CHICAGO -- As a young player in the White Sox Minor League system, current general manager Ken Williams had the chance to work with Sam Hairston. Hairston became the first African-American player to suit up for the White Sox in 1951, two months after Minnie Minoso, who was the first black player to join the White Sox.
"Sam was one of my Rookie League coaches," Williams said. "He filled us with story after story about Negro League play, players and tougher times. But he also spoke about some of the fun times as well."
Williams reminisced about Hairston on Sunday, as Major League Baseball paid tribute on Jackie Robinson Day to the man who broke the game's color barrier 65 years ago. All players, coaches and manager Robin Ventura wore the No. 42 in Robinson's honor. Four players from the White Sox Amateur City Elite youth baseball program, who will play baseball at Division I schools next year, were recognized on the field, along with Minoso and White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf.
Present for the ceremonial first pitch were Jerry Hairston, one of Sam's sons and a White Sox Minor League coach, first-base coach Harold Baines and Djan Williams and Bryce Gray from the ACE program.
Both of Williams' offices in Chicago and Arizona contain Robinson memorabilia, and Williams has met Robinson's family and been on panels with his daughter, Sharon. Williams praised Robinson's courage and did the same for those who came after him.
"It's Jackie. It's Larry Doby [first African-American player in the American League]. It's a lot of the men that forged the way," Williams said. "He was the first, but he wasn't the only one that was heckled, ridiculed and had to persevere. So, I look at today as certainly honoring him but also honoring those men.
"Baseball's history is important in general. The reminder of the struggle and the sacrifice both from an athletic perspective and certainly from a social perspective is paramount to remember, recall and revisit in this manner."
Improved catch-and-release slowing opposition
CHICAGO -- After an extremely tough season throwing out baserunners in 2011, White Sox catchers A.J. Pierzynski and Tyler Flowers have been successful on 3-of-4 would-be attempts in 2012.
It's not as if Pierzynski and Flowers went to a throwing camp during the offseason and improved their arm strength and accuracy. They simply have been given a better chance by White Sox pitchers to nail the opposition.
"Maybe we are just enforcing, and I don't know if that's the right word, strongly encouraging, the usage of slide steps and making our pitchers get comfortable with that in Spring Training," said Flowers, who caught Brennan Boesch at second Saturday on the back end of a strikeout/throw out double play. "In the past, it seems like a lot of guys weren't comfortable throwing a slide-step breaking ball.
"They would have a tendency to hang it. We made it a priority in Spring Training to become comfortable with that because that's what we are going to be doing a lot more of."
Flowers was successful on just 6-of-25 attempts against him in 2011. Ramon Castro finished 2-for-18, and Pierzynski was 14-for-108. But the White Sox backup catcher takes umbrage at the notion that Pierzynski doesn't have the ability to throw out runners.
According to Flowers, it's all about catch-and-release.
"A.J. has never been a bad thrower," Flowers said. "He just hasn't had many opportunities and the ample amount of time to make the throw. That's what [White Sox bench coach Mark] Parent and [White Sox manager] Robin [Ventura] are creating for us -- more of an opportunity to give us 1.9 or two seconds to get the ball down there.
"Before, we had to be 1.7 getting it down there and neither of us are Ivan Rodriguez, so that's not going to happen. I've been reading about it on A.J. for years and it's not a fair rap.
"The guy can throw. He's not throwing 90 mph down there, but he catches the ball and gets rid of it quickly and he's accurate with it," Flowers said. "You don't have to throw it 95 mph to get guys out. You should throw it 80 and get rid of it quick, under two seconds or at two seconds, and we should get 60 percent of those guys."
Parent talked as far back as SoxFest about making improvement in this facet of the game a priority. Now, it's up to Flowers and Pierzynski to be accurate with a better chance.
"That's what I've always said," Flowers said. "I'll throw out the guys I'm supposed to throw out when I'm given time 75 percent of the time. The other 25 percent is my fault for making an inaccurate throw."
"Our pitchers have been doing a great job, and it helps them, too," Ventura said. "That's the thing for pitchers to understand. But they're giving A.J. and Tyler a chance to throw somebody out."
Ventura not looking past the game at hand
CHICAGO -- Robin Ventura runs his baseball life inning by inning, let alone day by day or month by month.
So when asked in Sunday's pregame interview session what makes him think the White Sox start is a harbinger of good things to come, Ventura stuck strictly to the results as evidence.
"I don't need to sit here and be a prognosticator of how it's going to go," said Ventura, who rarely looks past the game at hand in his chats with the media. "Every team goes through ups and downs and right now, it looks up.
"My job is just kind of keep them focused on playing and not thinking too far ahead. We just think about today and we'll worry about tomorrow, tomorrow. Seasons can be overwhelming at times if you try to think it's always going to be like this. It's not always going to be like this. We're playing well right now, but you just kind of focus on the right things and whatever happens, happens."
Ventura acknowledged that winning early can create momentum.
"We won a couple games against some tough teams, and that gives you confidence," Ventura said. "How long that lasts, we don't know. It's every day. I'm not going to get into how far is it going to go or anything else. We're just focused on today."
"You want to win divisional games," said White Sox captain Paul Konerko of the team's hot start. "The Tigers are going to be there. They're just too good of a team. All we can hope is that we're in the mix at the end."
Third to first
Jared Mitchell, the White Sox top pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, is hitting .313 with two doubles, two triples, nine RBIs and 10 walks and 10 strikeouts through 10 games for Double-A Birmingham. Trayce Thompson, another top White Sox outfield prospect, has two homers and seven RBIs for Class A Winston-Salem.
A.J. Pierzynski played in his 1,500th game on Sunday. He picked up a team-leading eighth RBI in Sunday's 5-2 loss to the Tigers.
John Danks celebrated his 27th birthday. Adam Dunn's two doubles in Sunday's 5-2 loss to the Tigers give him three at U.S. Cellular Field this season, which is one more than his entire home total from 2011. Dunn also leads the team with 13 strikeouts.
"I'm still striking out too much, even for me," said Dunn, who has struck out at least 165 times in eight separate seasons.
But Dunn feels good at the plate and believes he quickly can get to where he needs to be offensively, while continuing to produce at home.
"I try to get hits every at-bat, whether I'm home or away," Dunn said. "But it's definitely good. ... [The fans] put up with a lot last year and I want to [do well for them]."