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Jim Landis, White Sox Gold Glove center fielder, dies at 83

6-18-05 signing autographs for young fans former members of the 59 Sox team Jim Landis(left) and Jim McAnany. ( Photo by Bob Black/Sun-times)

Jim Landis, who starred for the 1959 Go-Go White Sox and is considered one of the best defensive center fielders in major-league history, died Saturday in his hometown of Napa, California. He was 83.

Landis, who also played for the Kansas City Athletics, Cleveland Indians, Houston Astros, Detroit Tigers and Boston Red Sox during an 11-year career, retired in 1967 with a .989 fielding percentage.

A recent ESPN ranking of the top 50 players in Sox history had Landis at No. 27.

In 2000, he was one of 27 players named by the Sox to their All-Century Team.

During his eight seasons on the South Side, Landis won five consecutive Gold Gloves and was an American League All-Star in 1962. In 1963, he led the AL with a .993 fielding percentage.

Landis had a career .247/.344/.375 batting line with 93 home runs, 467 RBI and 139 stolen bases. While best remembered for his defense, from 1958 to 1962, he averaged 64 RBI, 82 runs and 20 stolen bases.

Landis attended Richmond (California) High School and was a star third baseman at Contra Costa College in San Pablo.

The Sox signed him in 1952, and his time in the minor leagues was interrupted while he served in the Army in 1954 and 1955.

Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle set the standard in center field during Landis’ heyday, and though his offense didn’t compare to that of those Hall of Famers, Landis’ defense was often comparable.

“When I actually played, I really didn’t hear much of that,’’ Landis said in an interview with Baseball Almanac. “Later on, though, I’d read things or hear things along those lines. I know the Yankees and Casey [Stengel] said some nice things like, ‘I know that kid in Chicago would turn triples into doubles and doubles into singles.’ ”

The Sox went 94-60 and lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games in the 1959 World Series. Landis was 7-for-24 (.291) with an RBI and a stolen base in that Fall Classic, his only postseason appearance.

Landis was surrounded by friends and family, including his wife, Sandy, with whom he celebrated his 61st wedding anniversary Friday.

He also was surrounded by memorabilia from his baseball career. Landis’ room was filled with bobbleheads and photos of teammates such as Nellie Fox, Billy Pierce and Moose Skowron. Landis always enjoyed entertaining visitors with stories from his playing days.

Follow me on Twitter @CST_soxvan.

Email: dvanschouwen@suntimes.com


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