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WHITESOXINTERACTIVE.COM. Totally Biased Coverage of the Chicago White Sox!

Opening Day -- Sox Style!

By Mark Liptak

For over 100 years the Chicago White Sox and their fans have recognized Opening Day as the first tangible evidence that the bitter cold, howling winds and drifting snow of old man Winter are passing from the scene. Opening Day has always been a time for renewed hope, the promise of approaching Summer... of warm nights, cold beer and baseball. ‘The Boys Are Back In Town!’ (With apologies to Thin Lizzy.)

Opening Day has provided moments of joy, moments of disappointment and moments of outright strangeness. It has foretold championship seasons and seasons where the Sox only hope of winning a championship were if the rest of the American League forfeited. Some of the best players in franchise history have performed on Opening Day while others have seen themselves disappear from the franchise soon afterwards.

With that in mind here’s a look back at some of the memories from Opening Day - White Sox style.

April 24, 1901 - It’s the first game for the American League and the Sox beat the Cleveland Blues 8-2. The ceremonial first ball was supposed to be thrown out by Robert Burke, special counsel to the mayor. He declined however, stating that he was afraid the ball might get hit back to him (sigh...) In the starting line up for the Sox was ‘Dummy’ Hoy a deaf mute who overcame his handicaps to play major league baseball. The winning pitcher was Roy Patterson.

April 17, 1906 - The World Championship season began in Detroit with the Sox beating the Tigers 5-3. Frank Owen, who’d win 22 games that year, picked up the victory. Just three days short of six months later, the Sox would close out the Cubs winning the only all Chicago World Series four games to two.

April 11, 1917 - The World Championship season began in St. Louis where the Sox battered the Browns 7-2. Claude ‘Lefty’ Williams picked up the win. Just slightly over six months later, the Sox would win the World Series again, four games to two, over John McGraw and the New York Giants. It is the last championship for the franchise.

April 23, 1919 - Perhaps the greatest White Sox team ever, in terms of talent, opened the season in St. Louis destroying the Browns 13-4. Again ‘Lefty’ Williams got the win. This time however, six months later, after winning the American League pennant, the ‘Black Sox’ reportedly threw the series and lost to the Cincinnati Reds. Eight players would be banned the following year and the only franchise capable of stopping the emerging New York Yankees juggernaut was decimated.

April 16, 1940 - The Indians Bob Feller fires the only Opening Day no-hitter ever, beating the Sox in Chicago 1-0 in front of 14,000 cold fans...or did he? Sox Hall of Fame shortstop Luke Appling hit a drive that appeared to kick up the chalk down the left field line, however it was ruled foul. Incredulous Appling challenged the call only to be told (according to him) ‘that it wasn’t a big deal because Feller was going to be a credit to the game.’ Appling responded ‘what the hell am I, chopped liver?’

April 14, 1942 - Because of the intervention of President Franklin Roosevelt, major league baseball continued during the World War. The Sox would lose to St. Louis 3-0, and according to the reports of the day it was a very quiet, somber crowd. Marines and sailors marched in carrying the American flag from center field. Pearl Harbor was still etched in everyone’s memories.

April 15, 1951 - The dawn of the ‘Golden Era’ of White Sox baseball begins with a 17-3 destruction of St. Louis. Manager Paul Richards unveils the ‘Go-Go Sox,’ who’d go on to have seventeen consecutive winning seasons relying on terrific pitching, great defense and blinding speed.

April 14, 1953 - Cleveland’s Bob Lemon almost duplicates Bob Feller’s opening day no-hitter holding the Sox to one hit in winning 6-0. Two days later, in the second game of the season, Billy Pierce holds Cleveland to only one hit in winning 1-0.

April 17, 1956 - In front of newly elected Mayor Richard J. Daley, rookie Luis Aparicio collects his first major league hit. It comes off the Indians Bob Lemon and helped set up the winning run in the Sox 2-1 victory.

April 10, 1959 - The championship season began in freezing Detroit and was won by an unlikely long ball hero. Nellie Fox who hit home runs as often as he struck out, blasted a home run in the 14th inning, his first shot in two years, to give the Sox a 9-7 win. In September the Sox would clinch their first pennant in forty years and play the Dodgers in the World Series, falling four games to two.

April 19, 1960 - One of the all time Sox greats ‘Minnie’ Minoso was back with the club and he celebrated by blasting two home runs in a 10-9 win over the Kansas City A’s. Unfortunately it cost the Sox two future All Stars in Norm Cash and Johnny Romano who were part of the trade with Cleveland.

