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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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July 15,1977

Posted 05-08-2018 at 09:44 PM by TommyJohn
Updated 05-14-2019 at 09:25 AM by TommyJohn

July 15,1977
vs. Boston Red Sox
at Comiskey Park

The city of Chicago woke up on the morning of the Fourth of July to find both the White Sox and Cubs in 1st place. Although both teams had been in first earlier in June, this was the first time since 1967 that both Chicago teams sat atop their league/division this late in the season. Fans on both sides would normally react to this by rooting hard for their team while simultaneously fretting that they would blow it while the "other" team would win it.

That wasn't happening in 1977. The rarified air of 1st place was doing something to Chicago's baseball fandom, according to Bill Jauss. He wrote of fans of one team cheering on the other team-Sox fans in Comiskey Park during the Twins series cheered when they saw a Cub score flash indicating that they had rallied to beat the Expos. Cub fans also cheered on the Sox against the Twins, according to Jauss. Fans on both sides were all but joining hands and singing a giddy round of "Kumbaya," or so Jauss's story would have you believe. Bill Veeck proudly stated that it showed that fans were rooting for either team to win for the city.

The teams had something else in common besides 1st place-a nickname. However, the nicknames of the two teams could not have been any more different. "South Side Hitmen" evoked images of large, scary-looking enforcers in the employ of Al Capone. Not the best image to have, but at the very least it had a gritty edge to it. The Cubbies' nickname, on the other hand, was "The Little Blue Machine," which sounded like something Miss Sally would occasionally bring out to entertain the preschoolers on "Romper Room."

The Sox reeled off a nine game winning streak beginning with the Twins series. It was snapped by Detroit, then the Sox met the Royals for a two game set in Comiskey. The crowd was loud and raucous as the teams split the set. The Royals departed without saying much.

The Sox took the field on the 15th for a 1st place showdown against the Red Sox, who had been in 1st place by five games in the AL East until a disastrous nine game losing streak in late June knocked them into 2nd. They had recovered and were 9-2 since then, clinging again to the top spot by half a game.

41,597 turned out for this one, the Sox' largest crowd in nearly three years. They got the opportunity to go crazy in the 4th inning, when the Hitmen, holding a slim 1-0 lead, began to bash Boston pitching.

The Sox loaded them for Ralph Garr, who hit a line drive out with Jim Spencer scoring. Alan Bannister and Jorge Orta followed with RBI singles. Richie Zisk was intentionally walked to re-load the bases so Boston lefty Bill Lee could face lefty Oscar Gamble. Bob Lemon pinched Gamble in favor of righty Lamar Johnson, who belted a triple that cleared the bases and sent the crowd into a park shaking frenzy. The Sox now led 7-0.

Wilbur Wood coasted through five innings of one hit ball before Boston hit him for two runs in the 6th. The White Sox got one back, then Boston, one of the AL's top hitting teams, staged a furious rally, whacking the Sox for two runs in the 7th and two in the 8th, the last deuce scoring on a home run by Carl Yastrzemski.

Lerrin LaGrow took the mound in the 9th protecting a 9-6 lead. He allowed a one out walk to Rick Miller, who came around to score on a two out single by Fred Lynn. That brought up the always dangerous Jim Rice representing the tying run, with Yaz and Carlton Fisk the next two hitters. With the noise level of the crowd rising to deafening levels, LaGrow got two called strikes past Rice, calls that angered Boston manager Don Zimmer, who said Rice "couldn't hit them with a tennis racket."

It didn't matter to LaGrow or anyone else not on Boston. Lerrin blew a called third strike past Rice. The crowd exploded with joy and relief and once again broke into a loud, prolonged chant of "We're number 1!" The Sox had held off a Boston rally to retain a 3 1/2 game lead in the AL West and the best record in the American League.

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