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WSI News - Season Features

Sox of the Wild 70's!

Part Three.
Expect the Unexpected: A Sox History.

by Mark Liptak

In Part One, we reviewed the first fifty years of unexpected Sox history.  Next in Part Two, we recounted the glorious and near-glorious Go-Go era, 1950-1967.  Now it's time to revisit the wild years of Sox baseball through the 1970's and the second coming of Bill Veeck!

So join me as we go down a little traveled road, a highway if you will. I’ll be your guide but first we have to give a big tip of the 1959 White Sox cap to Sox historian Rich Lindberg, author of "Who’s On 3rd?" and "The White Sox Encyclopedia".  Additional inspiration came from the work of Sox author Bob Vanderberg, including "'59: Summer of the Sox" and "Minnie and the Mick".

   1969 Season- The Sox install Astroturf but only on the infield portion of Comiskey Park. Noone seems to know why they did it in the first place.

    August 11, 1969- Promising Sox outfielder Carlos May loses part of his right thumb while serving with the Marine Reserves in California. A mortar misfired causing the accident. May would come back and have some very good years (especially 1972) but he was never the same.

    September 24 1969- Sox owner Art Allyn sells the club to his brother John thwarting moves made by Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt and Milwaukee’s "Bud" Selig (yes the same guy who’s now commissioner) to buy the team. Hunt wanted to move it to Dallas, Selig to Milwaukee.

 

    February 13, 1970- Paul Edmondson, who pitched a two hitter in his debut with the Sox in 1969, is killed in a car crash in California.

    May 31, 1970- The Sox in the midst of a dismal and embarrassing season, maul the Red Sox 22-13. The victim of this uprising? None other then 60's Sox mainstay, Gary Peters.

    July 19, 1970- Luis Aparicio Day is staged at Comiskey Park.

    September 21, 1970- For the first time in 69 seasons, the Sox finally have a 30 home run man. Bill Melton gets an upper deck shot for the most Sox home runs in a season. That same day Luis Aparicio gets his final hit in a Sox uniform. 672 fans are on hand to see it!

    1971 Season- The Sox have lost their radio contract because of three dismal seasons. Finally they get two suburban stations to carry their games, WTAQ in LaGrange and WEAW Evanston. They are the only team in baseball without a radio station in their home city.

    April 7, 1971- The Sox become the first team in baseball history to win a double header on Opening Day. They beat the A’s in Oakland. During the second game, Carlos May hits a home run but is called out for failing to touch home plate!

    Memorial Day 1971- The Sox and Orioles split a double header but the big news is made when former Sox player Don Buford charged the mound carrying his bat, after a couple of close pitches from Bart Johnson. After umpires calmed down the combatants, Buford charged a fan along the first base line. When another fan jumped in to help, Buford’s teammates charged out of the dugout and attacked the fan.

    September 18, 1971- Carlos May pulls off one of the rarest baseball feats of all when he gets an inside the park grand slam against the Angels Tom Murphy. May a left handed hitter, sliced a drive down the left field line. California’s outfielder slammed his head diving for the ball which rolled into the corner. By the time the center fielder came over and threw it back home, everyone had scored. A personal favorite of mine because I was there to see it.

    September 30, 1971- When Bill Melton smashed a home run on the last day of the season off the Brewers Bill Parsons, he became the first Sox player to ever win a home run championship. Typically White Sox, he only had 33, the lowest total for a champ since 1965.

    June 4, 1972- In the second game of a double header with the Yankees, Dick Allen smashes a pinch hit three run homer off Sparky Lyle. The Sox sweep, before 50,000+ fans. It’s the largest home crowd since the 1950's and yours truly was one of those in attendance.

    June 24, 1972- Behind the inspired play of Dick Allen, Wilbur Wood, Stan Bahnsen, Terry Forster and Carlos May, the Sox are in the middle of a pennant chase when the bizarre injury curse struck again. Bill Melton fell off a ladder damaging his back. The reason he was on the ladder? Somehow his son got caught on the garage roof! Melton missed the rest of the season.

