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In honor of actor Andy Garcia and his (unintentionally) hilarious reaction to Sofia (Mary Corleone) Coppola's death scene in "The Godfather, Part III."
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1974 offseason

Posted 01-29-2018 at 08:35 PM by TommyJohn
Updated 07-05-2018 at 08:33 PM by TommyJohn

The White Sox had power enough to go around this season. They hit 135 home runs to lead the American league for the first time in their history. Dick Allen hit 32 to lead the team and league, his second AL Home Run Crown in three years, despite hitting his last home run on August 16 and playing his last game on September 8. Allen also sported 88 RBI and a .301 average.

Bill Melton overcame his midseason slump to hit 21 home runs and bat .242. Ken Henderson came back from his knee injury very nicely, playing in 162 games and garnering 20 home runs and 95 RBI. Carlos May hit a slump, following up his All-Star season with only 8 HR, 58 RBI and a .249 average.

Jorge Orta was a breakout star in 1974, his .316 average was good for second in the AL behind Rod Carew. Bucky Dent hit .274, had a .972 fielding percentage and finished second in AL Rookie of the Year balloting. Brian Downing saw action in the outfield and behind the plate. He hit .225 but showed potential by hitting 10 home runs.

Pitching was a mix of good and bad, despite the presence of two 20 game winners on the staff. Wilbur Wood (20-19, 3.60 ERA) was streaky, while Jim Kaat (21-13, 2.92) started out poorly before putting it together.

Bart Johnson, once sarcastically proclaimed "Rookie of the Year five years running" looked like he finally put it all together. In 18 starts he went 10-4 with a 2.73 ERA.

The relief corps had its up and downs as well. Terry Forster won AL Fireman of the Year honors by leading the league with 24 saves, but also blew his share of leads and went 7-8. Rich Gossage still had a blazing fastball, but went 4-6 with a 4.15 ERA. Skip Pitlock had a 4.42 ERA. Cy Acosta, who had great seasons in 1972-73, went 0-3 and was fatigued from being overworked during winter ball in the Mexican League. The team ERA was 3.94, 11th in the 12 team league.

The mediocre 1974 Sox did manage to draw 1,149,596. While they managed to break the million mark for the third year in a row, it was a decrease from the previous year. It also marked the first time since 1970 that the team drew fewer fans than the year before.

One piece of news that kept the Sox in the headlines was the job status of Harry Caray. The brash announcer's contract had expired at season's end, and word on the street was that Roland Hemond and Chuck Tanner were leaning on management not to renew it. "The Sunshine Boys" may have been able to force Stu Holcomb out, but even they were no match for the force of nature that was Harry Caray. The announcer was renewed with a healthy raise.

Unable to force Caray out, Hemond-Tanner turned their attentions to Harry's equally critical sidekick Rob Waller. Waller had learned well from the master, and on the last day of the season infuriated Tanner with his tough, no-nonsense questions during a live TV interview. Tanner had angrily stormed off, leaving Waller to fill in the airtime on his own, which he did by answering his own highly critical questions. Their pressure in this instance succeeded. Waller was not renewed for 1975, leaving the job of "Harry's Sidekick" once again open.

Speculation continued to swirl around Dick Allen and whether or not he would return for the next season. In November Dick decided that he indeed would come back to the south side in 1975.

There was one hitch-John Allyn didn't want him back. Hemond shopped around for a buyer, but no teams were interested. Finally, in early December, Braves GM and ex-White Sox Eddie Robinson (like Allen a 1st baseman who had once held the single season team home run record) was willing to take a flyer on him. The Sox sent him to the Braves for some cash and a player to be named later-which some speculated might be knuckleballer Phil Niekro.

One week after the Allen trade, another star dropped off the map. Ron Santo called a press conference to be held in the offices of Torco Oil, where he worked in the Sales Department. The presser, held one year to the day of the big trade that sent him from north side to south side, saw Santo announce his retirement from baseball. Santo said he was tired of being treated like a "piece of furniture" by the Sox. He knew the end was near in late June when, in a game situation, Tanner lifted him for a pinch-hitter. That was it as far as Ronnie was concerned.

Santo had gone to the Sox with a smile on his face and a song in his heart, but quickly became disillusioned with Sox management. It started when he failed to beat out Bill Melton for the 3rd base job, forcing him to play out of position. He brooded about that. He also butted egos with Dick Allen. Allen saw Santo as an arrogant jerk and grew angry at his abuse of Jorge Orta. Santo saw Allen as a prima donna and would later describe an incident in which Allen, in the middle of a game, went to Tanner and told him he was tired, so Tanner slapped Allen on the butt and told him to take the rest of the night off. This wasn't revealed until years later. During the conference Ron said he had no problems with Allen.

Santo retired one year into a two year contract that was to pay him $123,000 a year. Later on he would boast of quitting and leaving all that money on the table, because his integrity was far more important. It also helped that the sales job with Torco paid him more than his baseball job.

Ron's retirement earned him a fawning article from the Tribune's Cubbie Fawner-in-Residence, Rick Talley, who showered Ron with praise for bringing "excitement" to Chicago.
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