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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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October 2,1977

Posted 06-02-2018 at 02:36 PM by TommyJohn
Updated 09-14-2018 at 01:24 PM by TommyJohn

October 2,1977
vs. Seattle Mariners
at Comiskey Park

And so it came down to the last day of the season. The year long party was over. The 1977 White Sox' miracle run was going to end without a berth in the postseason. Meanwhile, George Steinbrenner's millionaire's club the New York Yankees had asserted itself and clinched the AL East, thus restoring the balance that the White Sox had thrown off kilter to the baseball universe.

The Sox took the field to a standing ovation from the 20,953 fans in attendance. This brought their final season mark to 1,657,135, which toppled the old team record of 1,640,460 set in 1960. The Sox were also concluding the season on the profit side of the financial ledger for the first time in about a dozen years.

The defining moment of the game and season took place in the 5th inning, with Seattle leading 2-0. Eric Soderholm came up and drilled a home run into the left field stands. It was Soderholm's 25th home run of the year and brought the team total to 192, second in the AL behind Boston and by far and away tops in team history. Soderholm did his trot, went into the dugout, then came out for a curtain call with his arms raised over his head. "My Rocky" Soderholm called it, in reference to the small movie that had become the sleeper hit of 1976; a film about a down-and-out boxer who gets a one-in-a-million shot at the Heavyweight title and "goes the distance."

The Mariners made it 3-1 in the 7th, then Bill Nahorodny drove in Soderholm with a single to make it 3-2.

Richie Zisk's final at-bat came in the 6th inning. He flied out to left field, then was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the 8th.

Zisk had turned out to be everything that Bill Veeck had hoped for when he made the trade with the Pirates. Zisk's 30 home runs and 101 RBI gave the Sox the big bat that their lineup had sorely lacked since the departure of Dick Allen. Zisk had also bonded with the fans so deeply that he made no secret of his desire to stay on the south side and finish his career with the Sox. By now, though, it was apparent to just about everyone that Veeck would not be re-signing him. The banner "PITCH AT RISK TO RICH ZISK" had long since been replaced with one reading "PLEASE DON'T GO."

Oscar Gamble put in his final appearance in the 4th inning, drawing a walk. Gamble's season ended with 31 HRs and 83 RBIs. Robert Markus had praised him as "the true unsung hero" of the 1977 Sox. Gamble, too, would be departing at the end of the season.

The year came to a close when Bill Nahorodny struck out to end the game at 3-2 in favor of Seattle. The crowd gave the team one more standing ovation, which the team came out and acknowledged. Harry Caray sang Auld Lang Syne over the PA system.

The Sox closed out with a record of 90-72, their best since 1965.

Eric Soderholm's "Rocky" gesture after his final home run had been appropriate in summing up the story of the 1977 Sox. They had been a rag-tag group strung together on a wing and a prayer, written off by the experts, picked to finish in either 6th or 7th place. But, like Rocky, they went toe-to-toe with the big guns of the AL and held their own. In the end, the big boys won out, as everyone figured they would, but the White Sox could hold their heads high and be proud of what they had accomplished during the season.

The teams of 1967-77 could be said to follow the same pattern. Broken, bloodied, on the ropes and almost out, dismissed by most and written off as headed out of town within a year or two, they somehow came back and produced winning seasons like 1972 and 1977 at a time when they were most critically needed; seasons that helped keep the franchise afloat and bring fans back to the ballpark.

Sox history, like all history, ebbs and flows. They have had up and down periods. It is the natural cycle of life. The Sox of the period of 1967-77 had mostly down years, but there were fans out there that never gave up, that continued to hope, continued to come out, continued to cheer. The ones that did so will never get the credit they deserve. When 5,000 people turned out to Comiskey Park, the media, which in other circumstances would write odes and love letters to the 5,000 who turned out to other parks, instead blasted the 35,000 who didn't show up.

The present-day White Sox, like the Sox of 1968-70 or 1975-76, are in a down period right now, in the process of a rebuild that, due to the way this season is going, seems to be agonizingly slow, with no end in sight. Sox fans have been through this before-rebuilds with Arthur Allyn and Ed Short; Chuck Tanner and Roland Hemond; and Bill Veeck just in this 10 year period alone. Through all the dropped flyballs, clutch strikeouts, complaining players and losing baseball one thing has endured-the unwavering faith of the fans who stick with the team through thick and through thin. When the final out of this season is recorded, the fans will reflect back on the year just past, look to the year ahead, and say what countless fans have said at the conclusion of many seasons, including those from 1967-77: Our Sox Shall Rise Again.

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