Today in White Sox History: April 7

Great White North: Jack Brohamer of the White Sox turns shin guards into snow shoes before Toronto’s MLB debut in 1977.

The worst White Sox team in history began their forgettable season by getting pounded 12-0 at home by the Twins. Sox starting pitcher Tommy John only lasted into the fifth inning. The Sox would go on to lose a franchise-record 106 games.

Charlie Finley, the A’s owner, got the first regularly scheduled Opening Day doubleheader in history but was stunned when the White Sox beat them twice, 6-5 and 12-4. Tommy John and Bart Johnson were the winning pitchers. The Sox clubbed five home runs on the day, including a grand slam by Bill Melton. It should have been six homers, except that Carlos May somehow missed touching home plate on his blast. The A’s picked up on it and tagged him out when he was sitting in the dugout.

This was also Harry Caray’s first regular season game as a White Sox announcer, although at the time not a whole lot of folks could hear him. Three straight awful years caused the Sox to lose their radio contract with any mainstream Chicago station. For the next two years Sox games were broadcast on WTAQ (LaGrange) and WEAW (Evanston), two low-powered stations.

On Opening Day in Texas, Mike Andrews became the first White Sox DH. He hit sixth in the lineup for manager Chuck Tanner. He went 1-for-3 in the 3-1 win behind Wilbur Wood.

The White Sox introduced American League baseball to Canada, as they played the first ever game in Toronto Blue Jays history. The Jays outslugged the Sox in a driving snowstorm to win, 9-5. But it was the start of something much bigger; the “South Side Hit Men” were born.

Detroit’s Jack Morris threw what turned out to be the last no-hitter at Comiskey Park, shutting down the White Sox 4-0 on the NBC Saturday “Game of the Week.” The Sox had their chances, including loading the bases on walks in the fourth inning with nobody out.

On his first swing of the season, future Hall-of-Famer Carlton Fisk would blast his final major league home run. It would come off of Minnesota’s Jim Deshaies in the third inning, and was the only run scored by the Sox in a 6-1 loss. Fisk would be released by the Sox in June.

In the annual “Crosstown Classic” charity game between the White Sox and Cubs, Michael Jordan wrote his name into Sox lore. His double in the late innings tied the game and prevented the Sox from losing for the first time in this series. The game would end in a tie. The Sox would go 10-0-2 in the Crosstown Classic series (1985-95, with two games played in 1995).





This Week in White Sox History: March 8-14

The Most: Johnny Mostil (left), one of the best outfielders in White Sox history saw things take a very bad turn 93 years ago.

March 8, 1948
WGN, channel 9 in Chicago, announced that it would televise White Sox games for the first time. Veteran radio sports broadcasters Jack Brickhouse and Harry Creighton would become the first White Sox TV announcers in history.

March 9, 1927
Popular Sox outfielder Johnny Mostil attempted suicide in a hotel room in Shreveport, La. Despite razor cuts to his wrist, neck and chest, Mostil survived and returned to the team in April although he’d only play in 13 games that season. In 10 years with the White Sox, Mostil would hit better than .300 four times. After his career he’d become a longtime White Sox scout/coach and help develop future players like All-Star outfielder Jim Landis.

March 10, 1995
After two stints at White Sox spring training and a full season in Birmingham, Michael Jordan announced he was giving up baseball. Part of the reason was because of his struggles with the game, but the other, larger part (as he explained to author Bob Greene, in the book, “Rebound, The Odyssey of Michael Jordan”) was because he was being pressured by Sox G.M. Ron Schueler to cross the MLBPA picket line.

With “replacement” games set to start, Jordan stated that he was told if he didn’t cross the line, he’d be banished from the main clubhouse. Jordan was furious, saying that he was promised by owner Jerry Reinsdorf he wouldn’t have to take that step. Jordan explained that under no circumstances would he ever cross a labor picket line regardless of sport: “I told them from the beginning that I didn’t want them to use me to make money in the spring training games. We had an understanding. It was never supposed to even come up. I was disgusted that the promise wasn’t going to be honored,” he told Greene. Jordan would return to the Bulls and win three more championships.

March 11, 1968
White Sox rookie pitcher Cisco Carlos was part of the cover shot for Sports Illustrated. The headline read, “The Best Rookies Of 1968.” Unfortunately, Carlos didn’t turn out to be one of them, either in the short term or the long one. In fact, of the five players on the cover only Johnny Bench and Mike Torrez made a name for themselves in the sport. In two-and-a-half seasons with the White Sox, Carlos went 10-17.

