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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

'72 Celebration Recap

By Mark Liptak

“I want to thank the Chicago Baseball Museum, the White Sox and the fans of Chicago from the bottom of my heart for the last few days for doing this for me and my family,” with those words Dick Allen concluded his talk at the end of the celebration for him and his 1972 teammates at the Stadium Club at U.S. Cellular Field on Monday night June 25th.


Allen, Melton and Gossage exchanged greetings with their caricatures who race each other around U.S. Cellular Field.

Allen’s speech capped off two plus days of activities and functions although for Dr. David Fletcher and his staff at the Chicago Baseball Museum, those two days were the culmination of work that actually started five years ago. 

It was at that time when Dr. Fletcher decided that Allen and his teammates never got their due for "saving" the White Sox franchise, making them financially stable again and for putting the Sox back on the map in Chicago.

 

“We started working with Howie Bedell, Dick’s former teammate and agent and Dick’s wife,” said Dr. Fletcher. “We thought if we could convince them both that we really wanted to do this and that we were serious about it, that they could convince Dick about the fact that it would give him and his teammates some much deserved recognition.”

 

Allen actually came into Chicago a few weeks before the ceremonies to hold a press conference and talk about his days with the Sox from 1972 through the 1974 seasons. It was clear that his time in Chicago still resonated with him. “I wish it would have been possible for me to start and finish my career here. I loved my time in Chicago, the fans were great to me and I really enjoyed being around my teammates,” he said.

 

Allen and his family along with the members of the Chicago Baseball Museum staff and some of his former teammates arrived in Chicago that Saturday. On Sunday many of them went to U.S. Cellular Field where the Sox gave Dick and Hank Allen, Bart Johnson, Bill Melton, “Goose” Gossage and Ed Spiezio replica jerseys from their days in 1972. All converged at home plate before the start of the Brewers – White Sox game for photos, then Allen threw a hard strike for the ceremonial first pitch before the Sox would go on to beat Milwaukee 1-0 in 10 innings.


Goose Gossage signs for fans during an autograph session at "94 West."

The players and the CBM entourage watched the game from one of the skyboxes. After the game everyone went to “94 West” in Orland Park for an autograph signing session with fans. Dick and Hank Allen, Gossage, Johnson and then Director of Player Personnel Roland Hemond signed cards, photos, bats, jerseys and helmets for about an hour before a crowd that seemed sincerely glad to see those players back on the South Side. Then everyone had dinner at the same location where the talk and the stories flowed freely from the three Allen brothers (Rod who also had 13 at bats in the major leagues but never played for the White Sox was also on the trip), Hemond and Gossage.

 

Hank Allen especially had some great stories from when he was with the Senators under Ted Williams and how good of a manager he was and how happy he was on the trade to the White Sox. “I had been with a losing club that had some issues but to come to the White Sox, a winning team and to see how all of these guys got along was very, very special. I used to talk all the time with Dick and he always used to give me heck for being with a bad team…he used to call them “the Nasty Nats…” (short for Nationals which was the slang name for the Senators at that time.)

The highlight Monday was the actual banquet / celebration honoring Allen and his teammates at the Stadium Club. White Sox front office staff members Lou Hernandez and Jeff Szynal helped with this and the entire ceremony was taped for posterity.

 

A crowd of almost 300 fans, members of the Chicago media (Ed Sherman, Scott Merkin and Tom Shaer), Billy Pierce and other distinguished guests were on hand for it with proceeds going to help support the establishment of the Chicago Baseball Museum at a permanent location. 

 

Before the program began fans had the chance to meet and mix with many of the 1972 team members who were on hand…the Allen brothers, Melton, Carlos May, Tom Bradley, Spiezio, Gossage and Pierce all did another round of signings and stories. Melton who had to leave early because of his duties with Comcast Sports Chicago addressed the crowd and spoke about what Dick Allen and the late Sox manager, Chuck Tanner, meant to him and that team. Hemond also gave his thoughts on Tanner who was his close friend and confidant for over 40 years.


Roland Hemond interviewed before autograph session at "94 West."


Hank Allen and Roland Hemond get ready to sign items at "94 West."


Goose Gossage signing autographs before banquet at the Stadium Club in U.S. Cellular Field.


Dick Allen and WSI's Mark Liptak during banquet at the Stadium Club in U.S. Cellular Field.


Dick Allen's 1972 A.L. MVP Award. 

Paul Ladewski of the Chicago Baseball Museum opened the program by welcoming everyone and introduced the “first lady of the White Sox,” longtime organist Nancy Faust who graciously was on hand playing for the fans like she used to do for 40 years at Comiskey Park and at U.S. Cellular Field. 

Sun-Times columnist, WLS radio personality and long time Sox fan Richard Roeper was next and he made mention of the distinguished guests who were on hand from players to politicians in the audience. Roeper also read a passage from his book, “Sox and the City,” setting the stage for yours truly, who was an invited guest of the CBM.

