CHICAGO – His tenure on the south side was eventful, featuring a number of major acquisitions, the launching of a Hall of Fame managing career, and the club’s first playoff appearance in a generation.
Roland Hemond did a lot in his two stints with the White Sox and those accomplishments were remembered on Monday after his death at the age of 92.
His career spanned seven decades, starting in the scouting department of the Boston Braves in 1951 and would remain in baseball until 2017. That included two stints with the White Sox, arriving as the team’s director of player personnel in 1970 and remaining with the franchise through 1985 as he eventually took on the role of general manager.
From 2001-2007, he was an executive advisor to then general manager Kenny Williams, and was with the club during their World Series championship season in 2005.
“Roland began his career in baseball in 1951, and there is not a person in this game over the past 70 years who has not benefitted from his judgement, friendship, mentorship and his many creative ideas that forever changed the game of baseball on the field and in the front office,” said White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf in a statement from the club. “Baseball owes Roland an immense debt of gratitude and its heartfelt thanks.”
During his ownership, Hemond helped the Reinsdorf-era White Sox in a number of ways, including the building of the club’s first playoff team during his ownership. Aided by the major signing of Carlton Fisk in 1981, one of the biggest free agent signings in the history of Chicago baseball, the general manager constructed a club that would win the 1983 American League Western Division title.
That was the franchise’s first playoff appearance since they won the AL pennant in 1959. It was also the first playoff appearance for manager Tony La Russa, a position given to him in the majors for the first time by Hemond.
“I believe it’s shared by everyone in the baseball world, starting with his time with the Milwaukee Braves, that Roland Hemond touched and influenced more people than any other person in a really positive way,” said La Russa in a statement. F”or years and years, he’s been the most beloved figure in the game. He treated everyone with kindness and respect and they returned it. Roland was a very nice man, but he also had the ability to make tough decisions.
“People forget that he was the guiding force to convince Jerry Reinsdorf and Eddie Einhorn in the early days that acquiring Carlton Fisk would not only be a good baseball move but also would show fans and the baseball world that the White Sox were serious about winning.”
Hemond also made a splash in the early days of his first time with the club when he signed outfielder Dick Allen before the 1972 season. He would go on to win the AL MVP and helped the general manager to his first MLB Executive of the Year Award, which he also won after the 1983 season.
As the general manager of the Baltimore Orioles, he also won that award again in 1989.
Before and after his second stint with the White Sox, Hemond also worked with the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks, helping the franchise as their senior executive vice president from 1996-2000. He return after leaving the White Sox in 2007 as a special assistant to the president.
Hemond is also credited with the idea to start the Arizona Fall League in 1992, which featured the best prospects in minors getting the chance to play against each other at MLB team’s spring training facilities.