March 12, 1973
White Sox third baseman and former AL home run champ Bill Melton appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated. The headline read, “Chicago Comes Out Swinging. Slugger Bill Melton.” Melton would have a nice comeback season after missing most of 1972 with a herniated disc, hitting .277 with 20 home runs and 87 RBIs.

March 13, 2000
White Sox slugger Frank Thomas is again featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated. A lengthy story covered his career, controversies and his desire to return to the top of the game. The headline stated, “Don’t Question My Desire. Frank Thomas Comes Out Swinging.” Thomas would have a spectacular season in 2000, losing out on his third AL MVP to Jason Giambi, who’d later admit to using steroids in grand jury testimony. Frank’s numbers in 2000 included a .328 batting average, 43 home runs, 143 RBIs, 112 walks and a slugging percentage of .625.

March 14, 1994
Sports Illustrated took issue with former NBA superstar Michael Jordan and his attempt to play baseball. Jordan was on the cover of SI again, but in a negative light. The headline read, “Bag It Michael! Jordan and the White Sox Are Embarrassing Baseball.” From that day on, Jordan (who was always very cooperative with that magazine) would never speak to Sports Illustrated again.

A tale of two Bat Days

By any name: There’s been no more menacing power hitter in White Sox history than Dick Allen.

The White Sox have had attendance issues for decades now. The team’s problems began in the late 1960s, for a variety of reasons. One chief reason was the club didn’t have a marquee name, an impact player who could draw fans in big numbers.

During their stretch of winning seasons from 1951-67, the White Sox had players like Luis Aparicio, (stolen bases and defense), Nellie Fox (singles hitter and bunter), and usually a solid pitching rotation. But there was no Willie Mays, Hank Aaron or Harmon Killebrew. When the White Sox won, they won low-scoring games with little offense. The team didn’t hit have a 30-home run hitter in its entire history until 1970. Vast Comiskey Park was not a great place for power hitters, anyway.

During the offseason between 1971 and 1972, the White Sox finally were able to acquire that dominant player they never seemed to have when they traded pitcher Tommy John and first baseman Steve Huntz to the Dodgers for Dick Allen.

Allen hit for great power and average, and there was no doubt he was an elite talent. The biggest problem was that he had a very checkered past. Some fans in Philadelphia counted the days to his departure. The White Sox would be his fourth team in four years. Would any baggage that he would carry be worth giving up a front-line pitcher and a promising first baseman?

Allen would quickly become a South Side icon, but he would also be tied to two historic days at Comiskey Park that spelled both optimism and ruin, both for him and the team.

In the beginning, it appeared the Allen pickup was a mistake. Bad baggage-carrying Allen reared his head.

The talented first-baseman didn’t care to show up for spring training. Just as important, contract talks stalled, and it appeared, in those pre-free agent days, that Allen might hold out. But the team and player came to terms, and then Allen revealed that he wanted to be called “Dick” and not “Richie.” That small request was granted and Richie Allen of the Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals, and Los Angeles Dodgers, became known as Dick Allen of the Chicago White Sox.

Opening Day in 1972 was delayed 10 days because the owners locked out the players in a labor dispute. But Allen would quickly show that this delay and missing spring training would not affect his play.

The White Sox opened the season on April 15 in Kansas City. In the top of the ninth, in a scoreless game, Allen hit a mammoth home run that cleared the left-center field wall by plenty. The Sox would lose that game 2-1 in 11 innings, but Allen had demonstrated his awesome power with a devastating down-cutting swing.

And on June 4, Allen truly cemented his relationship with White Sox fans.

June 4 was Bat Day. That promotion always brought out good crowds to the ballpark. But on June 4, 1972, 51,904 showed for a doubleheader against the Yankees. It was the first 50,000-plus crowd for a regular season game at Comiskey since August 1955 — another doubleheader against the Yankees.

The opener was all White Sox. Young righthander Tom Bradley threw a complete game-six hitter, while Bill Melton hit a towering home run deep into the left field lower deck. At one point, fans held thousands of bats in the air, and the Sox won 6-1. A little less than two years after losing 106, the White Sox looked like contenders.

