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WSI News - WSI Spotlight



Into the Breech, Sox Fans!

And so another opening day is upon us. (Or Opening Day! depending on how you feel about it.) The Sox and their fans prepare to jump into the ocean of the new season. Whether or not the Sox sink or swim, won’t be decided for a few months at least, but yours truly will be celebrating Opening Day just the same.

The routine is always the same, Terry Cashman’s "Willie, Mickey & The Duke" followed by John Fogerty’s "Centerfield" on the stereo, then it’s time to turn on the TV and the satellite and get ready to watch a half dozen games.

As is often the case, I go back in time to other Opening Day’s, other memories and wonder where the time went.....

On Opening Day 1970, I was in high school (Brother Rice) sneaking listens between classes. Less then 12,000 fans showed up as Tommy John and the Sox got hammered by the Twins 12-0. If you thought the Sox teams of the late 70's were bad, you should have seen this putrid bunch!

I was at the home opener in 1971. The Sox won an Opening Day doubleheader in Oakland and I skipped school to go out to the park, along with 43,000 of my closest friends. Rich McKinney had the game winning hit in the 9th. The Sox beat the Twins 3-2 and all was right in the world.

The 1972 home opener turned out to be a night game due to the labor situation delaying the start of the year. I remember watching Dick Allen drill the Rangers and Bill Gogolewski (love that name!) 14-0. It was the start of quite a summer.

So in 1973, I decided to skip school again and go out to the home opener. The Sox opened the year with a win at Texas then came back to meet the A’s. The day was brutally cold and so were the Sox as they lost 12-2. It wasn’t a total loss though. Before the game "Catfish" Hunter and Reggie Jackson were playing catch right below the right field stands, so me and my friends yelled out "hello" to Reggie. Jackson looked up, winked and walked over to the wall to say hello to us.

By 1974 it was off to college (Kentucky) and Opening Day wasn’t the same. Remember this was before the Internet, before cable TV, before satellites. In short, news was hard to come by. All you could do was turn on the radio and hope the local stations would give you the scores To this day I still remember the nervousness, the excitement, the anticipation of wondering what was going on and were the Sox winning.

Before you know it, time passed. It was the 80's and I was working at KNOE-TV. I took some vacation time and drove out to Dallas to see the Sox open the 1983 season with the Rangers. This time it was a little different. I was in the working press and got down on the field to interview Tony LaRussa. I saw guys like Fisk, Baines and Luzinski take batting practice. The Sox scored three runs in the 1st inning.....then were shut out the rest of the way and lost 5-3. Little did anybody know what was to happen starting around mid May.

I think about other times, like the1985 home opener, watching off the satellite as the Red Sox broadcasters talked about Fisk’s 1st inning home run that started the Sox off to an 8-1 win...or when Kenny Williams (yes, THAT Kenny Williams) had has one moment in the sun for the Sox on Opening Day 1988. Williams hit an upper deck blast off Mike Witt helping the Sox win 8-5.....in 1990 it was the last Opening Day at Old Comiskey Park. I watched on WGN as Scott Fletcher’s sacrifice fly was the difference in a 2-1 win. That was the last time the Sox ever opened the season at home.

The 90's brought Slammin’ Sammy Sosa’s two shots off the Orioles Jeff Ballard as the Sox opened the 1991 season beating the Birds in the last home opener at Memorial Stadium. The Sox opened that year winning six in a row. Jack McDowell was on the mound for three straight Opening Day’s in 92, 93 and 94 winning twice.....ahhh 1993 and 1994... very sweet seasons!

But a lot has happened since then. You get older, jobs change, dreams ends. You go through an owner forced labor situation that destroys a season, you have the "White Flag" embarrassment, you rejoice over an unexpected divisional championship, then see the Sox go down in flames again when it counts. But the siren song of baseball keeps calling you back and you can’t resist.

Whether you are a Sox "optimist" who feels that the hitting can overcome anything, even porous defense and bad pitching.....

Whether you are a Sox "pessimist" who feels that if Tatum O’Neal wanted to reprise her pitching role from the "Bad News Bears" she could probably do it with the Sox...

Or if you are a Sox "realist" who sees this quote from Bud Selig and knows that even if the Sox do make it to October, it’ll be another short stay, courtesy of current ownership....

"The record is clear. From 1995 through 2001, a total of 224 MLB postseason games were played. Only five were won by clubs whose payrolls were in the lower half of the industry. None advanced past the Division Series, and no team, other than those whose payrolls are in the top fourth of payroll, has won a World Series game during this period. The seven-year postseason record is 219-5 in favor of the high payroll teams"

Regardless of your beliefs, we can ALL agree on one thing.....thank the lucky stars for baseball, for Opening Day and for the Chicago White Sox.

As always your comments, thoughts or questions are welcome. E-mail me at mliptak1@ida.net


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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