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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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April 7,1977

Posted 04-20-2018 at 08:32 PM by TommyJohn
Updated 04-20-2018 at 08:48 PM by TommyJohn

April 7,1977
vs. Toronto Blue Jays
at Exhibition Stadium

Pessimism was the prevailing emotion as the Sox broke camp ready for the season. The Chicago writers were unanimous in agreement that the Sox would not be serious contenders. Robert Markus and Rick Talley even picked them to finish 7th and last, behind the expansion Seattle Mariners, who had yet to play a single game.

Bill Gleason, one of the few sportswriters in the city who actually cared about the Sox, was feeling the negative vibes as well. He wrote of one fan who was so depressed that he didn't want to go to Opening Day, despite having a fistful of tickets. Gleason picked the Sox to finish 5th.

One optimist was Sox pitcher Bart Johnson. As the team was closing up shop in spring training, Bart turned to a reporter and said "hey, we've got a pretty good team here." Sox fans immediately demanded to have some of what Bart was having.

The AL schedule makers decided that the White Sox would be the team to help kick off American League baseball north of the border. The Sox would be the first opponent in the history of the brand spanking new Toronto Blue Jays. The game would take place in Exhibition Stadium, home of the Canadian Football League's Toronto Argonauts. The stadium was built exclusively for football, and a baseball diamond was awkwardly shoehorned in. Bill Veeck cracked wise about bringing dog sleds.

As it turned out, he could've used them. Toronto was hit with a spring snow storm the day of the game, and the field had a thin blanket of snow covering it as the teams took the field to practice. Jack Brohamer made the most of it by attaching shin guards to his feet and using bats to pretend he was cross-country skiing. Game time temperature would come in at 32 degrees.

The Sox started the season with a bang. Ralph Garr led off the game with a walk, stole second, advanced to third on a throwing error, then scored on a sacrifice fly by Jorge Orta.

Richie Zisk then stepped up to the plate and blasted a Bill Singer pitch to straightaway center. The ball carried more than 400 feet into the stands for the first AL home run ever hit in Canada.

At this point Sox fans at home watching the game may have had a feeling that they had seen this type of thing before. If so, it wasn't deja vu. It was the second time in the decade that a slugger named Richie, who had starred for a National League team in Pennsylvania, came over to the White Sox and boomed a home run for his first American League hit. Like Richie Allen's shot against the Royals in 1972, it was also the team's first home run of the year, and pointed the way to a great season, although few, if any, people realized at just that moment.

Ken Brett went out in the 1st and promptly gave up the first home run in Blue Jay history to 1st baseman Doug Ault. It didn't seem to matter, though, as the Sox added two more in the 2nd on an RBI single by Alan Bannister, Bucky's replacement at shortstop, and a loud double by Zisk, his second hit and RBI of the game. The Sox led 4-1 and, despite leaving four runners stranded, seem poised to beat up on the baby Blue Jays.

Toronto had other ideas. They made it 4-2, then in the 3rd Ault smacked his 2nd home run, a two run shot that tied the game. The Sox, meanwhile, suddenly lost sight of home plate, leaving the bases loaded in the 3rd and 2 on in the 4th.

The Blue Jays took a 5-4 lead in the 4th, finishing Brett for the day. Francisco Barrios came on and in the 5th inning, gave up a home run to outfielder Gary Woods, the first one of his career.

Eric Soderholm drove a run across in the 6th to bring the score to 7-5, Blue Jays. Toronto added two more in the 8th to make it 9-5. Ex-Sox Pete Vukovich, whom they had stupidly left unprotected in the expansion draft, pitched the final two innings and set down the Sox for the save.

The frozen Sox walked off the field rather embarrassed. They had pounded out 15 hits but only had 5 runs to show for it. They left 19 runners stranded on the bases, one short of an AL record. Richie Zisk acquitted himself rather well, going 4-for-6 with two RBI. Oscar Gamble went 0-for-3 with three walks. The messy game did not bode well for the season. That would soon change.

TRIVIA NOTE: Harry Caray was in the booth broadcasting for the game, giving him the distinction of calling both the first American League game and the first ever game in Canada, which featured the Montreal Expos and the St. Louis Cardinals and took place on April 14, 1969.

Harry was joined in the booth this season by Jimmy Piersall, the former outfielder for the Red Sox, Indians, Mets and Angels. Piersall had been a colorful and controversial player, already well known for his autobiography "Fear Strikes Out" which detailed his battle with bi-polar disorder.

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