In between games, there was a damper. It was announced that Dick Allen was not in the lineup. A crowd of over 50,000 shows, and Allen is not playing in the nightcap? Was he injured? Was he fatigued? Or was baggage-carrying Richie Allen uninterested in playing before a large and history-making crowd?

The White Sox offense looked lethargic in the second game. Going into the last inning, the Yankees led 4-2, and it appeared the Sox were going to settle for a split. However, they put on two runners with one out in the bottom of the ninth. And who comes out of the dugout to pinch-hit? Not bad Richie Allen, but good Dick Allen.

Comiskey Park went wild, but Allen calmly strolled up to the plate apparently unmoved by all the excitement. On the second pitch from reliever Sparky Lyle, Allen once more used that down-cutting swing of his and sent a vicious line drive to left.

Sitting down the left field line, I picked up the ball just as it went a little over the shortstop’s head. At first, I thought it was one of those hard-hit balls that are caught by the outfielder. But the ball kept rising. It remained on a line, but it rose. Left fielder Roy White wasn’t coming in, he was drifting back. Once at the wall, White had a totally frustrated look as he watched the drive zip into the seats for a game-winning, three-run homer.

When was there a more exciting moment at Comiskey Park in recent memory? A fan would have to think about it. And when had a White Sox hitter demonstrated power like Allen? It is safe to say: Never.

The next season, Bat Day fell on May 20 for another doubleheader, this time against the Twins. A record 55,555 showed. Is that suspicious-sounding number correct? I was at this game also, and was forced to sit in the top row of the right-field upper deck. I had a better view of the Dan Ryan than of the field. Fans stood. They sat in the aisles. They parked themselves on the catwalk of the scoreboard. The view of people everywhere, in every seat, in every other available space, was breathtaking.

There is a great picture that ran in the Sun-Times the next day. A small girl is sitting in the lower concourse and a mound of boxes rose above and behind her. The boxes once held the bats. It was said that more than 2,200 fans had to be given refunds because there was no room in the stadium. If that 55,555 number is correct, almost 58,000 showed for the Sunday doubleheader. That was more than 10% of the entire team attendance in 1970.

The crowd erupted when Bill Melton homered off ex-Cub Bill Hands in the first. Carlos May added another homer in the fourth, and the Sox, behind the complete game pitching of Wilbur Wood, won 9-3. Excitement ran through the stadium.

Yet, in a repeat of the Bat Day 1972, Dick Allen was not in the lineup for the nightcap. This was hard to defend; it didn’t make sense.

Allen came out to pinch-hit again, but this time there were no heroics. In the fourth, with the bases loaded, Allen popped out. The Sox lost, 3-0, and missed his bat terribly. In the two dates that had a combined attendance of 107,453, good Dick Allen looked like bad Richie Allen, as he had little interest in playing on these historic occasions.

Allen would miss a good part of the 1973 season due to injury, although some questioned how serious the injury was. The team had other injuries, and the White Sox won a disappointing 77 games. And in early September 1974, good Dick Allen looked like bad Richie again.

As the season was winding down in 1974, Allen was on his way to another American League home run championship. Another 100-RBI season was in reach. But Allen again didn’t seem interested. He told the club he was retiring, and wasn’t waiting until the end of the season. With three weeks left, he was taking his leave. The White Sox lost their impact player for reasons unknown, or lamely explained.

The 1975 season was a dud. Attendance dropped to fewer than 800,000. The once-popular Melton was practically booed out of the city. The center field scoreboard celebrations were also duds, as they were shortened to save money. The franchise had few resources, an aging stadium and a non-believing fan base. A charter member of the American League looked like it was on its way to Seattle.

And where was Dick Allen? He decided he was going to play again and ended up in Philadelphia, the place that had hated him more than Chicago turning on Melton. In 1976, Allen threatened to sit out the NCLS because the Phillies didn’t include his friend, Tony Taylor, on the postseason roster. Allen went 2-for-9 in the series and made little impact as he drove in no runs; the Phillies were swept by the Reds.

In 1977, Allen went to Oakland. Again, not interested in playing a second game of a doubleheader at Comiskey Park, Allen had a confrontation with A’s owner Charlie Finley in the locker room. Once again, Allen had limited himself to a single pinch-hit appearance in a nightcap, and Finley was offended that Allen had already showered and was ready to leave. On June 19, 1977, during the year of the South Side Hit Men, Allen left baseball for good. Hardly anyone noticed or cared as he again deserted a team before the season was over.

