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1967 
The Improbable Nightmare

by
Dan Helpingstine

Author of the new book "Through Hope & Despair", written from a Sox Fan's perspective about our Chicago White Sox.  Learn more here!

Part One
Forgotten Glory
Part Two
Crosstown Eclipse
Part Three
End of an Era

Part Three:  End of an Era

Their future in Chicago was cloudy, but going into the last five games of the season, the Sox were in great shape.  They were in second place, one game behind Minnesota, in a virtual tie with Boston, and ½ game ahead of fourth place Detroit.  They were scheduled to play two games against the lowly Kansas City Athletics, who wouldn't be in Kansas City much longer, and three against the equally lowly Washington Senators, who wouldn't be in Washington much longer.  Two of the contending teams--Boston and Minnesota--played each other twice on the last weekend.  If anyone had a break in the schedule, it was the White Sox. 

The first Kansas City game was rained out, so a doubleheader was scheduled and that just wasn't a good thing for the Sox.  Their momentum had been stopped and winning a doubleheader wasn't an easy thing to do, even though they had done it a couple weeks earlier against a much tougher team.  "I detest doubleheaders," Manager Eddie Stanky grumbled after the rainout. 

Still, the Sox had Peters and Horlen, their two best pitchers, starting in that order in the doubleheader.  And their record in doubleheaders in 1967 was good.  They had only been swept three times, had won nine, and split 15.  One had to think the Sox would come away with at least one win against the feeble A's.  The A's had lost 26 out of their last 34 coming into the doubleheader.  Their manager, Alvin Dark, had been fired, and his replacement, ex-Sox great Luke Appling, was not popular among A's players.  Kansas City looked ripe for the picking.

Game one: Kansas City 5, White Sox 2.  Peters gave up runs early, and the Sox played catch-up all game.  Chicago couldn't even score until the ninth.  They valiantly tried to rally, scoring twice and having a couple of runners on with two out.  But it was too tough a hill for a club that had little or no ability to put together big innings.  These were definitely not the South Side Hit Men.  Shortstop Ron Hansen grounded out to third to end the game.

Game two: Kansas City 4, White Sox 0.  Horlen, going for win number 20, held the A's scoreless until he and Wilbur Wood were knicked with a four spot in the sixth.  In this game, the Sox never seriously threatened to score.

As they headed home for the final series of the year, Chicago now had to sweep the three game set with Washington to have even a remote chance of going to the Series.  Also the Twins would to have to split their games with Boston, or the Red Sox would have to take two.  Additionally, Detroit had to lose one of their final four games to California. 2 Twins wins or one Sox loss made everything academic.  The Sox had been on the verge of making Chicago baseball history.  Now they were on the verge of elimination. 

That elimination came in the first game.  Washington 1, Sox 0.  Tommy John was on the mound for the Sox, and he gave up a first inning run when clean-up hitter Fred Valentine singled in the game's only score.  Valentine had gotten new life when a pop foul he hit landed in a TV camera bay on the first base side.  The bay had not normally been there, but Sox management installed it to accommodate NBC in anticipation of the team hosting the World Series.  There would be no World Series.

John was pitching well, but the Sox hitting had gotten so bad, he was lifted for a pinch hitter only after the fifth inning.  Phil Ortega, the starter for the Senators, had not won a game since August 7, but the Sox could do nothing against him. After the defeat, Stanky let Sox critics have it again.  He said the team could walk away with their heads held high.  To a large extent, he was right.  Unlike several future Sox teams, the 1967 Sox were overachievers.  But lack of support or respect from the fans or the media had nothing to do with the Sox collapse in the last week of the season.   In three "must" games, the Sox mustered up only two runs against two bad teams.  Their best pitchers were beaten, but it is impossible to win with no run production.  The once bright hopes of a World Series went the same way as the Sox hitting.

The three losses against the Senators and A's have to go down as the most heartbreaking in Sox history.  After lecturing the media following the 1-0 loss, the tough Eddie Stanky walked out of the room with tears rolling down his cheeks.  The sentiment was easy to understand.

In the last game of the season, a small Sox crowd watched as Horlen again tried for his 20th win.  He delivered a two-run single to left center, which was the biggest Sox hit in a week.  But for the second time in two starts, Horlen wasn't given much support, and he missed his chance for a personal milestone.  The Sox finished a potentially historic season with a five-game losing streak.

It's not hard to analyze the downfall of the 1967 White Sox.  Their leading home run hitter was Pete Ward with a mere 18.  He also led the team with an unimpressive 62 RBIs.  Ward had been a promising hitter when he was traded to the Sox from Baltimore.  Then he hurt his back in an automobile accident, and his personal stats dropped off dramatically.  He made a comeback of sorts in the last half of '67 but didn't have the ability to carry a team like Dick Allen would five years later.  The '67 Sox just didn't have the overall talent to win a pennant.

Present-day Sox fans are accused of being apathetic.  The '67 fans have been hung with the same label.  How could they not come out and see a pennant-contending team?  They outdrew the Cubs by a mere 8,408, and the Cubs had no chance in their league.  The answer isn't hard to come by.  With a team batting average of .225, maybe Sox fans just didn't believe in their club.  And why should 1967 be any different when it was the same story in all the years except one since 1919?

Whatever the reason for fan "apathy," the last week of the '67 season began a 30-year decline for the Sox.  In game two of that infamous doubleheader against Kansas City, Jim "Catfish" Hunter, pitched a complete game three hitter for the win. Hunter hurled a perfect game in 1968 and became one of baseball's top clutch pitchers for World Series champions in Oakland and New York.  The Kansas City A's became the Oakland A's and won three straight World Series from 1972-1974.  By the end of 1975, the Sox were playing sub-.500 ball in front of sparse crowds, and it was feared, or hoped, that they would move to Seattle.

Hey Sox Fans!  Learn more about Dan Helpingstine's "Through Hope and Despair" by following this link!
 

1967 Chicago White Sox
89-73 (.549), - 3 games
Fourth Place
   
Manager:  Eddie Stanky
Everyday Line up 
Pos   AB BA HR RBI
1B Tom McCraw 435 .236 11 45
2B Wayne Causey 292 .226 1 28
SS Ron Hansen 498 .233 8 51
3B Don Buford 535 .241 4 32
  Also Ken Boyer 180 .261 4 21
RF Ken Berry 485 .241 7 41
  Also Rocky Colavito 190 .221 3 29
CF Tommie Agee 529 .234 14 52
LF Pete Ward 467 .233 18 62
  Also Walt Williams 275 .240 3 15
C J.C. Martin 252 .234 4 22
  Also Duane Josephson 189 .238 1 9
            
Pitching Staff
  G IP W L S ERA

Gary Peters

38 260 16 11 0 2.28
Joe Horlen 35 258 19 7 0 2.06
Tommy John 31 178 10 13 0 2.47
Bob Locker 77 125 7 5 20 2.09
Bruce Howard 30 113 3 10 0 3.43
Wilbur Wood 51 95 4 2 4 2.45
Hoyt Wilhelm 49 89 8 3 12 1.31
John Buzhardt 28 89 3 9 0 3.96

 

BOLD led the team
RED led the league
 
 Team Honors
2.45 staff ERA led the American League.

Individual Awards
(none)


Part One
Forgotten Glory
Part Two
Crosstown Eclipse
Part Three
End of an Era

Do you have a thought about
1967 Improbable Nightmare?
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