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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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1972 Offseason

Posted 10-09-2017 at 09:27 PM by TommyJohn
Updated 06-25-2018 at 10:31 PM by TommyJohn

Awards galore poured in for the 1972 White Sox, to no one's surprise. After all, to go from the worst team in baseball to the second-best team in the American League in two short years seemed to be nothing short of a miracle.

The Sporting News named Roland Hemond and Chuck Tanner their Executive of the Year and Manager of the Year, respectively.

The "Bible of Baseball" also named Wilbur Wood its AL Pitcher of the Year. Workhorse Wilbur had started 49 games (the most starts by a White Sox pitcher since Big Ed Walsh in 1908) and finished with a record of 24-17, 20 complete games, 8 shutouts, 193 strikeouts and a 2.51 ERA in an amazing 376.2 innings pitched.

The Baseball Writers Association of America didn't see it TSN's way, conferring the Cy Young Award to Gaylord Perry, the Indians ace who was constantly being suspected of loading up the ball with various oils, ointments and fluids. They viewed Perry's line as superior to Wilbur's (24-16, 40 GS, 29 CG, 5 shutouts, 234 K's and a 1.92 ERA in 342.2 Innings). Plus, there was the matter of Wilbur's September slump, when he failed in six attempts to win his 25th game, went 0-5 over that span and had an ERA for the month above 5. That more than anything may have been the factor in the writers' decision to vote the Cy to Greasin' Gaylord.

There was no doubt at all who the AL Player of the Year was for 1972. Dick Allen led the AL in home runs (37) and RBI (113) and his .308 batting average was good for 3rd in the AL. To give an idea of just how valuable Allen had been to the White Sox, the closest teammate to him in homers and RBI was Carlos May, with 12 and 68.

Allen swept just about every major award that winter, including honors from The Sporting News and Baseball Digest. The big award came when the BBWAA named Allen AL Most Valuable Player; the first Sox player to take that honor since Nellie Fox in 1959.

The rest of the team didn't do so badly. Stan Bahnsen won 21 games, giving the Sox their first 20 game winning pair since 1920, when they sported four. Tom Bradley rounded out the Big Three at 15-14, 2.98 ERA and 209 strikeouts; making him only the 3rd pitcher in team history to whiff 200 batters in a season twice-Ed Walsh and Gary Peters being the others.

Allen's year overshadowed a fine year by Carlos May, who in addition to his 12 HRs and 68 RBIs also stole 23 bases and finished with a .308 average, which tied him with Allen for 3rd in the AL. Pat Kelly had hit .261 and swiped 32 bases.

Relief pitching had been a bit so-so, with Terry Forster being the best of the corps with 29 saves, 6-5 record and 2.45 ERA. A revolving door had seen many others come and go, including Eddie Fisher, Jim Geddes and ex-Cubs Phil Regan and Moe Drabowsky.

Attendance jumped to 1,177,318, good for 3rd in the AL. Only AL East Champ Detroit (1,892,386) and Boston (1,441,718) outdrew them. It was the first time that White Sox attendance had trended upward three years in a row since 1958-60.

While being one of three teams to draw 1 million fans was seen a plus on the south side, the AL as a whole was rather alarmed by the statistic. Not even three time AL Champ Baltimore or current AL West champ Oakland had cracked the million mark. The league worried that their games, which were always clocking in at about 2 hours, 30 minutes were getting long, slow and dull. They would take a drastic step to remedy that for 1973.

Hemond and Tanner dipped into the trade market once again in late November.

This time the catch was Ken Henderson, versatile outfielder for the San Francisco Giants, who came to the Sox along with young pitcher Steve Stone in exchange for Tom Bradley.

Henderson was immediately pronounced the White Sox centerfielder, filling a position that had been sadly lacking since the trade of Ken Berry two years earlier.

