Today in White Sox History: April 9

Spirit of ’76: Rudy Schaffer, Paul Richards and Bill Veeck went all-out in Veeck’s return to Chicago on Opening Day.


1963
The start of the season found the White Sox in Detroit, and it was a highlight game for third baseman Pete Ward. Ward smacked a seventh-inning, three-run home run off Jim Bunning to push the Sox into the lead, and he also made a barehanded pick-up-and-throw-out of a slow roller hit by Al Kaline. The Sox would win, 7-5, and it would be the start of Ward’s co-American League Rookie of the Year campaign.


1971
It was the largest home opener in years, as 43,253 fans poured into Comiskey Park to see the “New Look” White Sox under GM Roland Hemond and manager Chuck Tanner. Ownership was completely caught with their pants down by the turnout, as concession stands and vendors ran out of items by the middle of the game!

The Sox wouldn’t disappoint, as Rich McKinney’s two-out, ninth-inning single scored Rich Morales with the game-winning run in the 3-2 victory over Minnesota.


1976
Owner Bill Veeck was back, and 40,318 fans turned out to say welcome home on Opening Day. They got their money’s worth, as in a tribute to the U.S. Bicentennial, Veeck, manager Paul Richards and front office executive Rudy Schaffer presented the colors dressed as the fife player, drummer and flag bearer of the Revolutionary War. Wilbur Wood tossed a complete game six-hitter and Jim Spencer had a two-run home run in the 4-0 win against Kansas City.


1977
The White Sox defeated the Blue Jays, 3-2, in Toronto for the franchise’s first-ever regular-season win outside of the United States. Oscar Gamble’s home run in the fourth put the Sox on top to stay, and the team added two more in the fifth. Chris Knapp got the win and Lerrin LaGrow earned his first save in what would be the best season of his career. He’d end 1977 with 25 of them and a 2.46 ERA.


1985
For future Hall-of-Famer Tom Seaver, it was his record 14th Opening Day start. For Ozzie Guillén, it was his major league debut. The two of them combined to help the Sox beat Milwaukee, 4-2, at County Stadium. Guillén would get his first hit in the big leagues that day, a bunt single off of future Sox pitcher Ray Searage in the ninth inning.


1990
It was the last home opener at the original Comiskey Park, and the Sox made it a good one in beating the Brewers, 2-1. Scott Fletcher’s sacrifice fly scored Sammy Sosa with what turned out to be the winning run. Barry Jones got the win, with Bobby Thigpen picking up the first of what would be a record-setting 57 saves in a season.


1993
During the home opener with the Yankees, Bo Jackson showed that the human spirit is simply amazing. Jackson, playing with an artificial hip, hammered a Neal Heaton pitch into the right field seats for a home run. It was Jackson’s first at-bat since his hip replacement, caused by an injury he suffered during his days as an All-Pro running back for the Raiders.

Jackson would end up with 16 home runs, including one in late September against Seattle that won the White Sox the Western Division title. As far as the baseball hit off Heaton, a fan returned it to him and he later had it encased and welded to his late mother’s headstone.


 

Today in White Sox History: March 15

Round Two: Veeck came back to the White Sox, saving the team from a move to Seattle. (Sports Illustrated)


1976
After stepping in at the last minute to buy the White Sox and prevent them from being moved to Seattle, Bill Veeck appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated: “Baseball Couldn’t Shut Him Out.” Veeck would own the team from 1976-80 in his second ownership stint.

 

Today in White Sox History: December 10

Doubling back: After his brother purchased the club from Bill Veeck in 1961, John Allyn returns the “keys to the White Sox.”


1963
One of the last players from the “Go-Go” Sox era, second baseman Nellie Fox, was traded to the Houston Colt 45s for pitchers Jim Golden and Danny Murphy. Fox, who’d eventually be elected to the Hall of Fame, played for 14 years on the South Side, being named to 12 All-Star teams. He was AL MVP in 1959 and won three Gold Gloves. Fox was dealt because young infielder Don Buford had hit .336 at Indianapolis and was ready to take over.


1975
After first being turned down, American League owners voted to allow Bill Veeck to buy the White Sox from John Allyn. The agreement kept the team in Chicago and ended speculation that the Sox were bound for Seattle, with Charlie Finley’s A’s headed for the South Side. Major League baseball wanted the Sox to move to the Pacific Northwest in order to end lawsuits filed after the Pilots were moved to Milwaukee before the start of the 1970 season.

It was the second time Veeck owned the club, the first time being from 1959 through July 1961.


1976
Bill Veeck came up with a unique way to try to bolster his cash-strapped franchise: A Rent-a-Player approach, attempting to acquire as many players as possible who were about to become free agents. He figured that because those players were playing for new, big money deals, they’d play hard every night.

With that as the backdrop, he traded relief pitchers Rich Gossage and Terry Forster, both former American League Fireman of the Year winners, to the Pirates for slugger Richie Zisk and pitcher Silvio Martinez.

Zisk, in his one season on the South Side, would belt 30 home runs and knock in 101 as the undisputed leader of the South Side Hit Men who shocked baseball by winning 90 games in 1977. Among Zisk’s home runs that season were a blast into the original center field bleachers at Comiskey Park (under the exploding scoreboard) and one over the roof and out of the park in left-center.


1987
GM Larry Himes sent pitcher Floyd Bannister and infielder Dave Cochrane to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for four players, including pitchers Greg Hibbard and Melido Perez. Both would help stabilize the starting rotation in the early 1990s.

 

Today in White Sox History: November 26

Signing wounded: In a remarkable turnaround, Soderholm went from sitting out the 1976 season to a 4.2 bWAR comeback campaign for the ages.


1976 — In a move that would pay large returns the following season, injured third baseman Eric Soderholm signed a free agent deal with Bill Veeck and Roland Hemond. Soderholm would become Comeback Player of the Year for 1977 with 25 home runs, 67 RBIs and a .280 batting average, helping lead the South Side Hit Men to a remarkable, 90-win season.


1991 – The White Sox hired Gene Lamont as the new field manager, replacing Jeff Torborg. Lamont was hired after Pirates manager and former Sox coach Jim Leyland highly recommended him (Lamont was a coach on Leyland’s staff). The quiet, laid-back Lamont would win the American League’s Western Division title in 1993 and take home Manager of the Year honors. He’d also guide the Sox to the Central Division lead at the time of the labor impasse in 1994.

Today in White Sox History: November 24

Triple threat: Agee had a magnificent rookie campaign at bat, on the basepaths and in the field. (Topps)


1966 — After having a marvelous 1966 season, White Sox outfielder Tommie Agee was named the American League Rookie of the Year by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Agee had a unique blend of power and speed, becoming the first player in franchise history with at least 20 home runs and at least 20 steals in the same season.

In 1966, Agee hit .273 with 173 hits, 27 doubles, eight triples, 22 home runs, 86 RBIs and 44 stolen bases. He also won a Gold Glove. Agee got 16 first-place votes out of 20. Jim Nash of the Kansas City A’s was second in the voting, while George “Boomer” Scott and Deron Johnson tied for third place. Johnson would play for the White Sox in 1975.


1976 — The first free-agent signing in franchise history turned out to be a bargain-basement success for the White Sox. Pitcher Steve Stone inked a deal for his second go-around with the team (Stone signed four years and five days after first becoming a member of the White Sox, via trade in 1972). In 1977, Steve would win 15 games, pacing a staff that won a surprising 90 games. In 2009, Stone again returned to the organization, this time as a television broadcaster.