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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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April 12,1977

Posted 04-21-2018 at 02:08 PM by TommyJohn

April 12,1977
vs. Boston Red Sox
at Comiskey Park

The rag-tag White Sox made the expansion Blue Jays look like world beaters, losing 2 of 3 to the new Canadian club before heading back to Chicago to open their home schedule against the other Sox from the east coast.

The two Sox teams couldn't have been any more different. The White Sox were the poor relations from the other side of the tracks, while the Red Sox were the well-fed, well-paid members of the club.

An item in the Tribune the day of the home opener told of how Veeck wanted to cut the centerfield home run distance down to 400 feet now that he had a team of hitters; ones who were less than adept at fielding. The return of the centerfield wall would give them less ground to cover.

It was manager Bob Lemon who nixed the idea. The Sox skipper knew that his so-so pitching staff would serve up a lot of fly balls in 1977, so he wanted to give his hurlers a puncher's chance that the majority of them would stay in the yard. Veeck told Lemon that he disagreed with the decision, but he deferred to it.

The day dawned with the Chicago sports world in mourning. Phillip K. Wrigley, who had owned the crosstown Cubs since 1935, had died the night before. A devastated Bill Veeck eulogized Wrigley as one of the kindest men he had ever known. He talked of how the Cub owner had given him his first job in baseball and how Wrigley, along with Bill's own father Bill Veeck, Sr., had taught him everything he knew about the game. Veeck also talked about how Wrigley accepted two of Bill's ideas to spruce up the north side ball yard-a new scoreboard atop the centerfield stands and ivy along the outfield walls, but when Veeck begged Wrigley to install lights for night games, the owner adamantly refused.

The Opening Day ceremonies were somber in tone anyway, as this would be the first Sox opener in years without the presence of Mayor Richard J. Daley, who had died the previous December 20th. Daley had been a Sox fan since childhood and was the team's number 1 civic booster. It was he who had pulled out all the stops behind the scenes to save the White Sox for the city when a broke John Allyn sought a buyer that would keep the team in Chicago. Daley was the one who had contacted Veeck and persuaded him to look into buying the club. The Sox P.A. announcer eulogized Daley as "the man who saved the White Sox" when asking for a moment of silence for him. The moment of silence had been planned; the Sox also added Phillip Wrigley to it. Mayor Daley's widow Eleanor and the four Daley sons all threw out the first pitch.

The White Sox took a quick 1-0 lead in the 1st, but in the top of the 2nd the Red Sox threatened when George Scott hit a lead off double. Carl Yastrzemski followed with a drive to right that Richie Zisk lost in the sun. It dropped in front of him and Scott blazed around 3rd, through the coach's stop sign and barreled into Jim Essian. By that time, though, Zisk had recovered, fired a peg to Alan Bannister who turned and whipped a perfect strike to Essian to nail Scott. Yaz took 3rd on the play and scored when Dwight Evans grounded out.

The White Sox answered in the 2nd by thumping Red Sox pitcher Rick Wise for four runs, and got a little help from the Boston defense. Soderholm was on 3rd and Chet Lemon on 2nd with one run already in when Ralph Garr dinked a slow roller to Butch Hobson at 3rd. Hobson charged the ball, scooped it up and threw towards home in an attempt to get Soderholm, but the ball sailed over catcher Bob Montgomery's head. Lemon also scored on the play. Garr stole second and came around to score on an Alan Bannister single.

Boston added a run in the top of the 6th, but again poor base running prevented them from adding more. Rick Burleson lead off with a single, and with one out, Jim Rice singled to left. Ralph Garr bobbled the ball so Burleson tried to go to 3rd on the play but was a dead duck for Soderholm, who took a perfect throw from Garr and tagged out Burleson.

The White Sox clung to a 5-2 lead in the 8th when the Red Sox put two on with two out. Ken Brett was excused in favor of Dave Hamilton, who served up a pitch that Yaz launched a long way towards right field. This time Zisk had a bead on it and hauled it in a few steps from the wall.

More near fielding follies came in the top of the 9th, when Carlton Fisk pinch hit with one on and two out. Fisk hit a drive to left center. Both Garr and Chet Lemon converged on it, with Garr reaching above Lemon and catching it on the tip of his glove for the final out.

The final crowd count was 34,612, not a bad turnout considering the negativity that had surrounded the club all spring.

It wouldn't have been a Sox home opener without at least one fight in the stands, though. Five men between the ages of 20 and 23 were involved in a scuffle that ended with two security guards getting hurt and the five guys getting arrested for disorderly conduct.

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