The man who had become Dick Allen had also become a vital hope for a team and place that had finally had accepted him. He was there for two historic days at Comiskey Park. He provided an excitement like no other White Sox player before him. Then he vanished, and hope seemed to vanish with him. With the exception of the Hit Men season, the second half of the 1970s was an unmitigated disaster and a source of embarrassment.

Many White Sox fans who were around during the 1970s, get angry at hearing the name Dick Allen. His majestic home runs are great memories, but his “retirement” leaves a different type of memory. Yet can anyone really stay angry at Dick Allen? He could have put up Hall of Fame numbers. He could have left an endearing legacy after suffering bitterness and rejection in other places. His demons did more harm to him than anyone else. As fans wonder what could have been, Allen must wonder the same thing.

But there was that line drive into the left field seats on Bat Day 1972. Fans didn’t want to leave Comiskey. They wanted to believe, because the White Sox finally had that one great player who could take them to the World Series.

Unfortunately, that World Series wouldn’t happen for another 33 years.








Today in White Sox History: December 11

Fan club: There doesn’t seem to be a Sox fan alive who doesn’t adore Wimpy, including sometime partner Jason Benetti. Paciorek came to the White Sox on this day in 1981.

In was one of the worst deals ever made by GM Roland Hemond, the White Sox acquired Cubs star Ron Santo after Santo refused a deal to the California Angels. Santo, who may have been able to be picked up on waivers, was acquired for three players, including pitcher Steve Stone.

Santo did very little in his one season with the White Sox and was considered a clubhouse cancer, tormenting some younger players, which raised the ire of Dick Allen. Santo’s White Sox highlight was probably the inside-the-park home run he hit on June 9, 1974 against Boston’s Bill Lee at Comiskey Park. Santo was also one of the few players who disliked playing under manager Chuck Tanner.

Hemond sent third baseman Bill Melton and pitcher Steve Dunning to California for first baseman Jim Spencer and outfielder Morris Nettles. Melton had a bad back and had worn out his welcome with the team, getting into a shouting match in a Milwaukee hotel lobby with broadcaster Harry Caray.

Spencer, meanwhile would win a Gold Glove for his defensive prowess. He also had 18 home runs and 69 RBIs for the South Side Hit Men, twice driving in eight runs in a game in 1977.

Edward DeBartolo was voted down by American League owners in his attempt to buy the White Sox from Bill Veeck. DeBartolo, the man who invented the modern shopping mall in Boardman, Ohio, owned horse racing tracks and wasn’t from the Chicago area — both considered “red flags” by the other owners.

In an effort to appease then commissioner Bowie Kuhn, DeBartolo agreed to live in Chicago at least 20% of the time to have a direct idea of what was going on with the franchise. His compromises fell on deaf ears, as he only received three yes votes. The way was then opened for the group headed by Jerry Reinsdorf and Eddie Einhorn to get the franchise.

In another fine deal pulled off by Hemond, he sent shortstop Todd Cruz and outfielder Rod Allen to the Mariners for Tom “Wimpy” Paciorek. Tom made the All-Star team with the M’s in 1981 and would lead the Sox in hitting in 1983. He was also one of the craziest guys to ever do commercials for the club. After he retired, he worked in the Sox broadcasting booth from 1988 through 1999 and to this day does fill-in games for the club.

After losing star pitcher Alex Fernandez to free agency and claiming that starting pitcher Kevin Tapani was faking an injury to his pitching hand (an injury so “fake” it forced Tapani to miss the first half of the 1997 season with the Cubs …), GM Ron Schueler signed pitcher Jaime Navarro to a four-year, $20 million deal. Navarro was a complete bust. His three-year record with the Sox was 25-43, and by many statistical measures he was the worst regular starting pitching in White Sox history.

Making matters worse was Schueler’s refusal to talk with the agents for Roger Clemens after Clemens had expressed an interest in joining the team, saying “Roger Clemens is over the hill.” During that same three-year period that Navarro was with the Sox, Clemens would win two Cy Young awards and 55 games.

Navarro eventually did do something positive for the franchise — he was part of a deal that brought José Valentín and Cal Eldred to the Sox in January 2000.