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: 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.


1973
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.


1975
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.


1980
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.


1981
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.


1996
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.