View Full Version : 1972 Season Remembered

Lip Man 1
07-15-2012, 08:15 PM
If you read the earlier story wrapping up the 1972 celebration you know that there was a second story to go along with it. Here is that story…a review of the highlights of the 1972 season:

1972 Year In Review -- (Part 1)
“Oh what a season it was…”

By Mark Liptak
White Sox Interactive

The White Sox opened the 1972 season after a labor impasse delayed the start of the year, in Kansas City. Dick Allen’s long blast in the 9th inning on opening day gave the Sox a 1-0 lead but they couldn’t hold it and lost 2-1 in 11 innings. In fact the Sox lost the entire three game series, all by one run and two in extra innings. Sox closer Bart Johnson suffered two of the losses and was ineffective because of a knee injury. “I hurt my right knee the off season playing basketball. I immediately told the Sox about it and they examined me and said the knee was basically OK but I did tear some cartilage. When I went out to pitch I just couldn’t push off it. They wound up operating on my knee that September.”

The Sox home opener wasn’t played until April 18th against the new Texas Rangers. It was also the first night home opener in franchise history. Allen received a warm welcome which turned into a standing ovation after going 2 for 3 with three runs scored and two RBI’s in the Sox 14-0 win. Allen said after the game, “I think I’m going to like it here.” Carlos May had quite a night with six RBI’s. It was the start of a seven game winning streak.

By May 21st the Sox were fighting for first place and capped off a double header sweep of the Angels 9-8 thanks to a two out, three run, 9th inning home run from May off Alan Foster. It pushed the Sox to an 18-10 record and they were 16-2 at Comiskey Park. The home run was sweet for May because of something that happened a few years before. ”I knew Foster from spring training because he was with the Dodgers for a few years. One time in the spring he jammed me with a pitch and broke my bat. Then he said to me ‘did you get all of that?’ I didn’t say anything to him but swore that I’d get him some day.”

June 4th was one of the most memorable days in franchise history. The Sox had already won the first game against the Yankees behind Tom Bradley 6-1 and were going for the sweep in the second game. Allen, who had played every inning of every previous game, was held out by manager Chuck Tanner to give him a rest. Tanner joked to the media between games that Allen would come off the bench to win the game with a home run. With two out and two on in the 9th inning, and the Sox trailing 4-2, Allen came up as a pinch hitter. A bat day crowd of over 51-thousand waited. On the third pitch from Sparky Lyle, Allen hammered a drive into the lower deck in left field winning the game 5-4 and sending the crowd into a frenzy. Tanner later remarked, “after the game, after the home run, the fans were so loud, so excited, that you could feel the locker room shake from the vibrations. I’ve never seen that before in my life. When I was in the locker room I looked at Dick and got chills, I still do thinking about it.”

All was not right with the Sox however. 1971 American League home run king Bill Melton was struggling due to a lower back injury suffered the previous off season at his home. The Sox tried everything to remedy the situation including injections made from the extract of papayas in an effort to relieve the pain he was suffering to no avail. He was put on the disabled list in late June. Roland Hemond, the Sox director of player personnel, reached out and got Joliet native Ed Spiezio from the Padres to try to fill Melton’s shoes. Spiezio proved to be a most capable replacement.

On July 23rd right before the All Star Break and the Sox trailing the red hot A’s by over six games, May struck again. This time he blasted a 9th inning game winning home run off future Sox pitcher and broadcaster Ed Farmer, then with Cleveland. The Sox won the nightcap 4-3 after winning the opening game 2-1. They were still in the race.

Allen received the most votes from the fans and started at 1st base in the All Star Game in Atlanta, won by the National League 4-3 in 10 innings. He was joined on the team by Wilbur Wood and May.


Lip Man 1
07-15-2012, 08:17 PM
(Part 2)

After the break the Sox resumed their chase of Oakland. On July 31st at Minnesota, Allen did something that had only been done by a handful of players before that in all the history of the game. Off future Hall of Fame pitcher Bert Blyleven, Allen hit not one, but two… inside the park home runs in the same game. The first went to right center, the second to left center… he raced around the bases both times driving in five runs in the Sox 8-1 win. Allen’s speed was something many fans forgot about when talking about him. That season he stole 19 bases. That game propelled the Sox to a stretch where they won eight of nine before heading into a showdown series in Oakland for the Western Division lead.