    July 31, 1972- Another baseball rarity! Dick Allen’s magical season continued with two inside the park home runs in a single game. That tied the Major League record. It was set in Minnesota at old Metropolitan Stadium as the Sox beat Bert Blyleven 8 - 1.

    August 23, 1972- Allen would make history again on this day. He slammed a pitch from the Yankees Lindy McDaniel into the center field bleachers directly under the scoreboard at Old Comiskey Park. Sox announcer Harry Caray, who was broadcasting the game from that area nearly caught the ball in his fishing net which he kept with him for just such an occasion. Another personal favorite of mine because I was at this game. The Sox would win it 5 - 2.

    May 20, 1973- Over 55,000 fans pack Comiskey Park to see the Sox play the Twins in a double header. It’s the largest crowd in that stadium’s history.

 

    May 28, 1973- Sox pitcher Wilbur Wood runs his record to 13-3 (before June 1st!) after winning two games in one night against the Indians. Wood threw five innings in the first game which was the completion of a suspended contest from the previous week. He then pitched the regularly scheduled contest. All told, Wood threw 14 innings allowing one run and six hits.

    June 21, 1973- Sox pitcher Stan Bahnsen throws one of the strangest shutouts in baseball history. Bahnsen beat the A’s 2-0. He allowed 12 hits and a walk in the process.

    June 28, 1973- The ill fortune of the team really came into focus, as by the time the summer ended, a team that was in first place for two months wound up placing 38 names on the injured list! Among the key injuries were Ken Henderson tearing up his knee sliding into home plate, Bill Melton suffering a groin injury, Carlos May with a bad hamstring, Brian Downing wrenching his knee on his first major league play, catching a foul pop up and Pat Kelly having a bad back. But the most damming injury occurred in Anaheim on the day listed above. Dick Allen suffered a broken leg when Mike Epstein crashed into him on a play at first. Here’s where it really gets strange.....the injury took place just a little over ten years since Sox first baseman Joe Cunningham suffered his broken leg against the same team on the same type of play!

    August 21, 1973- Fate again intervenes in Bahnsen’s life. He takes a no hitter into the 9th inning against Cleveland. After getting the first two outs, former Sox Walt Williams gets a ground single to left past Bill Melton. I still remember watching this game because I went off to the University of Kentucky the next morning to start college and this was the last Sox game I saw for a long time.

    June 7, 1974- During a game against the Red Sox, a fire breaks out at Comiskey Park. It started in the main commissary under the right field stands. Several thousand fans are forced to go on the field for safety reasons but they leave the field in great shape without any damage.

    September 14, 1974- Dick Allen tells his teammates in a tearful statement that he is leaving the Sox and retiring from baseball. Allen would later say it was a misunderstanding and that he wanted to return but by that time the Sox had had enough and traded him to the Braves for catcher Jim Essian.

    August 29, 1975- Outfielder Ken Henderson becomes the first Sox player to hit a home run from both sides of the plate in the same game. Ross Grimsley and Wayne Garland are the victims at Baltimore.

    October 1, 1975- Owner John Allyn appears on Johnny Morris’ sports on WBBM-TV. While talking about the pending sale of the club he says if he does own the team in 1976, Harry Caray won’t be back. Allyn is tired of Caray and wants to fire him. The next day Caray has this retort, " I can’t believe any man can own a ballclub and be as dumb as John Allyn. Did he make enough to own it or did he inherit it?"

    December 10, 1975- After at first voting down the sale of the Sox to Bill Veeck, American League owners reconsider and allow the team to be sold rather then moved to Seattle. Sports Illustrated has Veeck on the cover with the caption "baseball couldn’t shut him out."

    May 9, 1976- Sox pitcher Wilbur Wood’s career is basically ended when he suffers a broken kneecap after the Tigers Ron LeFlore lines a shot off it.