Bradley departed the Sox with a record of 30-29, 2.98 ERA and 415 Ks in his two years on the team. The Sox' giving up one of the "Big Three" in order to fill the CF position while still having no viable 4th starter seemed like a classic case of robbing Peter to pay Paul. Tanner and Sain however, were confident that young Stone, who sported a 6-8 record and 2.98 ERA in 1972, would fill in nicely, while a returning Bart Johnson would round out the rotation.

Several days after the trade the American league felt it had the answer to the attendance dilemma. They voted to institute a "designated pinch-hitter" that would bat in games in place of the pitcher's spot in the lineup. The idea was to add an extra slugger and thus more offense to the game. It would also help prolong the careers of sluggers who were aging out of the game because they could no longer effectively play the field.

Dick Allen was rewarded handsomely for his monster season. The Sox gave him a new three year contract worth $225,000 a year, making Allen the first player to make over 200,000 a season. The new contract stunned observers and made the owners collectively groan. Player salaries were going to start climbing up past the 200 grand threshold as more players were going to start demanding bigger money.

The salary was quite a surprise for Sox players and fans as well. Just two years earlier the Sox had been a struggling, cash poor team. Now they had the highest paid player in baseball history. Where was this money going to come from?

Stuart K. Holcomb, White Sox General Manager and master budget balancer, thought he had the answer-scrimp on other players' salaries.

Mike Andrews, Jay Johnstone, Ed Spiezio and Rick Reichardt were all asked to take pay cuts. The four of them balked at this offer. Stan Bahnsen was offered a pay raise he deemed inadequate and refused to sign. The attempt to cut salaries after signing Allen to the monster contract was a source of contention and cast a pall over spring training. The good times and positive vibes of Chuck Tanner's previous camps was missing.

The situation became more touchy when Dick's older brother Hank arrived at camp. He had put in a month for the Sox the previous September, but still needed time on an active roster in order to qualify for a pension. The scuttlebutt was that Dick had made giving Hank a roster spot a condition of signing his new contract. The Sox vehemently denied this, but with blossoming youngsters like Brian Downing, Bucky Dent and Jorge Orta in camp, there was no need for an end of the line never-was like Hank Allen to be there. Tanner and the White Sox' favored treatment of their star player was starting to show no bounds.

Holcomb was unable to come to terms with either Johnstone or Spiezio, so both were released, a move that angered Chuck Tanner. The Sox felt that the arrival of Henderson made Johnstone expendable. And the return to full health of Bill Melton meant that he wouldn't get injured again, ever. So Spiezio was no longer needed.

Johnstone was diplomatic, saying he wanted to stay, but not as a brand new designated hitter, which is what the Sox wanted to make him. In later years, Johnstone would be less kind, angrily blasting the Sox for their treatment of him whenever he got the chance.

The release came as a shock to Spiezio, who had expected to negotiate with Holcomb.

Hemond, who had done the actual waiving at the behest of his boss, stated that the two of them should have come to camp expecting to fight for a job, rather than believing they already had one.

On the broadcast front, WMAQ took the Sox back for the 1973 season. The popularity of Harry Caray was no doubt a factor in their decision. WFLD, on the other hand, chose not to renew their $1 million a year TV contract, forcing the Sox to find another UHF outlet, WSNS, to broadcast their games. In a reversal of the usual, the team elected to pay the station to show their games, rather than the other way around. The Sox also announced that Caray would do both radio and TV starting in the new season.

Despite all the soap opera plotlines optimism ran high. Sports Illustrated's March 12, 1973 issue featured Bill Melton on the cover and wrote glowingly of Tanner, Allen, Melton and the upcoming season. "This may finally be the year that bells ring on the south side" the story concluded.

The Tribune's Richard Dozer certainly thought so. In his annual baseball prediction article, Dozer happily predicted that not only the Sox, but also the Cubs would win their divisions. He saw the White Sox as the most loaded team in the American League, made stronger by the acquisition of Henderson. He led off his assessment of the south siders with the bold statement "physical infirmities are all that can stop the Sox."
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