Trailblazing: Mary Shane was named a White Sox announcer on this day in 1977.
The White Sox opened the season with a 3-2 win over the Angels in 14 innings. Tommy McCraw delivered the game-winning hit. Rookie Tommy Agee would crack a home run off Dean Chance to begin his season, which would end with Agee being named the Rookie of the Year and the first Sox player to ever hit 20 home runs and steal 20 bases in the same season.
But the game became known for what the 28,000-plus fans sang to open the afternoon; it was not ‘‘The Star Spangled Banner,’’ but ‘‘God Bless America.’’ The Sox made the change stating that the words to the usual anthem were too hard to remember and to sing. Songwriter Irving Berlin (“White Christmas”) would write a letter to the Sox begging them to go back to the original anthem. The Sox then decided to let the fans vote on which they preferred — and ‘‘The Star Spangled Banner’’ won.
The bittersweet 1967 season opened with a 5-4 loss in Boston to the eventual American League champions. The White Sox would go into the final week of the season in position to take their first pennant since 1959 — only to lose five in a row to bottom-feeders Kansas City and Washington. They finished in fourth place, three games out, with a record of 89-73.
Former Milwaukee radio broadcaster Mary Shane became one of the first female announcers in MLB history when she began doing Sox games. Mary joined Lorn Brown, Harry Caray and Jimmy Piersall in the booth for roughly 20 games. Most of her work was done when the Sox were at home. WMAQ radio general manager Charlie Warner discovered Shane, who only lasted this one season. The day of the press conference to announce her joining the broadcasting team Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley died, so very few reporters showed up for it.
She returned to Massachusetts, where she became an award-winning sportswriter before passing away very young, on Nov. 3, 1987.
Totally Terrific: Both Carlton Fisk and Tom Seaver had late-career renaissances in Chicago.
Another big deal pulled off by White Sox GM Ed Short kept the franchise’s streak of winning seasons going. The Sox were part of a three-team trade with Cleveland and the Athletics. When all was said and done, the Sox parted with outfielders Jim Landis and Mike Hershberger, pitcher Fred Talbot and catcher Cam Carreon.
In return they got back power-hitting catcher Johnny Romano, pitcher Tommy John and outfielder Tommie Agee. Agee would be named Rookie of the Year in 1966, becoming the first Sox player ever with 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases in a season; John would be part of a brilliant starting rotation, making the All-Star team for the first time in 1968. Romano wasn’t a slouch either in his second stint with the club, banging out 33 home runs in two seasons before being traded.
Once again White Sox GM Roland Hemond used the free agent compensation rule to the White Sox’s advantage, plucking future Hall-of-Famer Tom Seaver from the Mets. In his two full years with the Sox, Seaver would win 31 games, including his 300th overall on Aug. 4, 1985 against the Yankees. In both full seasons he’d combine to throw more than 236 innings.
Double threat: Julio Franco possessed both one of the best smiles and most unique batting stances in White Sox history.
White Sox owner Bill Veeck made up for some of his deals after the 1959 season by getting pitchers Juan Pizarro and Cal McLish from the Reds for infielder Gene Freese. Manager Al Lopez and pitching coach Ray Berres had their eyes on Pizarro for a few years, but Milwaukee refused to deal him to the Sox. Veeck therefore got his friend Bill DeWitt of Cincinnati to swing a deal and then to ship Pizarro to the South Side.
Pizarro was an enigmatic, moody pitcher, but when he got on the mound he was all business. Possessor of a blazing fastball, the lefthander had four seasons of double-figure wins, including 16 in 1963 and 19 in 1964. He was a two time All-Star selection.
In one of the worst deals ever made by GM Ed Short, the White Sox sent infielder and base stealer Al Weis along with outfielder, base stealer and home run hitter Tommie Agee to the Mets in exchange for former NL batting champ Tommy Davis, pitcher Jack Fisher and catcher Buddy Booker. Two years later, the Mets would win the World Series thanks in large part to the play of Agee and Weis. None the players the Sox got in return did much for them. Deals along those lines sent the franchise into a tailspin, and by September 1970 Short was fired.
White Sox GM Ron Schueler’s luck with taking chances on hurt or limited free agents continued when he signed Julio Franco to a contract. Franco would have a tremendous 1994 season hitting behind Frank Thomas. Julio would have 20 home runs, 98 RBIs, eight stolen bases and a .319 batting average in his one year in Chicago. He went to Japan the next year because the Sox refused to meet his asking price on a new deal.
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.