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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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1975 offseason 2

Posted 03-08-2018 at 08:47 PM by TommyJohn
Updated 09-07-2019 at 09:17 AM by TommyJohn

1975 Offseason

Bill Veeck wasted no time getting right to work. On the day the sale of the team was approved, Jim Kaat was dispatched to the Phillies in exchange for pitcher Dick Ruthven and shortstop prospect Alan Bannister. Two days later Ruthven was flipped to the Braves along with Ken Henderson for former NL batting champ Ralph Garr. In between, Veeck finally granted Bill Melton his dream trade, sending him to the California Angels for 1st baseman Jim Spencer.

Melton departed as the White Sox' all-time home run leader. One would think his departure would lead to fanfare, but it didn't. Sox fans who grew up watching Melton hitting home runs regard him today as a hero, but he was anything but to Sox fans in 1975, who had been booing him for the past two seasons. Melton's complaining and his penchant for blaming everybody but himself for his on-field problems wore away the fans' goodwill. His admission at the end of 1974 that he played poorly at the beginning of the season in hopes of being traded didn't score any points with anybody either. Fans shed nary a tear upon the announcement of the trade. Melton, for his part was happy to leave town and get away from Harry.

The papers consummating the sale were finally signed on December 16, 1975. A stogie-chomping John Allyn posed ceremoniously handing the keys to the ballpark to Bill Veeck. Allyn retained 20% ownership of the team.

On that same day, a decision came down that would permanently alter the baseball landscape. Arbiter Peter Seitz ruled that three players who had played the season without contracts-Andy Messersmith, Mike Cuellar and Dave McNally-were free agents and could sell themselves to the team of their choosing. After 95 years, the reserve clause crumbled to dust. The decision would deal an all-but fatal blow to Veeck's operation, as he wouldn't have the financing to compete with baseball's well-heeled teams. If the decision had come down a month earlier, he might've re-thought buying the team.

Also on the same day, Chuck Tanner became an expected casualty of the new regime. Nostalgia was being heavily promoted by Veeck. 1976 was the 25th anniversary of the 1951 "Go-Go" Sox that had awakened the team from its three decade slumber and charged up the fanbase. Veeck introduced the manager of that club, Paul Richards, as his new skipper.

Richards was 67 years old and hadn't worked for a team in three years and hadn't managed since the early 60s. It was a "security blanket" move for Veeck, who planned to use Richards for only one year.

And with that, the Chuck Tanner era, which had begun with so much hope and promise, was over. When cheerful Chuck arrived in town, his positive, Norman Vincent Peale approach to managing was something that the downtrodden club desperately needed. It was a refreshing change from the barking authoritarianism of Eddie Stanky and the sleepy complacency of Don Gutteridge. It helped to uplift the hopes and spirits of fans and players crushed by three seasons of putrid baseball. But the past two seasons of empty platitudes and substandard baseball helped to erode Chuck's standing with fans and media in Chicago. He departed with no hard feelings, signing on to manage Charlie Finley's A's.

Veeck waited until January to hire Harry back. He was as wild about Harry as John Allyn or Bill Melton, but he knew of Harry's enormous appeal with the fan base. Veeck wouldn't have a very good team come 1976, so he needed everything he could get his hands on to help promote the club. Harry was indeed adept at that.

Veeck then turned his attentions to the ballpark. He tore out the bright green astroturf that had blighted the infield since 1969 and restored real grass. The fake turf was cut up into small squares and distributed to fans for free.

The centerfield fence was also taken down. It had been a fixture in the park since it had been put up by Frank Lane in 1949 to cut the home run distance to 415 feet. It had been moved in another 15 feet by Art Allyn in 1969. The area between the fence and the centerfield bleacher wall had served as the bullpen for many years, although it had long since been abandoned and the bullpens moved to the areas down the baselines.Veeck knew the 1976 White Sox wouldn't hit many home runs, so he decided to make it just as hard for the opposition to hit them as well. Home runs to centerfield would now require a gargantuan 445 foot shot to the bleachers, a feat accomplished only four times since the park had opened in 1910.

Next came the name. Arthur Allyn had renamed the ballpark "White Sox Park" in the 60s. Veeck decided to restore the name of the founder. The WHITE SOX PARK in red block letters that adorned the front of the stadium was painted over with COMISKEY PARK in bright green and a more classical looking font. The red border that went around the base of the park was also painted over the same bright green color. Fans and media had always referred to the place as "Comiskey Park" anyway. Veeck simply made it official.

In March Veeck turned his attention to team fashion and unveiled new uniforms, modeled by five ex-players. They were unusual looking to say the least. The home uniforms were white pullover jerseys with large, floppy navy blue collars with "CHICAGO" across the chest in a classical font, with numbers and player names on the back. The pants were navy blue clamdiggers. The away uniforms were all navy blue with white lettering. The hats were navy blue with "SOX" in block lettering across it. The script on the hat was based on a Sox insignia Veeck had seen in an old-timey photo. The uniforms were based on the ones the team had worn in 1906, when they beat the Cubs in the World Series.

After five years, the red pinstripes were history. They are now beloved by many, including myself, for the nostalgia they invoke. Veeck's reason for getting rid of them was simple. He called navy blue and white "traditional White Sox colors" and asked "just what were the White Sox doing wearing red socks all those years anyway?"

Oh, yes. There was one thing that I didn't mention. A variation of the home uniform, modeled by Jungle Jim Rivera, featured...shorts?

1976 was going to be an interesting year.
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