Friday, June 17, 2011

Card Spotlight: 6-17-11

1978 Topps #409 - Ron Schueler

After the year of the South Side Hitmen, Ron Schueler signed with the White Sox as a free agent. He spent all of 1978 and part of 1979 with the White Sox as a reliever and spot starter. His talents didn't lie exclusively on the field though.

When Don Kessinger took over as manager of the White Sox in 1979, he asked Fred Martin to be his pitching coach. Don had played for Fred as a Cub, during the infamous "college of coaches" and wanted him to be a part of his vision for the club. Unfortunately, Martin was ill with cancer and died a few months later.

Ron Schueler was asked to retire and take over as pitching coach. Schueler was one of the surviving links between the last ownership change for the Sox. Ron kept the pitching coach job until after the 1981 season. He then moved on to other jobs with other clubs, slowly moving up the ranks. In 1991, he returned to the Sox as general manager.

The key pieces were in place when Schueler came back to the Sox. They had already drafted Jack McDowell, Robin Ventura, Frank Thomas and Alex Fernandez. All were making contributions to the club. It was Schueler's job to provide the final pieces of the puzzle. And he did quite a job finding pieces that fit well.

During his early tenure, Ron was responsible for landing Tim Raines, Ellis Burks, Bo Jackson, Julio Franco and Jose Valentin. All helped the Sox win the division, at one time or another. His greatest achievement may have been assembling the 1994 White Sox team. That team was perhaps the greatest Chicago baseball team of the last quarter of the twentieth century, but because of the strike, no one will never know how truly great that team could have been.

Schueler also is responsible for drafting the first woman in MLB history, although it's a little less groundbreaking when you realize that the woman drafted was his own daughter, Carey. Nonetheless, she did have the talent to make it, despite the possible nepotism involved in drafting her. She continued with a basketball career, until 1996, when injuries forced her out.

Ron's control issues may have made the decision to switch to pitching coach easier back in 1979. He hit nine batters during his tenure with the White Sox, which equals his five year total for his time in the NL with the Braves and Phillies. His 1979 WHIP was a career worst 1.627. That decision led to greater accomplishments and a more decisive control over any team that he oversaw. His final year in control of the White Sox was in 2000, when the team won the AL Central.

Hindsight is always more accurate than predicting the future. In hindsight, I could say that Ron was looking towards his future, past his playing days, and envisioning a bright career which included a 1989 World Series championship with the Oakland Athletics. If this were 1978, I might have speculated that Ron was looking ahead to a lengthy career with the White Sox, which did happen, but probably not in the way he would have suspected. Although if this were really 1978, I'd probably be wondering who the man with the sparkly eyes is and what he was looking at. After all, I had only turned two years old, four days after the Yankees won the 1978 World Series.

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