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All Star Break: A Brief History of the White Sox on TV

Since we have some time to kill until play resumes on Thursday, let's take a look back at the White Sox on TV.  Video, and more, after the jump.

The White Sox were originally on WGN-TV.  Jack Brickhouse split time between the White Sox and the Cubs.  They made the jump to WFLD-TV (Ch. 32) in 1968. 

In retrospect, it was a bad idea because Ch. 32 wasn't nearly as powerful as Ch. 9.  Plus it was on UHF, which was kind of a hassle to tune in (old TVs had two dials.  One for Channels 2-13.  The other one was for Channels 14 and beyond).

The Sox remained on Ch. 32, until the early 70's.  They fell down the broadcasting food chain once again, landing at WSNS-TV Ch. 44.  Even though the station was low rent in every sense of the word, it did result in the legendary marriage of Harry Caray, Jimmy Piersall, and Falstaff Beer.

Here's how the Sox games looked in 1977.  You get to see the intro, followed by some banter between Harry and announcer Mary Shane.

Much like the White Sox, Ch. 44 got by on little money and old equipment.  WGN got all of the good syndicated shows, movies, and sports...along with blue chip advertisers.   The end result was on your TV

White Sox promo from 1980

The tradition of singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" started with Harry in the summer of 1976.  It was not long before it found its way to TV.

Harry Caray sings during the 7th inning stretch, July 1980

The Sox were back on WGN-TV for the 1981 season.  Harry bolted for the north side after the team announced it was taking most of the games off of free TV, and putting them on a pay per view outlet called Sports Vision.

Here's how Sports Vision worked.  You would pay 50 dollars for the converter box, which would then convert the scrambled over the air signal (which was on Channel 44).  There was only one problem.  It was cheaper, and easier, for viewers to build the decoder box themselves.

That decision would kill attendance for decades.  The 1983 season took place on the radio, because only a select number of games were broadcast on Ch. 32

When the Sox clinched on September 17th, 1983, the 9th inning was simulcast on three channels...just so people could actually see the game.

Here's the final out, plus the postgame celebration.

Part 1:  Don Drysdale welcomes viewers from Ch. 2, Ch. 7, Ch. 32, and Ch. 9.  He reminds everyone that Hawk Harrelson is waiting for the party in the clubhouse.

Part 2:  Bill Caudill loads the bases after a dropped third strike to Carlton Fisk.  Del Crandall gets Ed Vandeberg from the bullpen, who gives up the game winning sac fly to Harold Baines.  It's time to party.

Part 3:  Hawk interviews Jerry Reinsdorf, Eddie Einhorn, Tony LaRussa, and others

Part 4:  Interviews with Rudy Law, Roland Hemond, Vance Law, Richard Dotson, Greg Walker, and Mike Squires

Part 5:  Hawk talks to Britt Burns, the Dibber, Kevin Hickey, Dennis Lamp, and LaMarr Hoyt

1983 was also the last year local broadcast teams got to cover the LCS, so viewers had the option of watching Bob Costas on NBC, or Hawk and Don Drysdale on Ch. 32.

Sports Vision later became a regular cable channel.  It changed its name to Sports Channel around the time Chicago was wired for cable (1989?).  Sports Channel became Fox Sports Net Chicago, which folded after all play by play (Cubs, Sox, Bulls) shifted to Comcast Sports Net.

The Sox returned to WGN-TV in 1990, and they have been there ever since.  Here's the opening from 1992

Some random videos:

Sports Channel White Sox game intro from 1991

Spanish language interview with Ozzie Guillen from 1986

This retrospective would be impossible without the Museum of Chicago Television, at www.fuzzymemories.tv.  It's run by a man named Rick Klein, and the site truly is a labor of love.  The rest was came up during random YouTube searches.

Finally, here's a commercial for the Sox radio broadcasts..

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