At the 1989 All-Star break, Jeff Torborg's Chicago White Sox had already lost 56 games and were 201/2 games out of the American League West race.
That's when the makeover began for the team that challenged the Oakland Athletics for the AL West title this season. That turnaround earned Torborg United Press International's American League Manager of the Year announced Monday."You can't really call it a dream season when you don't win," Torborg said, "but it was a special year."
Torborg ran away with the award, claiming 18 of the 22 votes cast by UPI baseball correspondents. Tony La Russa of Oakland collected three votes and Joe Morgan of Boston one.
The White Sox were in Kansas City on July 6, 1989, about to begin a three-game series before the break, and Torborg, then in his first season as the Chicago manager, held a one-hour, back-to-fundamentals workout. He even brought pizzas for the players. It was 100 degrees in Kansas City that day, a day Torborg said showed him the character of his ballclub.
Despite the team's record and the unbearable heat, the players continued to practice on their own nearly three hours after the scheduled workout ended.
"That said something about the character of this team," Torborg said. "They never give up."
It also said something about Torborg.
"I told the coaches, 'Let's go one game at a time. What we can do is start the second half as a new season,"' he said. "The standings didn't mean anything to us. We got off to a great start - and I kept harping on them that that's the way we should play."
And from the second half of the '89 season through this past campaign, the White Sox played well. Very well. They threatened the defending World Series champion Oakland Athletics in the American League West, finishing 94-68, the White Sox' best record since 1983 when they won 99 games and the division.