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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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1975 offseason

Posted 03-08-2018 at 07:41 PM by TommyJohn
Updated 06-16-2018 at 10:47 AM by TommyJohn

1975 Offseason

John Allyn went into September with no firm offers for the White Sox. A stumbling block was Allyn's insistence that the buyer also purchase White Sox Park, which no one was willing to do. Tony Tortoriello of Torco was still an interested party, but wanted the City of Chicago to buy the park and lease it back to him. City officials were in the midst of clashing with Bears owner George Halas, who had threatened to move his team to Arlington Heights unless he got a new stadium. The city had finally agreed to renovate Soldier Field to Halas' specifications, so there would be no money left for the city to buy White Sox Park and finance its upkeep.

Another problem was money. Allyn said he had several local buyers speak to him about the team, but Allyn wanted more cash in hand for the sale than any of them had. Meanwhile, Allyn continued to be his own worse press agent.

In June, he got surly and grumpy when Dave Condon asked him if the team was for sale. In July, he blamed the Sox' poor attendance on the media's negativity. Old pro Condon laughed it off, but beat writer Bob Verdi seemed to take it personally, referencing Allyn's remarks in more than one Sox story. Then, on October 1, Allyn hit it out of the park.

The Sox owner was being interviewed by Johnny Morris on WBBM TV when he dropped a bomb on viewers-if he was back as owner for 1976, then Harry Caray was fired. Allyn blamed the team's poor season on Caray's constant, scathing criticisms.

The announcement took many by surprise, as Allyn had always defended Caray until now.

Harry must've been licking his chops to respond and boy, did he. "How the hell can a guy own a ballclub and be as stupid as John Allyn? Did he make enough to own it or did he inherit it?" Harry asked. He then said he would stay put and ride out the storm rather than seek employment elsewhere. "I want to stay in Chicago" he said. Harry was confident that most Sox fans were on his side; and of himself or Allyn, when the bell rang to start the 1976 season, only one of them would still be around, and it wasn't going to be Allyn. "He has to sell. He has run that team into the ground." Harry said.

WMAQ followed that up by telling the Sox that if Harry wasn't back in 1976, they wouldn't be either. Harry Caray meant ratings for them, and they knew listenership would plunge without him. The last time WMAQ had booted the Sox the team spent two years in radio Siberia.

Three days after the Harry drama Sox fans were treated to a bit of good news. Allyn had at last found a buyer willing to keep the team in Chicago-none other than Bill Veeck, who had been rebuffed in his attempt to buy the Orioles over the summer. Veeck made some interested inquiries into the situation in July, but told Allyn his asking price was too high.

Veeck got into contact with Leo Breen in September at the behest of Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, who found out just how dire Allyn's situation was. Allyn by this time had come down in his asking price and it was at this point that he was in danger of not meeting the team's final payroll.

Veeck came to town and put together a package of local investors to meet a $10 million price tag. He also loaned Allyn another $500,000 to help the owner meet his final payroll. In early October Veeck announced his purchase was a done deal, pending approval from American League owners.

The news that Bill Veeck had purchased the White Sox was greeted with great fanfare by fans and the media. After all, they still had fond memories of the last time Veeck had owned the team-a tenure marked by the last Sox pennant in 1959 and the several creative promotions and gimmicks he conceived, including the Monster scoreboard saluting Sox home runs with fireworks and an organist to entertain fans, both of which were still a part of the White Sox game experience. Lost in the hoopla was the fact that Veeck had little to do with actually building the 1959 pennant winner (credit for that goes to Frank Lane, John Rigney and Chuck Comiskey) and after that season he all but destroyed the farm system by trading away prospects for veterans in a bid to repeat. The veterans stuck around for only a year or two, while the players he traded went on to star for other teams. All of that was forgotten for the moment as Veeck was now the only thing that stood between the White Sox and oblivion. John Allyn underlined this by telling the media "It's Veeck or Seattle."

The AL owners were not half as thrilled as fans and the media. A warning sign came when one official expressed doubt that Veeck could swing the deal. It came, the official said, not from anybody disliking Veeck, but from doubting that he was properly financed. A meeting of AL owners was scheduled for December 3 in Cleveland to vote on the matter.

Veeck got a preview of what was in store for him during Thanksgiving week, when he met with an AL Financial Advisory Committee, who would examine his books and make sure everything was in the proper order. The head of said committee was none other than Bud Selig, whose attempt to buy the White Sox and move them to Milwaukee in 1969 had been thwarted by John Allyn. Of course, he then bought the Pilots and shifted them to Milwaukee, thus creating the whole Seattle mess.

Bud saw no reason why the White Sox shouldn't be made to pay for his shenanigans. He told Veeck that he was underfinanced and that the league would vote him down. Veeck insisted that he was on more solid financial footing than most other owners, including Selig.

The AL poohbahs met on December 3 to vote it out. With Selig leading the opposition, Veeck was resoundingly voted down by an 8-3-1 score. An angry Veeck restated his belief that he had proper financing and intimated that he might sue. Not wanting another lawsuit to add to their collection, the owners talked it out and voted 10-0 (two owners left to catch planes) to give Veeck seven days to restructure the deal and to raise an additional $1.2 million.

Veeck swung into action. Restructuring meant converting the financing from debentures to common stock, which involved a lot of paperwork, legal maneuvering and signatures. Raising the extra money would be the hard part, but Veeck managed to collect extra from his investors and other wealthy folks who wanted to save the team. Veeck also remortgaged his house in order to swing it. When he was still short, a last minute six figure pledge came from Jack Brickhouse. Brick had been broadcasting Cub games exclusively since 1968, but Chicago wasn't going to lose the White Sox if he had anything to say about it.

The owners met again on December 10 in Hollywood, Florida, site of the winter meetings. Veeck presented his new package and the vote went 8-3-1 in his favor, one vote short of the 75% majority needed for approval. Charlie Finley, Gene Autry and Bud Selig were the nay votes, while the abstention was a mystery. Veeck friend Bill DeWitt cracked "who likes Bill so much that he couldn't bear to vote against him?" (It was later determined to be Tom Yawkey of Boston, according to Veeck).

The situation appeared hopeless. Veeck and DeWitt talked about rousing a judge, any judge, from bed to sign an injunction to prevent the AL from moving the team. Also present and awaiting word were the heads of the syndicate that was prepared to buy the Sox and move them to Seattle, Lester K. Smith and Danny Kaye (yes, THAT Danny Kaye!) And that was when help came from an unlikely place.

John Fetzer, owner of the Tigers, got up and gave a speech, telling his fellow Masters of the Universe that this just wouldn't do. "We have told them to go out and do this and they have done it." Fetzer said that Veeck had called him an s.o.b. many times, but they couldn't vote him down now after all this.

Fetzer's speech swung the needed votes. Selig and Yawkey voted aye to bring the total to 10-2 in favor of Veeck. Finley and Autry held out to the end-Finley wanted to move the A's to Chicago, while Autry envisioned a radio deal with the Seattle franchise. Besides, the Singing Cowboy didn't want Veeck back in their little fraternity after all the mean things Bill had said about them over the years.

The news was greeted with relief and joy in Chicago. The media, which had brushed aside the team in the late 60s, celebrated along with everyone else.

Veeck celebrated by getting right to work. He set up a phone in the lobby of the Diplomat Hotel and put up a sign reading "Open for Business."

"This is a meat market!" wailed Bud Selig.

Bill Veeck was back.
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