    May 26, 1976- Eight days after being acquired in a trade, Sox pitcher Ken Brett nearly throws a perfect game. Brett retires the first 26 California players before Jerry Remy hits a slow ground ball to Jorge Orta. The ball rolls under his glove and the official scorer rules it a hit instead of an error. The Sox won the game, their tenth in a row.

    July 28, 1976- John "Blue Moon" Odom and Francisco Barrios combine to throw a no hitter against the A’s in Oakland. The Sox win it 2-1.

    March 1977- The Sox deal "Bucky" Dent to the Yankees for Oscar Gamble, LaMarr Hoyt and Bob Polinsky. New York manager Billy Martin also wanted to deal Ron Guidry as part of the trade but was overruled by Yankees G.M. Gabe Paul.

    April 7, 1977- The Sox open the season in Toronto becoming the first Major League team to play a recognized game outside the continental U.S. They lose 9-5 leaving nineteen men on base.

    1977 season- Housewife Mary Shane becomes the first female baseball announcer in history when she does Sox games on WMAQ radio. She doesn’t last long.

    May 14, 1977- The Sox play the Cleveland Indians in a game that starts at 10:30 AM. It’s part of a promotion with McDonalds to unveil the "Egg McMuffin" breakfast sandwich. Jim Spencer must have liked the early game as he drove in eight runs in the 18-2 win.

    June 19, 1977- Wilbur Wood throws his last good game for the Sox as he beat the A’s 2-1. Lamar Johnson does everything in this contest. Johnson’s two homers are the only Sox hits on the day. Oh yes, he also sang the National Anthem beforehand.

    July 2, 1977- With first place at stake, the Sox beat the Twins 13-8. Spencer becomes the first Sox player to ever drive in eight runs twice in a season.

    August 5, 1977- In the first game of a key series with the Royals, pitcher Bart Johnson and Royals catcher Darrell Porter get into a shoving match along the first base line in the 3rd inning. In the 6th inning when Porter is coming up to bat, Johnson yells out "do you want it now?" and another brawl takes place.

    July 12, 1979- "Disco Demolition" when the Sox were made the laughingstock of the baseball world. Thank you Steve Dahl!

    June 20, 1980- Tigers outfielder (and recently deceased) Al Cowens attacks Sox relief pitcher Ed Farmer. In the 11th inning of a game at Comiskey Park, Cowens ran towards Farmer after hitting a ground ball. One year earlier Farmer broke his jaw when he was pitching for Texas. Chicago police went looking for Cowens after the game willing to press assault charges.Farmer is now the radio color commentator on Sox games.

    July 2, 1980- Sox radio announcer Jimmy Piersall attacked Daily Herald sportswriter Rob Gallas after Gallas wrote a story speculating why Piersall was fired as a part time Sox coach. Spectators had to physically jump in and pull Piersall away. At the time Piersall was choking Gallas. Yes, this is the same Rob Gallas who would become the Sox Marketing Director responsible for Turn Back The Clock Day, Beatles night, Elvis night and Dog Day Afternoon.

    July 16, 1980- Bill Veeck’s ownership syndicate accepts offers to buy the White Sox. Harry Caray is one of those expressing interest along with San Francisco 49'ers owner Edward DeBartolo.

    August 22, 1980- Veeck agrees to sell the team to DeBartolo.

    December 11, 1980- Under pressure from then commissioner Bowie Kuhn, baseball owners refuse to approve the sale of the Sox to DeBartolo citing "horse racing interests." left unsaid is a belief that DeBartolo also associates with "unsavory underworld individuals." In one of the great "what if’s" in Sox history, DeBartolo and his son then pour all of their resources into the 49'ers turning them into the "team of the 80's" with Super Bowl Championships galore.

Coming Next:

The Reinsdorf Years!


As always comments, questions or insults are always welcomed. Contact me at mliptak1@ida.net

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