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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 1976

Posted 01-14-2017 at 11:07 AM by TommyJohn
Updated 09-19-2018 at 08:49 AM by TommyJohn

Game of the Year, 1976
April 9 vs. Kansas City Royals
at Comiskey Park

The White Sox ended the 1975 season on so many down notes that the team must've lost all sight of which way was up. Attendance had fallen below 800,000, the final record of 75-86 was good for 5th place, the team was for sale, owner John Allyn was so broke he nearly didn't meet his payroll and to top it all off, the team was in danger of being sold to a syndicate that would move the club to Seattle.

The league wasn't ready to abandon the second largest market altogether, though. The plan was to move another financially struggling team, the Oakland A's, to the south side to replace the White Sox, a move that would've been just fine and dandy with Trib columnists Rick Talley and David Condon.

It wasn't fine and dandy with the city's Number 1 White Sox fan Mayor Richard J. Daley, however. He swung into action and got a hold of ex-White Sox owner Bill Veeck, who was retired and living the quiet life in Maryland after being rebuffed in a couple of attempts to re-enter the game as an owner. Veeck wasn't too keen to get back in as a White Sox owner, but Daley proved persuasive. Veeck put together a team of no less than 46 investors and placed a bid in for the team. Meanwhile, John Allyn ominously told the media "It's Veeck or Seattle."

Veeck's first bid for the team was voted down on December 3rd. An angry Veeck threatened to sue, so the AL owners gave him one week to raise an additional $1.2 million in capital. Veeck went out and managed to do it, only to be voted down again on December 10. Not wanting another lawsuit to add to the Seattle one, the owners held a closed door meeting that ended with a vote of 10-2 approving the sale. Bill Veeck was back in the game.

He immediately swung into action. Guys like Bil Melton, Ken Henderson and Jim Kaat were traded. In their place came Jim Spencer, Ralph Garr and Dick Ruthven. Paul Richards was hired as manager to replace Chuck Tanner. Veeck tore up the astroturf infield and replaced it with natural grass. He painted over the red borders on the outside of the park with green and renamed it "Comiskey Park." He re-hired Harry Caray, who had been fired by John Allyn. Veeck was not fond of Harry, but he realized Caray's enormous fan appeal.

The classy red pinstripes that defined the Sox of the early 70s (and now come to symbolize that era) were ditched in favor of uniforms styled after the duds the team wore in 1906, when the Sox had beat the Cubs in the World Series. They were, in essence, the first throwback uniforms.

Opening Day saw 40,318 jam into Comiskey Park to enjoy the festivities. Veeck, Rudie Schafer and Paul Richards dressed as the "Spirit of '76." Standing ovations abounded. The Sox took the field and proceeded to beat the Royals 4-0. Wilbur Wood pitched a shutout and Jim Spencer had the crowd roaring with a two run home run off Paul Splitorff. In a fitting preview of the season to come, the scoreboard fired a dud after Spencer's home run.

The Sox had few bright spots after this. On Mother's Day Wilbur Wood caught a Ron LeFlore line shot with his knee, which shattered and ended his season. There was a ten-game winning streak and a near no-hitter from Wood replacement Ken Brett, but the team later fell into last place and stayed there.

Veeck kept the team interesting with promotions, giveaways and ethnic nights. Oh, and shorts that the team wore on three occasions.

His biggest contribution came when he heard Harry Caray sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" after the top of the 7th one time. A light bulb went off and Veeck sneaked a PA microphone under Caray one day so that Caray's voice was heard throughout the park. And thus was born the tradition of Harry Caray leading the crowd in the 7th inning stretch rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."

The 1976 White Sox finished 64-97 and in last place. But they were still the CHICAGO White Sox, and for the time being, that is what mattered.

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