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In honor of actor Andy Garcia and his (unintentionally) hilarious reaction to Sofia (Mary Corleone) Coppola's death scene in "The Godfather, Part III."
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Game of the Year 1974

Posted 01-14-2017 at 10:55 AM by TommyJohn
Updated 09-19-2018 at 08:41 AM by TommyJohn

Game of the Year, 1974
August 7 vs. California Angels
at White Sox Park

If one need was painfully clear to the White Sox after 1973, it was pitching. Wilbur Wood and Stan Bahnsen shouldered most of the load, starting on two days' rest most of time. As a result, they both lost 20 games. Bart Johnson had an erratic, injury-plagued year. Young Steve Stone, acquired from San Francisco in the Henderson deal, went 6-11 with a 4.24 ERA. Terry Forster bounced between the starting rotation and the bullpen, while flame throwing but erratic Rich Gossage bounced between Chicago and Triple A Iowa.

It came to pass that owner John Allyn took a look at the problems with his team's pitching, turned to general manager Roland Hemond and declared "go get me a washed up Cub!"

The Cub in question was Ron Santo, star 3rd baseman from 1960-73. The Cubs, losers through the 50s to the mid-60s, went on a splendid run under Leo Durocher from 1967-72, including the fabled year of 1969, when they led the NL East for 155 days before blowing the lead and clearing the way for the Miracle Mets.

1973 was another Cub-like year. They stood 15 games over .500 and were in 1st place on July 4th before they creaked, groaned and once again collapsed, ceding the division to the Mets.

The Cubs' brass decided the team was ripe for a teardown and rebuild. Santo was also unhappy with team management and wanted out. He rejected a trade to the Angels, telling GM John Holland that he wanted to stay in Chicago, which left only the White Sox as an option. This upset Holland, who treated the White Sox like something that he needed to wipe from the bottom of his shoe.

At that point Cub owner Phil Wrigley intervened and ordered his GM to give Santo what he wanted. Holland plugged his nose, sprayed himself with disinfectant so he wouldn't be contaminated by south side germs, approached Hemond and got the deal done. He capped it off by huffing and puffing that the White Sox were violating league rules regarding the way they announced the deal.

The deal cost the Sox a badly needed pitcher in Steve Stone, and minor leaguers Steve Swisher and Ken Frailing. It seemed like a useless deal-the Sox already had a third baseman in Bill Melton. Still, Santo had hit 21 home runs in 1973 and seemed to have a couple of good years left. His presence looked to strengthen the Sox lineup.

It didn't take long for Santo to find fault with the White Sox. He didn't care for Dick Allen's prima donna attitude or Chuck Tanner's favored treatment of him.

Allen, for his part, didn't care for Santo's arrogance."He came over seeing himself as some sort of Chicago institution because of all the years he had put in with the Cubs." He said., At one point, Allen saw Santo loudly berating young Jorge Orta during practice. Allen snapped at Santo to knock it off.

The Sox lost a memorable opener to the Angels on a frigid day that featured streakers and strippers in abundance. The Sox sank to 1-8, bringing back ugly memories of 1968. This team bounced back, though, getting up to 17-14 and first place in the AL West.

They didn't do much from there, though. Allen batted the ball around again, but with the Sox treading .500 most of the time he seemed bored and distracted. He also may have been bothered by a nagging shoulder injury. Ron Santo didn't appreciate Tanner treating a player of his exalted status like a utility infielder and Bill Melton didn't appreciate broadcaster Harry Caray's repeated criticisms of him.

The game of the year came on August 7 against the Angels. Nolan Ryan, owner of two no-hitters, was bidding for a third one when he didn't allow a hit through eight.

The game went into the 9th with Harry Caray babbling excitedly about the no-hitter. Ryan got the first out, but then Dick Allen stepped up and beat out an infield grounder to break up the no-hitter. Carlos May reached on an error, then Ken Henderson tied the game with a base hit. Bill Sharp then came up and whacked another single to drive the winning run across. Ryan, on the verge of history, walked off a 2-1 loser.

There wasn't much to cheer about after that. Dick Allen hit his league-leading 32nd home run on August 16th, then none after that. On September 14th, he dropped a bomb on Tanner and the team when he announced he was retiring from baseball. He left the park that night with Tanner's blessing. His 32 home runs held up until the end of the season and he won his second home run crown.

The Sox themselves finished a disappointing 80-80. Worse yet, the player that almost single-handedly lifted the Sox out of their doldrums and made going to White Sox Park fun again was gone.
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