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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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1973 Offseason

Posted 12-11-2017 at 07:28 AM by TommyJohn
Updated 12-15-2018 at 11:41 AM by TommyJohn

1973 Offseason

The 1973 season was supposed to be the one where the Chicago White Sox were to rise fully triumphant from the near-franchise destroying debacle of 1968-70, most especially 1970's 56-106 mark. Instead, they took an injury-riddled step back in a season that exposed many of the team's weaknesses-lack of pitching, lack of depth, lack of money to properly pay its players. And now, in this offseason, they were about to become part of a soap opera plotline that began to develop on the other side of town.

It centered around Ron Santo, the Cubs' All-Star, Gold Glove 3rd baseman, who had held down the hot corner at Wrigley Field since 1960 and was in the opinion of many one of the best at his position in the game.

The Cubs had been strong contenders from 1967-72, including the memorable year of 1969, when they led the NL East for 155 days before doing their legendary nosedive and ceding the division to the "Miracle" New York Mets, who went on to win that year's World Series. 1970-72 were also years of disappointment.

1973 looked like the year that they would finally put all that behind them. They were in 1st place on the 4th of July with a 46-31 record, but the older, slower Cubs crashed harder than the 1969 version, going 31-53 the rest of the way to finish 77-84 and lose the weak division to the 82-79 Mets, who had been in last place as late as August 30th.

After this last debacle, owner Phillip K. Wrigley ordered his General Manager John Holland to clean house.

The past few years had not been kind to Ronnie, either. In or about July, 1969 the boo birds took nest in Wrigley Field and made Santo their target.

This may come as a shock to the current generation of Cubs fans, who came to know and love Ronnie through his incoherent gurgling on the radio. Ronnie wasn't always the revered and beloved Cubbie icon that he is today. Many of the previous generation of fans despised him.

This stemmed from a July 1969 incident in Shea Stadium in which rookie centerfielder Don Young misjudged two flyballs to turn a 9th inning 3-1 Cub lead into a 4-3 Met victory. Santo screamed at Young from his position, then harshly criticized him after the game. Santo later apologized to Young in front of the team, but the damage was done. No less an authority than Ernie Banks remembered it as the moment the 1969 Cubs began to fall apart.

There was also the matter of Santo clicking his heels after every win, something he started in 1969 to entertain the fans. The fans were indeed captivated, but it infuriated other teams, particularly the Mets, who gleefully rubbed it in the Cubs' faces after beating them in a series.

The fans may have blamed Santo for riling up the Mets with the heel-clicking, inspiring them to come on strong and beat the Cubs. Whatever the reason, the boo birds hung around for the next couple of seasons. They began to lighten up after Santo came out and revealed that he had been a diabetic since the age of 19. They were mostly stilled after a horrific tragedy in which Santo's mother and stepfather, driving to Arizona to see him play in spring training, were killed in a car accident.

Two incidents in the Cubs' rebuilding program angered Santo and gave him the desire to get out.

The first was when his roommate and best friend Glenn Beckert was traded to the San Diego Padres. The second happened when pitcher Ferguson Jenkins was sent to the Texas Rangers in exchange for hot-hitting, highly touted Rangers prospect Bill Madlock, a 3rd baseman. These trades convinced Ronnie that he was no longer loved or wanted by the Cubs. Nor did he take too kindly to manager Whitey Lockman's suggestion that he learn to play 1st base for 1974. Ron wanted out.

Holland accommodated him by working out a trade to the California Angels, one that would net the Cubs three pitchers. Santo rejected the trade, becoming the first player in baseball to invoke a brand new "10-5" rule, which allowed players with ten years of service, five with the same team, to turn down any trade. Ron announced to the media he would reject any trade that would take him out of Chicago. He also told Holland he would only accept a trade to the White Sox. Holland's reaction was to bellow "No! NO WAY!"

Santo told him it was the south side or bust. Eventually Phillip Wrigley got involved, trying to get Santo to accept the Angels deal. When Santo told him he wanted to stay in Chicago, Wrigley ordered Holland to give his loyal soldier of 14 seasons what he wanted.

Holland's reaction to his boss's orders was to act like a bratty eight year old being ordered by a flustered parent to finish his vegetables-"But I don't wanna!"
Nevertheless, Holland contacted Roland Hemond and Chuck Tanner and told them of Santo's determination to wear red pinstripes come 1974.

It is at this point that I would love to report that Hemond and Tanner blew off Holland by telling him "we're set at that position, thanks" and to go piss up the Wrigley Field ivy. I would like to tell you that, but alas, I cannot. The Sox played the part of the ignored little brother who jumps around and yaps for everyone to pay attention to him to the hilt. They gleefully accepted the offer of Santo-owner John Allyn for some reason imagined that Cubbie fans would journey to the south side to see Santo play for the Sox.

They offered the Cubs a list of 16 players from which they could pick three. The Cubs eventually chose pitcher Steve Stone, minor league catcher Steve Swisher and pitcher Ken Frailing.

The trade was consummated and on December 11, the Sox called a press conference at White Sox Park with their newest player in attendance to announce the deal. There were smiles and hugs all around, particularly from White Sox ticket office manager Millie Johnson, who embraced Santo and said "Ronnie, honey, you're going to sell a lot of tickets for us this year!"


Noticeably absent from the conference was John Holland. Furious at being forced to deal one of the Cubs' biggest stars to the lowlife scum team, Holland remained pissy to the end. His only comment about the trade was in reference to the Sox' announcement that Santo had cleared NL waivers, making the deal possible. "They are violating league rules by releasing that information" Holland huffed.

The Tribune of the time reported that Santo had announced his intention to stay in Chicago, and that the Cubs contacted the Sox to let them know of Santo's desire. Decades later, when Santo's career was well behind him and he was adored and worshipped by Cubbie fans the world over, he curiously remembered things quite differently.

His story then was that he told Holland he wasn't going to California. Holland tried to be nice about it, but Ronnie wouldn't budge. It was when the two were at a stalemate that Ron remembered being contacted by Chuck Tanner, who told him "I'd like to have you on my team next year." It was then that Santo had gone to Holland and asked for a trade to the White Sox, and that's when Holland had let out his barbaric yawp of "NO WAY!" Have no fear, Cubbie fans who hate and look down on the south side and the White Sox. Going to the White Sox hadn't been Ronnie's idea at all, you see. It was Chuck Tanner's idea all the way.

But that was a story he would tell in the future to another generation. For the present, for 1974, one of the greatest players in Cub history was now a member of the White Sox.
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