Greatest White Sox CF’er Ever!

Johnny-mostilAs a lifelong White Sox fan, I found today’s White Sox tear-off calendar page of particular interest.

Johnny Mostil – This native Chicagoan patrolled centerfield for the White Sox through most of the 1920s with great distinction.  In 1969, he was voted the greatest-ever for the White Sox at that position.

Centerfield what a glorious position, free, ranging, taking every ball he can get to, arguably the best athlete on the field.  The corner outfielders can’t hold the centerfielder’s jock when it comes to outfield defense, which is why I’ve argued for some time now that the Outfield Gold Glove Award should be given to one leftfielder, one centerfielder, & one rightfielder, rather than just outfield.  The way it’s done now, three outfielders in each league, would be like giving out four infielder gold gloves, not, one firstbaseman, one secondbaseman, one shortstop, & one thirdbaseman.

My personal favorite White Sox centerfielder was Ken Berry, or the Bandit, as he was known back then.  I remember one year where he actually leaped over the centerfield wall to catch at least 100 potential home runs, well maybe not quite that many, but still it was alot.

Later I came to appreciate Chet Lemon, nicknamed Juice, he was always in a hurry, often times diving headfirst into firstbase, trying to beat out an infield hit.  With Ralph Garr & later Ron LeFlore in LF and Richie Zisk & later Claudell Washington (I can still see the banner brought in by a clever fan, “Washington Slept Here”) in RF, Chet had to cover alot of ground.

I still remember oldtimers talking about Jim Landis, as the greatest defensive centerfielder ever to play on the Southside of Chicago.  But that, no doubt, has something to do with the White Sox winning the pennant in 1959 with Jim patrolling CF, the same way current White Sox fans will remember Aaron Rowand out there for the 2005 World Champion ballclub.

But who was this Johnny Mostil?  Turns out he was born in Chicago, ended his career with a .301 career batting average.  It looked like this kid could fly.  In 1925 he stole 43 bases, leading the league, he also walked 90 times & scored 135 times that season.  Mostil had 82  career triples.  Johnny only played two seasons after his failed suicide attempt in 1927, after it was discovered he was having an affair with teammate Red Faber’s wife.

3 Responses to “Greatest White Sox CF’er Ever!”

  1. This may be blasphemous considering his banishment from baseball, but I’d take Happy Felsch over Mostil. His OPS+ was 10 points higher and his fielding percentage vs. the league average was better. According to range factor, Mostil had slightly better range, but only by four points, which isn’t enough to make up the difference in OPS+ and FLD%. Felsch was being compared to Tris Speaker and some, like Indians pitcher Jim Bagby, insisted he was a better center fielder than Speaker. Hyperbole, perhaps, but I don’t recall Mostil ever being considered great.

    Still, it’s nice to see guys like Mostil getting some publicity. Too many players from the past are all too forgotten.

  2. When the topic is White Sox CFs and Teddy is writing, you know Ken Berry is going to come up :)

    100 homeruns, eh?

    leaped over the centerfield wall, huh?

    i guess that’s what’s great about baseball. those exaggerated memories. :)

  3. The Greatest Fielding White Sox center fielder of my time (since 1959) was Jim Landis.

    I used to work with a guy named Jim Landis. He was good at a “different game,” if you know what I mean.

    The three best I’ve ever seen on ANY team are Willie Mays, Devon White and Torii Hunter. I think Landis might be in the next three, maybe with Willie Wilson and Omar the Out (Omar Moreno).

    Notice that all 6 of my guys could ALSO THROW.


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