Whoops: This is not Denny McLain. (Topps)
On this date, one of the biggest “what if’s” in franchise history took place. Per the rules at the time, the White Sox had to choose between two pitchers signed to “bonus baby” contracts; only one player signed to a deal for more than a certain amount of money could remain in the organization. The other would have to be waived.
With that in mind, rookies Bruce Howard and Denny McLain squared off in an intrasquad game to see who would be released and who got promoted to Double-A Lynchburg. Howard won, 2-1, so McLain got his walking papers and was claimed by Detroit the following week. He’d go on to win 131 big league games including 31 in 1968.
Baltimore was always a “house of horrors” for the White Sox, but on this day they got the last laugh. The South Siders spoiled the last home opener in old Memorial Stadium by ripping the Orioles, 9-1. Sammy Sosa clubbed two home runs off of Jeff Ballard to lead the rout. He’d knock in five runs on the afternoon. Jack McDowell went the distance, striking out 10.
One of the most highly-anticipated Opening Days in franchise history got snowed out. The White Sox were set to host Boston and the organization was expecting a crowd of around 50,000. That got torpedoed when a blizzard hammered the entire Midwest, cancelling games for days. In fact, the season didn’t open until April 11 in New York, with a doubleheader win over the Yankees.
The same night North Carolina State upset Houston for the NCAA basketball title, the White Sox opened their division championship season dropping a 5-3 game at Texas. The Sox scored three times in the top of the first but were handcuffed after that. Errors by rookies Scott Fletcher and Greg Walker were costly to pitcher LaMarr Hoyt. The Sox would drop all three games to the Rangers, but rebounded to win 99 of the final 159 to take the division by a record 20 games.
It was Ken Williams’ one moment in the sun as a player. On Opening Day, Williams belted a two-run homer in the fifth inning off of California’s Mike Witt to help the Sox to an 8-5 win. Williams would drive in three runs on the afternoon.
The bittersweet shortened season started in Canada with a rematch of the 1993 ALCS. Toronto won this Opening Day 7-3 by blasting Jack McDowell (the reigning Cy Young Award winner) just as they did twice in the postseason the year before.
The World Series season got off to a great start, as a packed house saw Mark Buehrle and Shingo Takatsu shut out Cleveland 1-0 in a game that took less than two hours! That season the White Sox would roar out of the gate at 26-9, the best 35-game start in franchise history.
Brat attack: Stanky was a winning manager for the White Sox, but wore out his welcome quickly. (Topps)
In an unexpected move the Sox named “The Brat,” Eddie Stanky, as the team’s new manager replacing the retired Al Lopez. Stanky was an intense, obsessed man, the 1960s version of Billy Martin or Earl Weaver.
Stanky knew baseball and was a genius at tactical decisions but he was also extremely unpopular with many of his players. He imposed a curfew, dress code and a rigorous calisthenics program on the team. He would fine players (or bench them) every time they weren’t able to lay down a bunt, hit a sacrifice fly or advance runners into scoring position. He offered a new suit of clothes for any pitcher who threw a complete game with at least a certain number of ground ball outs. For stolen bases or advancing into scoring position the player would get a new pair of dress shoes. He’d have winning seasons in 1966 and 1967, nearly taking the pennant, but by early 1968 his act had grown old and he was fired… and replaced with …Lopez!
The White Sox traded former Cy Young Award winner Jack McDowell to the Yankees for two minor league players. McDowell was the winningest pitcher in the American League between 1990 and 1994. The move, which left the Sox pitching staff without its leader, proved very costly during the 1996 wild card collapse. The trade was made purely for financial reasons related to the labor situation that cost the team the last two months of the 1994 season.
1993 — White Sox pitcher “Black” Jack McDowell easily captured the American League Cy Young Award, beating out Randy Johnson. McDowell went 22-10 with a 3.37 ERA, and led the league in wins and shutouts. He was second in innings pitched and third in complete games. Jack got 124 points, to Johnson’s 75. From 1990-94 Jack won more games than any pitcher in the American League.