Former White Sox All-Star Landis dies at 83

Former White Sox All-Star Landis dies at 83

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The names Jim Landis and Aaron Rowand often are mentioned when discussing the great center fielders in White Sox history.

So it only seems fitting the two developed a bond as they got to know each other over the years. Landis, who was considered one of the best defensive outfielders of his era, died Saturday. He was 83.

"Just an awesome, awesome individual," said Rowand, the White Sox Minor League outfield/baserunning instructor, of the late Mr. Landis. "He was such a great guy. He loved the White Sox organization and loved the city of Chicago."

Landis' three-run home run

A Richmond, Calif., native, Landis passed away in Napa, Calif., not far from where he was born. He played for the White Sox for eight seasons from 1957-64, winning five consecutive Gold Gloves with Chicago from '60-64 and was selected to the American League All-Star team in '62.

In 1959, the White Sox advanced to the World Series, and Landis was a big contributor to the club. He hit .272 with five home runs, 26 doubles and 60 RBIs while finishing seventh in the American League Most Valuable Player Award voting. He batted .292 with six runs in six games against the Dodgers in the Fall Classic that year.

In Game 3 of the World Series, Landis made an iconic catch on a fly ball hit by Jim Gilliam. In Game 5, he also had an important hit, moving Nellie Fox to third base, where Fox scored on a ground out to give the White Sox a 1-0 win in over Sandy Koufax and send the series back to Chicago.

Landis' diving catch

Signed by the White Sox as an amateur free agent in 1952, Landis topped all AL outfielders with a .993 fielding percentage in '63 and finished his career with a .989 mark. He was one of 27 players named to the organization's "Team of the Century" in 2000.

Landis also played for the Red Sox, Indians, Tigers, Astros and Athletics throughout his 11-year Major League career.

Rowand got to knew Landis, when Landis' son, Craig, represented the White Sox outfielder. The trio played golf together, and Rowand would pick Jim's mind on the art of playing center field.

"We talked about jumps and we talked about different hitters and positioning," Rowand said. "We compared to how he did it then to how people do it now.

"It's all pretty much the same. We talked quite a bit about playing center field and playing center field for the Chicago White Sox. He took a lot of pride in the fact that he got to play on the South Side. I got to see his Gold Gloves up where he lives. Really awesome guy, really awesome player. Left a mark in the history of this organization."

According to Bob Vanderberg, who has written books about the White Sox, in a dugout chat one day in September 1959, two weeks or so after the Sox had picked up National League slugger Ted Kluszewski, Earl Torgeson -- another former NL slugger -- were comparing NL and AL players.

For two weeks, Torgeson had been telling Klu that Landis was a better defensive center fielder than Willie Mays. That day in the clubhouse, Klu stopped by for a quick word with Chicago baseball writer Jerome Holtzman and with Torgeson and said, "You were right about Mays and Landis."

Landis' best offensive season came in 1961, when he hit .283 with 22 home runs, 85 RBIs and 19 stolen bases. But Landis was best known for his glove work.

"You couldn't be afraid of a fence," Landis once said. "Sometimes they thought I was crazy, but I think the intent had a lot to do with it.

"I always felt this: There was no ball I couldn't catch. That to me was real determination, and if you don't have that, you're not a good outfielder, first of all. You've got to have that feeling, and I just felt, 'I'm gonna catch it.'"

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast. Bob Vanderberg contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.