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: April 4

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1982
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.


1983
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.


1988
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.


1994
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.


2005
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.


 

Today in White Sox History: January 25

Scooter: Fletcher was a dynamo on both early 1980s and early 1990s White Sox teams.


1983
The White Sox and GM Roland Hemond embarrassed the Cubs by hinting through the media that they might select pitcher Fergie Jenkins after the Cubs left him unprotected in the free agent draft. Jenkins, the future Hall-of-Famer, was getting close to the magical 300 win mark in his career. The Sox were entitled to a compensation pick after losing outfielder Steve Kemp to the Yankees.

Thus the Cubs were forced to trade Scott Fletcher, Dick Tidrow, Randy Martz and Pat Tabler to the Sox for a promise not to take Jenkins, along with pitchers Steve Trout and Warren Brusstar. The Sox then flipped Tabler for Jerry Dybzinski. After it was all said and done, Cubs GM Dallas Green was quoted as saying, “To say I’m relieved probably would be an understatement.”

Fletcher would be a part of the 1983 divisional champion, but his bigger impact perhaps came in 1990, for the “Doin’ the Little Things” White Sox, who shocked baseball by winning 94 games. Fletcher was a defensive rock at second base that season, and executed small things like bunting, hitting behind a runner, hitting to the opposite field and driving in key runs exceptionally well. Tidrow did just about everything a relief pitcher could do in 1983, and Dybzinski stabilized a shaky infield in the early part of that same season. Unfortunately, his baserunning error in Game 4 of the ALCS is what he is best remembered for.

The White Sox starting staff was so deep in 1983, with seven pitchers on the roster who all had won at least 10 games in a major league season, that Martz never really got a chance. He only made one emergency start that year in a game at Detroit.