1973 White Sox.

McAuliffe sent a pop foul toward the White Sox dugout at Comiskey and the always-aggressive Downing took off for the ball. He made a remarkable catch for the out but fell into the dugout and hurt his knee. He wouldn't play again until Aug. 10.

One pitch, one injury. Downing would never play third base in his career after 1973 through his retirement in 1992.

Allen led the American League in home runs (37) and RBI (113) in 1972 and was third in hitting (.308). The first baseman was having another wonderful season in 1973, hitting .310 with 16 homers and 41 RBI when the Sox played the California Angels on June 28 in Anaheim.

The Sox, with Steve Stone on the mound, led the Angels 2-0, thanks to a two-run double by Luis Alvarado in the second inning. Angel first baseman Mike Epstein, who stood 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, then hit a ground ball to Melton at third base in the sixth inning.

Melton fired a wild throw to Allen at first and Epstein plowed into Allen and fractured the White Sox first baseman's left leg. Allen, though, stayed in the game and even made a nice play on a grounder by Ken Berry to end the inning.

Tony Muser replaced Allen at first in the bottom of the seventh. Allen, though, continued to refuse to give in to the injury. He returned to the field on July 31 and even had three hits against the Kansas City Royals. He would make two brief appearances the next two days but finally called his season off after Aug. 2.

Sox fans definitely had tears in their eyes by that point.

Relief pitcher Steve Kealey, who pitched in 66 games for the Sox in 1971 and 1972 combined, was limited to seven games in 1973 because of injury and never pitched in the major leagues again.

Second baseman Jorge Orta, designated hitter Carlos May and Melton were bothered by leg injuries all season long but continued to play for the most part. Outfielder Pat Kelly also battled his way through back pain to stay in the lineup.

May, the original Eloy Jimenez, would fight through leg injuries his entire career.

Outfielder Buddy Bradford spent time on the disabled list (it was renamed the injured list in 2019) and was limited to 53 games. Pitcher Dave Lemonds, who made 31 appearances with 18 starts in 1972, spent the entire 1973 season on the disabled list and also never pitched again.

Pitchers Terry Forster and Bart Johnson also saw time on the disabled list. Johnson was coming off a 1972 season in which he pitched in just nine games because of injury. He made 53 appearances in 1971, also completing four of 16 starts.

The White Sox, to be sure, also made some questionable front-office decisions in 1973, releasing outfielder Rick Reichardt in late June and infielder Mike Andrews in mid-July because (as it was reported) of contract negotiations.

Holcomb and Hemond preferred to give young players like Bill Sharp, Downing, Bucky Dent and Jerry Hairston playing time in 1973 rather than trade for established veterans. The Sox, to their credit, did add pitcher Jim Kaat in August 1973, one of the best decisions the organization has ever made.

But, for the most part, it was the injuries to Allen and Henderson, as well as the nagging aches and pains all season long for other important players, that curtailed the season.

What they really needed was a smooth, switch-hitting center fielder and a power-hitting first baseman.

The Sox and Eloy Jimenez could use some mercy now, a half a century later.

Next. The 15 worst contracts in Chicago White Sox history. dark