 

I spoke for about 20 minutes setting the stage from a historical standpoint for the 1972 White Sox, how they came to be in the position they were in and why what they did ultimately “saved” the franchise for Chicago and South Side fans. I really appreciated it after the banquet when numerous people, including some in the media, came up to me and said how much they enjoyed the talk.

 

I introduced Roland Hemond, the man who put together the 72, 77 and 83 clubs. I asked him if he ever got a certificate or a plaque from major league baseball when he won the 1972 Executive of the Year Award. Roland said he didn’t, that the only way he found out that he won was when The Sporting News announced it happened before the start of the winter meetings. The fact that I asked him that question wasn’t an accident, we knew he didn’t get anything but the Chicago Baseball Museum had an award made for him, which Ladewski presented to him. Roland and his wife Margo were genuinely surprised by the gesture.

 

When Roland then spoke about that season he got emotional from time to time thinking back on those days and how it all came to be. Roland mentioned that when trade discussions with the Dodgers began to try to get Dick, the Dodgers wanted pitchers Tommy John and Terry Forster. Hemond told the Dodgers, “you might get John but you won’t get Forster…”

After Roland finished his remarks it was time for the 7th inning stretch as Faust played the traditional baseball song to the crowd. They joined in, including Dick Allen who asked for the mic so he could sing along.

 

Roeper came on stage again and announced that the CBM had put together a video of Dick’s years with the Sox. The video lasted about seven minutes and included the actual WFLD-TV footage of Dick’s two inside the park home runs in the same game at Minnesota on July 31, 1972, the Yankee radio call of his famous pinch hit ‘chili dog’ home run on June 4, 1972 and Harry Caray’s radio call of his center field bleacher shot home run on August 23, 1972.            

 

“Goose” Gossage then took the podium to talk about “the best player I ever saw.” Gossage related how Allen took him under his wing, taught him how to be a big leaguer and gave him advice on how best to pitch to hitters. “I was scared to pitch inside,” Goose said. “Dick told me that I’ve had to start throwing inside at hitters hands and then work up the strike zone. I said ‘but I might kill someone if I hit them in the head!’ Dick looked at me and said, ‘c’est la vie…”  Dick later told me that story was true, “it was the first French that Goose learned!” Goose also told of the emotional impact he felt when Allen and Chuck Tanner drove from Pennsylvania to Cooperstown for his Hall of Fame induction. “I can’t tell you how much that meant to me, to have them do that when Chuck wasn’t feeling well. I’ll never forget that moment. I had no idea they were coming.”

 

Goose also reminded the audience during his talk, "remember I played with Reggie Jackson...and I can tell you Reggie was full of shit compared to this man...as he pointed at Allen.

 

After Nancy Faust played the theme from the early 70’s musical, “Jesus Christ Superstar” (which she’d played as Allen was getting into the batters box) Dick stepped up and talked to his fans and supports. Allen’s remarks were heartfelt and rang true as he talked about his years in Chicago, about his relationship with Hemond and Tanner, how that young 72 White Sox team came together and how pleased he was that the team did well enough to keep the franchise in Chicago.

 

Dick said he was deeply touched by what had happened over the past two days and again thanked everyone for the kindness shown to him and his family.

Dr. David Fletcher from the Chicago Baseball Museum then closed the event talking about how this was a labor of love and a long time coming for Allen and the 1972 club. Fletcher also talked on how the ultimate goal was to find a location so the museum could begin to take shape. Fletcher outlined some future events including this September when the Chicago Baseball Museum will put together a night honoring the Veeck family especially William Veeck Senior, the man who planted the ivy at Wrigley Field and who was the architect of Cub championships in the early part of the 20th century. After that the museum is going to put their weight behind Billy Pierce in an effort to get him into the Hall of Fame when the veterans committee next meets in 2014. 

Summing it all up for me, it was an incredible few days and I consider myself so fortunate to be asked to participate in this event. I was 16 in 1972, saw many of the exploits by Allen and his teammates personally and they left an indelible mark on me as a Sox fan. The Sox slogan that season, coined by outfielder Rick Reichardt was “outhouse to penthouse” and while the Sox didn’t get to the top floor, they came pretty damn close…a long way from being at the bottom.
 
POSTSCRIPT;
 
When it was all over, when everyone went back to the Palmer House for a last drink or two and a last round of stories I was off to the side with Tom Bradley and Goose Gossage and we talked pitching for 30 minutes or so. I asked the two former Sox stars who had the best arm of all the young players on that team back in the day. Bradley said it was Bart Johnson. Gossage swore that in his 22 years in the big leagues he never saw anybody have an arm like Sox relief pitcher Terry Forster. As I soaked it all in, just being around these guys talking baseball, Dick Allen joined us and gave me a hug. An incredible end to an incredible two days. 

 

 

 

 


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All comments and corrections (with source) are welcome. Please e-mail Mark at mliptak1@msn.com 


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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