Today in White Sox History: April 15

 


1954
The White Sox reintroduced major league baseball to Baltimore for the first time since 1902, as they played at the new Baltimore Orioles as their first home opponent. The Orioles had moved from St. Louis that offseason. Virgil “Fire” Trucks got the start for the White Sox, but the O’s beat them 3-1 on the afternoon, starting a run of numerous unfortunate, strange and bizarre happenings for the White Sox at Memorial Stadium over the next 37 seasons.


1972
The first labor impasse to cause regularly scheduled games to be cancelled caused Opening Day of the 1972 season to be pushed back. In Kansas City, the Sox would lose to the Royals, 2-1, in 11 innings despite Dick Allen’s first White Sox home run. Allen blasted a shot in the ninth inning off Dick Drago to give the team a brief 1-0 lead. Kansas City would tie the game with two out in the ninth inning on a Bob Oliver home run off of Wilbur Wood, then go on to win the game. The Sox would drop three consecutive one-run games to the Royals to start the season, two in extra innings, but would end up with 87 wins in only 154 games.


1983
Milt Wilcox had his perfect game ruined with two outs in the ninth inning, as White Sox pinch hitter Jerry Hairston ripped a clean single up the middle. It was the only hit of the night for the Sox, who lost to Detroit, 6-0.


1985
In a game at Boston, White Sox pinch hitter Jerry Hairston collected his 51st safety in that role, setting the franchise record. Jerry would lead the league in pinch hits from 1983 through 1985, and would retire with 87 in his career. Hairston also hit the last home run to set off Bill Veeck’s original exploding scoreboard in October 1981 — and he hit it off of future Sox pitching coach Don Cooper!


2006
It was one of the most incredible defensive plays in White Sox history: In the ninth inning of a game at U.S. Cellular Field against Toronto, second baseman Tadahito Iguchi had to charge in on a slowly-hit ball by Bengie Molina. His momentum carried him forward, and because of it he left his feet and starting falling to the ground. Before he hit the field, though, Iguchi got a throw off, despite being parallel to the playing surface. His throw was strong enough to get Molina at first. The Sox would win the game, 4-2.


 

 

Experiencing 2005: Opening Day, 4/4/05

Love at first sight: It’s possible Bitmoji has changed her mind about Scotty Pods already.


The day is beautiful, low 60s and sunny, as good as it gets in early April. I’m on the Red Line, rumbling toward the South Side to meet up with Wally. Wally is a Missouri native and a Cardinals fan first and foremost. But the White Sox are his 1(a) team, and he’s nearly as passionate as I am. I know this is for real, because his love for the Sox goes back to the days of Frank, Robin, and Jack McDowell. Wally and I have attended two Sox games together, and they lost both. Badly. This is our last chance, and we both know it. We’re superstitious enough to realize that there is no way we’ll ever attend another game together if we get our third strike today.

The train is screaming through the subway tunnel, and the couple behind me is debating the best way to Midway Airport. The woman says that she called CTA, and they told her to transfer to the Orange Line at Lake. I turn around. “That’s actually not the best way. There are lots of stairs involved, which is annoying with a suitcase, and it’s not that well marked. Transfer at Roosevelt Road. Lots of signs and an escalator. Much easier. In fact, I’m getting off there. You can follow me.”

The woman, Kathy, is grateful. She’s heading to Florida to visit her sister. Her husband, Roger, is wearing a Sox hat. He’s going to Opening Day, too. We trade fan stories for the rest of the trip: best games, favorite players, funniest ballpark memories.

At Roosevelt Road, I guide Kathy to her train. She is genuinely thankful and seemingly a little surprised to find such a friendly soul. It’s good karma, I tell myself. And you need all the good karma you can get on Opening Day.

I meet Wally at a bar on South Michigan Avenue for a drink and remote broadcast by a sports radio team that I like. At the park, I walk to Parking Lot A to step on old home plate. As I do this, a man nearby asks, “Why are you doing that?”

“For luck. I do it every game.” I reply.

“Doesn’t seem to be working,” he grumbles.

“Maybe I just haven’t been doing it enough yet. Maybe luck is cumulative.”

I buy a scorecard outside Gate 4 at a kiosk manned by an older African-American. I decline the pencil, because of course I brought my own.

* * *

“What do you think the keys are to the season?” Wally asks in between handfuls of peanuts.

“Two things,” I say, popping a nut into my mouth, the spent shells falling to my feet. “One: Can Jermaine Dye even come close to replacing Mags in right field? And two: Is A.J. Pierzynski just a troublemaker or is he That Guy that we’ve been needing for so long?”

While nervous about offensive capabilities — new guy Tadahito Iguchi looked terrible in each of his three strikeouts — I’m thrilled with the show of pitching prowess. And other new guy Scott Podsednik does looks to be speedy. Wally and I decide to put a stamp on our euphoria and buy some Sox merchandise. When we get to Grandstand — if they don’t have it in Sox colors, you don’t need it — I can’t believe my eyes: there’s a line to get in. To a store. Selling Sox merchandise. There’s a bouncer at the door and everything. What is this, Studio 54? Wally and I wait in line for 10 minutes, and the bouncer says this is typical early in the season, and when the Sox win. “When they lose,” he says, “people walk by like they got blinders on, like we’re not even here.”

New purchases in hand, Wally and I wander the neighborhood a bit. We come across guys playing bags in the street and drinking Modelo Especial out of the back of their minivan. They invite us to join them, and how can we say no?

We then hit a couple of neighborhood bars, also packed. One bartender shrugs, “On Opening Day, everybody thinks they’re going to win the World Series.”

On our way out of one bar, I run into Roger, my friend from the morning’s El ride, on his way in.

“Must be destiny,” he says. “It’s going to be a good season.”

To top off the day, I win $265 in my NCAA office pool when North Carolina beats Illinois that evening. The only sour note is a local sports columnist’s take on the upcoming season: He writes that White Sox fans have no reason to think this team will be more than .500, they let their best player go, their pitchers are B+ at best, they will be offensively inept. Perhaps he is right, but that doesn’t matter right now.

Tomorrow, I will worry. Today is Opening Day. And anything is possible.

Today in White Sox History: January 27

Defensive all-timer: Few defensive plays have ever been better than Iguchi’s acrobatic assist in 2006. (@WhiteSox)


2005
So who needs scouts? (just joking …) White Sox GM Ken Williams signed Japanese second baseman Tadahito Iguchi after … watching videotape on him. Iguchi turned into a very solid second baseman and second hitter in the lineup, delivering defense, home runs and RBIs to a team that would go on to take the World Series.

Iguchi’s three-run home run in Game 2 of the 2005 ALDS turned the game around against Boston. The following year, Iguchi’s single in the 19th inning on July 9 beat the Red Sox 6-5 — that game was tied for the fifth-longest in franchise history.

On April 15, 2006 Iguchi turned in one of the most incredible defensive plays in MLB history by throwing out Toronto’s Bengie Molina in the ninth inning of a 4-2 White Sox win. Iguchi threw the ball to first base sailing horizontally off the ground and from a most usual throwing angle.

“Coming off the bat, I know it was going to be a tough play but I knew I still had the time to get him out at first base,” Iguchi told reporters after the game. “I knew it wasn’t an impossible position to still make a throw. But I knew if I was going down I might not be coming back up again. Right now, I feel it in my lower back.”