April 10, 1961 - The Sox open the season in Washington against the ‘new’ Washington Senators with a 4-3 win. (The original Senators fled to Minnesota the previous Winter.) However the big news is made before the game when both President Kennedy and Vice President Johnson are interviewed by WGN-TV’s Vince Lloyd as part of the ‘Lead Off Man,’ show. It’s the only time a sitting President has agreed to a pre game interview from his box. ‘Jungle’ Jim Rivera by the way caught the ceremonial first ball tossed on to the field by the President.

April 9, 1963 - Newly acquired, as part of an off season six player deal with Baltimore, Pete Ward smacked a 7th inning three run home run off Jim Bunning to give the Sox a come from behind 7-5 win at Detroit. Ward who’d go on to share Rookie Of The Year honors with teammate Gary Peters also made the fielding play of the game on a slowly hit ball down the line off the bat of Al Kaline. The Sox would win 94 games that year.

April 14, 1964 - The bittersweet 1964 season began with the Sox dropping a 5-3 decision to the Orioles in Chicago. The 1964 Sox would win 98 games...only to finish one game behind the Yankees for the pennant.

April 13, 1965 - The Sox turn the tide so to speak from 1964, beating the Orioles in Baltimore by the same score of 5-3. The 1965 White Sox would win 95 games under Al Lopez in his last full season as Sox skipper.

April 12, 1966 - The Sox open the season with a 3-2 win over the Angels in 14 innings. Tommy McCraw delivers the game winning hit. But the game is known for what the 28 thousand plus fans sing to open the afternoon...it’s not ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ but ‘God Bless America.’ The Sox made the change stating that the words to the usual anthem were to hard to remember and to sing. Irving Berlin would write a letter to the Sox begging them to go back to the original anthem. The Sox then decided to let the fans vote on which they preferred. ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ won.

April 12, 1967 - The bittersweet 1967 season opens with a 5-4 loss in Boston to the eventual American League champions. The Sox would go into the final week of the season in position to take their first pennant since 1959...only to lose five in a row to bottom feeders Kansas City and Washington.

April 10, 1968 - The good days are gone. Riots on the West Side hold the opening day crowd to less then eight thousand. The Sox get shut out by ‘Sonny’ Siebert and the Indians 9-0. It is the first of a franchise record ten straight losses to open the season. Coupled with the five straight losses to close out 1967, the Sox dropped fifteen in a row.

April 7, 1970 - The worst White Sox team in history begins their forgettable season getting pounded 12-0 at home by the Twins. Tommy John only lasts into the 5th inning. The Sox would go on to lose a franchise record 106 games.

April 7, 1971 - The ‘new look’ White Sox decked out in powder blue with red trimmed road uniforms beats the Oakland A’s 6-5 and 12- 4 in the first regularly scheduled Opening Day double header in history. The idea was courtesy of A’s owner Charlie Finley. Bart Johnson struck out nine A’s in the second game and Carlos May was called out for failing to touch home plate after hitting what was thought to be a home run.

April 15, 1972 - The first labor impasse to cause regularly scheduled games to be cancelled caused Opening Day to be pushed back. In Kansas City the Sox would lose to the Royals 2-1 in eleven innings despite Dick Allen’s first home run. The Sox would drop three consecutive one run games to Kansas City before coming home to blow out the new Texas Rangers 14-0. The Sox would still go on to battle the A’s for the divisional crown falling by five games with 87 wins.

April 5, 1974 - Nolan Ryan and the Angels best Wilbur Wood and the White Sox 8-2 in freezing weather in Chicago. All was not lost however...it was the days of the ‘streaking craze,’ and several females unclothed themselves to the delight of fans in the upper deck. Then a guy wearing nothing but a Sox batting helmet ran on to the field before he was arrested by security. Sox manager Chuck Tanner later said with tongue planted firmly in his cheek that, ‘I wasn’t impressed by him.’

April 9, 1976 - New Sox owner Bill Veeck wanted to make a splash in his return to the game so he lined up Manager Paul Richards and business manager Rudie Schaffer and the three of them marched on to the Comiskey Park field as the drummer, fife player and flag carrier from the Revolutionary War. (After all it was the Bicentennial Year). Wilbur Wood threw one of his last good games for the team in shutting out Kansas City 4-0.

