The White Sox first draft pick in 1982, Karkovice hit four homers in 97 at-bats in his 1986 call-up. The cannon-armed catcher was handed Carlton Fisk‘s job in 1987 but hit just .071 in 39 games, struck out 40 times in 85 at-bats, and was sent down. Under new batting coach Walt Hriniak, he improved to .264 in 1989, although at the expense of his power.
Karkovice finally emerged from Fisk’s shadow in 1992 and the following season deftly handled a surprising pitching corps led by young firebrand Jack McDowell. Torn knee cartilage in ’94 ended his season in July, but he returned to form in ’95. Karkovice threw out just 32% of opposing base stealers that season, an abnormally low rate, but much of the blame fell on the achingly deliberate pitching of right-hander Jason Bere.
Despite an average that at best hovered around the .220 mark, Karkovice remained the club’s primary catcher until Jorge Fabregas was acquired in May 1997. He retired after the season, one of the few players in the free-agent era to spend his entire career with a single team.
A surprisingly nimble backstop early in his career, Karkovice legged out an inside-the-park grand slam in Minnesota in 1990 and was sometimes used as a pinch runner, unusual for a catcher.