On this All-Star Monday, we celebrate a player twice named an All-Star. Robin Ventura played with four Major League teams in a career spanning just more than 15 years. Now the manager of the Chicago White Sox, Ventura came up with Chicago when the roster expanded in September 1989.
By the time he became a full-time addition to the White Sox, the team wondered how they ever got along without him. Through 150 games in 1990, he batted .249. Over the next few seasons, his glove caught more attention than his bat.
But Ventura’s most famous baseball moment came in 1993 against Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan. An inside fastball turned into a 20-second headlock-to-sucker punch frenzy. For Ryan, it came to be one of the most defining images of his 27-year baseball career.
The pitcher was 46-years-old at the time and he’s just wailing away at a newcomer to the American League. And all because Ryan pitched the way he always did – by owning the inner portion of the plate.
As Rob Goldman points out, Ryan’s beef with Chicago had been a long time coming.
And while Texas fans still back their pitcher-turned-owner, Ryan and Ventura don’t seem to harbor any ill will these days.
Inconsistency sandwiched error-riddled seasons between Six career Gold Glove Awards. In 1995, 17 errors at third base moved him across the diamond to first. The very next season, Ventura earned another Gold Glove.
Clutch home runs boosted his middle-of-the-road .267 career batting average in the court of public opinion. The lefty batter smacked two grand slams on September 4th, 1995, becoming the first player since Frank Robinson to hit two in the same game.
Perhaps his most clutch home run came after he departed the White Sox for the Mets.
In the 1999 NLCS, Ventura came up in the 15th inning with the bases loaded against the Atlanta Braves. What both you and I both consider a grand slam technically got scored as a single, since his Mets teammates mobbed him before he made it around the bases. The “Grand Slam Single” did not help New York to the World Series.
Much like his trip back to Arlington, Ventura now travels around the American League as manager of the White Sox. He took the team over in 2012 and expressed his loyalty to the South Siders:
“When I rejoined the White Sox this June, I said this was my baseball home and that part of me never left the White Sox organization,” he said.
Ventura ascended through the White Sox farm system, getting the 1989 call from AA Birmingham. He also spent time with Cape Cod’s Hyannis Mets.