Forty-one years ago today, the White Sox beat the Red Sox in a 22-13 Sunday afternoon slopfest at Fenway Park. White Sox leadoff hitter Walt "No Neck" Williams went 5-for-7 with 5 runs scored and 2 RBI, and Luis Aparicio, their man in the two-hole, went 5-for-5 with 3 runs and 3 RBI. But I'd never heard of Ossie Blanco the #3 guy in the White Sox lineup that day, until I looked at the box score this morning.
Originally signed out of Venezuela by the Giants organization, Blanco had been kicking around the minors since 1963, doing time in the Giants, A's and White Sox farm systems. He'd made his major league debut just five days before, on May 26, 1970, and singled off the Royals' Bob Johnson in his second plate appearance that day. Even though White Sox first baseman Gail Hopkins was hitting over .330 at the time, manager Don Gutteridge saw something in Blanco that he liked, and Ossie played his first two games as a starting first baseman, and smacked a pinch-hit single in his third game. May 31 was his fourth game in a White Sox uniform (back when blue was the primary color of said uni), and the third that he started at first. He acquitted himself well that day, going 2-for-5 with 3 RBI and a run scored. Things looked promising for Ossie Blanco...
Alas, it was not to be. By the end of June, he was hitting .167, and was sent back to the minors. He returned to the White Sox in August, but only padded his numbers slightly: He would finish the season with a .197 batting average and — even worse, though the number was the same — a .197 slugging percentage. For even though he had enough of a power stroke to rack up 120 career homers in the minors, Ossie Blanco couldn't manage a single extra-base hit in 66 official at-bats. After the end of the season, he was traded to the Cubs along with Jose Ortiz for Pat Jacquez, Dave Lemonds and Roe Skidmore; Lemonds would start 18 games for the White Sox in 1972, but none of the other players ever amounted to much more than a bucket of tobacco spit.
Ditto, unfortunately, for Blanco's career. Sent from the Cubs to the Indians in what Baseball Reference can only describe as "an unknown transaction" — in exchange for a case of Stroh's, perhaps? — Blanco finally resurfaced in the majors for 18 games with Cleveland in 1974. He hit .194, and once again went without an extra base hit, posting a .194 slugging percentage, as well. He never made it back to "The Show."
In fact, Ossie never had a more productive major league game than that afternoon at Fenway, forty-one years ago today. Still, while his career could rightly be considered a disappointing and forgettable one, you have to hand it to the guy — how many of us have ever driven in 3 runs and helped our team to victory in one of the sport's most legendary ballparks? For one glorious afternoon, at least, Ossie Blanco was a winner. And today, the 41st anniversary of Ossie Blanco's greatest game, we here at the Big Hair & Plastic Grass page raise a cold cup of Champale to his achievement.