April 7, 1977 - The ‘Southside Hitmen’ were born in a snowstorm as major league baseball came to Canada. The expansion Blue Jays would win the game 9-5 but the Sox banged out fifteen hits. That season would prove to be one of the best loved in team history as the group of castoffs, has - been’s and injured players would batter the baseball to the tune of 90 wins by season’s end.

April 10, 1981 - It was Opening Day for new Sox owners Jerry Reinsdorf and Eddie Einhorn and it was a magical moment for newly signed free agent catcher Carlton Fisk. The future Hall of Famer returned to Boston and belted a three run home run off Bob Stanley to get his revenge in a Sox 5-3 win. The hit came in the 8th inning.

April 11, 1982 - A raging snowstorm cost the White Sox an Opening Day crowd of fifty thousand and forced them to open the season in New York with a double header. Like in 1971 the Sox won both, beating the Yankees 7-6 in twelve and 2-0. The Sox would go on to set the franchise record by winning their first eight games of the season.

April 4, 1983 - The same night North Carolina State was upsetting Houston in the NCAA basketball tournament, the Sox opened their championship season dropping a 5-3 game to Texas. The Sox scored three times in the top of the first but were handcuffed after that. Errors by rookies Scott Fletcher and Greg Walker were costly to LaMarr Hoyt. The Sox would drop all three games to the Rangers but still rebounded to win 99 games and win the division by a record twenty games.

April 9, 1985 - For future Hall of Famer Tom Seaver, it was his record 14th Opening Day start. For Ozzie Guillen it was his debut in the major leagues. The two of them combined to help the Sox beat Milwaukee 4-2 at County Stadium.

April 4, 1988 - Future Sox General Manager Kenny Williams was still trying to make his way in the big leagues when he had his ‘one shining moment.’ Williams connected on a Mike Witt pitch driving it into the upper deck in the 5th inning on Opening Day. The blast with a man on gave the Sox a 3-2 lead in a game they’d go on to win over the Angels 8-5.

April 9, 1990 - It was the last Opening Day in the original Comiskey Park and the Sox celebrated with a 2-1 win over the Brewers. Melido Perez and Bobby Thigpen combined to hold Milwaukee to only four hits. The win was the first of 94 for the club which became known as the team that was always ‘doin’ the little things.’

April 8, 1991 - It was the final Opening Day for Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. The Sox spoiled the Orioles party however by cruising to a 9-1 win. Sammy Sosa had his best day as a member of the Sox, hitting two home runs and driving in five RBI’s. It was the first of six straight wins to open the season for the club.

April 6, 1993 - The championship season began with a night game in Minnesota and a big 10-5 win over the Twins. Tim Raines would knock in three runs on the night. The Sox would wind up winning the division and compiling 93 victories.

April 4, 1994 - The bittersweet shortened season started in Canada with a rematch of the 1993 A.L.C.S. It was Toronto winning this Opening Day 7-3 blasting Jack McDowell, the reigning Cy Young Award winner, just as they did twice in the post season the year before. But by August 11th the Sox were rolling on all cylinders. That’s when the season came to a staggering end because of the labor impasse between the MLBPA and the owners. At the time of the shut down, the Sox were leading the division and had the 3rd best record in baseball.

April 3, 2000 - The unexpected championship season didn’t start off promising. The Sox were buried in Texas 10-4. They’d lose the next day as well 12-8. But by the end of the month the Sox set the major league record for most runs scored in April and ‘The Kids Can Play,’ were on their way to a league leading 95 wins and a divisional title.

April 5, 2004 - New Manager Ozzie Guillen figured he had his debut game all wrapped up as the Sox took a 7-3 lead into the 9th inning. Twenty minutes later Kansas City scored six runs to take the game 9-7. The amazing rally set the modern record for the most runs scored in the 9th inning to win a game on Opening Day.

April 4, 2005 - ????? Play Ball!


Editor's Note: Mark Liptak is an experienced sports journalist, holding several awards for both his electronic and print media work. He has held numerous sports reporting positions for various TV and newspaper organizations, including Director of Sports for KNOE-TV (Monroe, Louisiana) and KPVI-TV (Pocatello, Idaho), and sports writer for the Idaho Falls Free Press, where his column "Lip Service" has appeared for for a number of years. "Lip", his wife, and cats presently live in Chubbuck, Idaho, where they collectively comprise 100 percent of the Pocatello River Valley's long-time Sox Fan population.

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