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White Sox’ ‘surprising’ pick Robin Ventura gets good reaction

RobVenturtook pounding from Nolan Ryan as player for Sox. ‘‘Don’t mess with Texas’’ Ryan wrote this photo.

Robin Ventura took a pounding from Nolan Ryan as a player for the Sox. ‘‘Don’t mess with Texas,’’ Ryan wrote on this photo.

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Updated: November 16, 2011 10:39AM

When White Sox general manager Ken Williams first raised Robin Ventura’s name to chairman Jerry Reinsdorf as a possible successor to manager Ozzie Guillen, the reaction might have been the same as the one fans had Thursday.

‘‘His initial reaction was a small smile,’’ Williams said. ‘‘[He said], ‘That’s interesting.’ The next day, he said: ‘I thought about it overnight, and I know now exactly why you brought it up. It’ll be
interesting to see how the conversations develop.’  ’’

The reaction seemed the same among players, fans and former teammates after
the Sox announced Ventura’s hiring Thursday.

‘‘He was a leader on the field,’’ said former Sox bench coach Joey Cora, who, like Guillen, was Ventura’s teammate. ‘‘When he talked,
everyone listened. He wasn’t a rah-rah guy. When he spoke, everyone said, ‘Whoa, we have to listen.’ He has a lot of baseball knowledge. He’s not going to have a hard time
adjusting to being a manager.’’

When they were teammates, Guillen was among the more vocal players in the Sox’ clubhouse, along with Frank Thomas and Carlton Fisk. Ventura was a man of few words. Now Ventura will follow the free-speaking Guillen with likely the same opposite approach.

‘‘Ozzie was that guy who loved to talk,’’ reliever Matt Thornton said. ‘‘When he started, there was no stopping him. Sometimes it would backfire on him with the media. I’m pretty sure Robin is a little more careful on his word selection.

‘‘I’m not shocked at all. I thought they would move quickly. They didn’t want that lingering. Robin is a great guy. He’s a professional. He’s been hanging around for a while. You could tell he had that itch to get back. It’s done, and you move forward.’’

Catcher A.J. Pierzynski played with Ventura on the American League All-Star team in 2002, when Ventura was with the New York Yankees and Pierzynski with the Minnesota Twins.

‘‘He’s always been fun to talk to,’’ Pierzynski said on ESPN Radio (1000-AM). ‘‘He’s always known the game, so that’s a good start.’’

Broadcaster Steve Stone called Ventura’s hiring ‘‘a surprise.’’

‘‘This is one of the most surprising days in White Sox history,’’ Stone said on WSCR-AM (670), the Sox’ flagship radio station. ‘‘The only thing I know about Robin is he’s a very nice guy, a wonderful third baseman and hitter, a longtime White Sox player who had a wonderful career. The rest? Your guess is as good as mine.’’

Another former Ventura teammate, radio analyst Darrin Jackson, said he, too, was surprised by the choice.

‘‘[But] I don’t have a problem with it,’’ Jackson said on WSCR. ‘‘People are saying, ‘This guy has no experience,’ but everyone gets a first chance to be a manager or general manager. You don’t anticipate failure.

‘‘I’m excited because I know Robin and the kind of person he is and what he’ll expect of his players. He flat out won’t accept excuses.

‘‘I know one thing: He’s
decided to step away from his other business commitments and devote 100 percent to this. .  .  . He’ll demand they be ready to play every day.’’

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