Tuesday, February 15, 2011

#96 - Jerry Hairston

This is Jerry Hairston's rookie card. He is the second bespectacled White Sox in a row. He is pictured at Comiskey in a shot that shows the old arches in the background along with some guy in civies working on the sprinkling system. Jerry isn't smiling but he is giving us a good look at the Sox uniform of the time. Jerry had been having a pretty good season at Triple A Iowa when he was called up to Chicago in July to help out at first base - and the outfield - in the wake of Dick Allen's injury. While Jerry would never match Dick's power he scored some decent numbers his rookie year and got to play in the same park his dad did. By the time he left the Sox for good as a player he'd build up a nice little and long-lasting franchise.

Jerry Hairston came from fine baseball stock - we will get to that on the back - and was drafted by Chicago in 1970 out of high school in Alabama. He would put up some decent minor league numbers: a top of the order guy, he demonstrated some speed and a good eye (his minor league career OBA was well over .400). In the minors he was primarily a second baseman, but in '72 he would put up time at first base. In '74 Dick Allen was healthy and the outfield was more settled which meant Jerry, who started slowly, was back in Iowa for a bunch of the season, where he hit .379 with 44 RBI's in only 140 at bats. In '75  he killed again in Triple A - a .369 average - before he returned to Chicago to post a .282 average and over .400 OBA that kept him in the majors. But in '76 he again spent the bulk of his time at Iowa, where his average dropped below .300 but he put up personal bests of 24 doubles and 65 RBI's in about half a season. After a .300-plus start to the '77 season on not many at bats, Jerry was sold to Pittsburgh.

Hairston would play out the balance of the '77 season for the Pirates. While that would be his sole time in Pittsburgh, he would garner a significant amount of  his at bats in a new role, pinch hitter, which would be a telling indicator of his MLB future. After the season Pittsburgh sold Jerry to Durango of the Mexican League. He would then go down to Mexico for the next several seasons where he got paid very little money to do what he loved - about a grand a month - and also experienced a very poor economy. But one year he won the league triple crown and another he experienced his first managing gig, so it wasn't all bad. During the strike year of '81 Tony LaRussa, who'd played with Jerry at Iowa and was now managing the ChiSox, was down in Mexico scouting replacement players - in case it came to that - and found Hairston, purchasing his contract for the remainder of the season. Jerry quickly established himself as a pretty good guy in the pinch: on the last day of the '81 season he hit a grand slam and grabbed a total of six RBIs. As the Sox improved, so did Hairston's pinch hitting ability. In '82 in that role he hit .234 with two homers and nine RBI's. In '83 his line improved to .295/2/11 with a .436 OBA as his timely hits helped the Sox to a divisional championship.He would continue to see regular action in the pinch the next four seasons and would put up a .276/2/28/.391 line over that time in 188 pinch at bats. Jerry would also be rewarded with some DH time and some outfield duties as well. In '88 he began coaching in the Chicago system and in both that year and in '89 Chicago got him some token at bats up top to make sure Jerry got his MLB pension. He finished with a career .258 average and a .362 OBA and retired as the career leader in pinch hits for the Sox with 94. In the post season he went hitless in three at bats.

Hairston has continued to coach and manage in the White Sox system and in that latter role has gone 185-235 during a seven-year run for the club's Rookie League team. I believe he is still the hitting coach at Bristol. He is also an instructor at Hitting World, a school in Arizona.

Jerry started his baseball life as in infield speedster and distinguished himself each of his first three seasons. His dad, Sam, was a Negro League catcher who got a couple at-bats for the White Sox in '51 and had an over .300 average in the minors where he did not start playing until he was 30. He later scouted for the Sox and signed Carlos May. Johnny was a catcher-outfielder who played a couple games for the Cubs in '69. He put up seven seasons in the minors and hit .257 there, finishing in '71. Jerry also had/has two kids playing ball: Jerry Jr. and Scott who played in San Diego in 2010. The Hairstons, along with the Bells and the Boones, are the only three-generation families so far to put in time in the majors.

Carlton and Hairston each have the same card colors. Let's see if it helps:

1. Hairston and Steve Carlton '86 White Sox.


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