That four game series may have been the single greatest series played between two clubs in the entire decade. It featured everything you could want in baseball… tight games, great pitching, timely hitting, extra innings and unexpected heroes.

The series began on a Thursday night with a game that wound up being suspended due to curfew tied at three after 17 innings. It was picked up on Friday and would go 19 innings before the Sox lost 5-3 on a two run home run from Joe Rudi. In the regularly scheduled game, Cub castoff Dave Lemonds and Cy Acosta would out duel "Catfish" Hunter tossing a two hit shutout and winning 1-0.

The Saturday game saw Wilbur Wood take a one hit shutout into the last of the 9th inning. With two outs Brant Alyea would hit a home run tying the game at one. The Sox would win the game in extra innings 3-1 on a dramatic two run home run by Melton’s replacement, Spiezio off Rollie Fingers,putting them into first place. On the radio Harry Caray started singing, “the White Sox are coming tra-la-la-la...” It hadn’t happened since 1967 that the Sox were in the top spot this late in the season. Wood would get his 20th win of the season going all 11 innings that afternoon. The Sunday game then saw Vida Blue shut out the Sox 3-0 for a series split.

“After that suspended Friday game I met an old friend of mine, Dave Duncan, who was a catcher with the A’s. I’d known him since high school,” remembered Sox catcher Ed Herrmann. “We were talking and I still remember him saying ‘the winner of this series is going to win the league.’ He was right; the A’s had the lead and hung on to it. What we really needed was a sweep or to take three of four. We expended a lot of emotion just to get a split. That really drained us. We battled them. We didn’t have the talent that they did but we played hard and Chuck Tanner was right there with us."

The Sox still had a few final tricks up their sleeves though. On August 20th in the first game of a twin bill with Boston, they’d score four times in the 9th to come from behind and win 9-7. Pat Kelly’s two run, three run home run won it off Marty Pattin.

Then Allen laid claim to one, final thrilling moment in a memorable season. On August 23rd in the 7th inning of a game against the Yankees, Dick hammered a ball into the original bleachers at Comiskey Park, becoming the first Sox player to ever reach the seats below the scoreboard. History shows only two Sox players ever would do this before the park was closed, Richie Zisk being the other, in another memorable season, 1977.

Allen’s blast fell about five yards short from being caught by announcer Harry Caray in his net in the center field bleacher seats. Every Wednesday afternoon of a home stand Caray would broadcast from the bleachers and he’d often joke about someday grabbing a ball in the net from that location. Little did he dream he’d almost really do it.

Pitcher Stan Bahnsen would win his 20th game of the season, beating Texas on September 22nd and the Sox closed the year winning 87 games, one more than Eastern Division champion Detroit, but the A’s would finish with 93 wins and the Sox would have to settle for second place. They drew 1,186,018 and became financially solvent again. They were also almost unbeatable at home going 55-23.

In the postseason the Sox cleaned up on individual awards.

Tanner was named the American League Manager of the Year by every major organization. The Sporting News named Allen and Wood to their All Star Team comprised of the best players from either league and gave Wood their Pitcher of the Year honor. Hemond garnered the Executive of the Year Award and finally Allen was named the American League Most Valuable Player on November 16th. After accomplishing one of the greatest individual seasons in franchise history and barely missing the Triple Crown, the Baseball Writers Association of America had to give him the award.

Allen led the league with 37 home runs, 113 RBI’s, a .603 slugging percentage and 99 walks. He led the Sox with a .308 batting average, drove in 19 game winning runs, stole 19 bases, scored 90 runs and was only .0005 points shy of leading all A.L. first basemen in fielding. Allen claimed 21 of 24 first place votes for 321 points. Joe Rudi was second with 164 points.

Oh what a season it was!


07-15-2012, 09:21 PM
My favorite White Sox season, other than 2005, of course. Thanks again for posting this, Lip!