The season opener to a memorable, pennant-winning year started in Detroit where Billy Pierce faced Jim Bunning. The Sox blew a 7-4 lead when the Tigers got three runs in the eighth inning, and matters weren’t decided until the 14th. That’s when Nellie Fox, who hit home runs as often as he struck out, blasted a two-run shot to give the Sox the 9-7 win. Fox went 5-for-7 and knocked in three runs that afternoon, despite freezing temperatures.
White Sox outfielder “Jungle” Jim Rivera was always good for the unexpected. Right before the Sox played in Washington to open the season, President John Kennedy threw out the first ball. Rivera came up with it and was escorted to the President’s box, where both Kennedy and Vice President Lyndon Johnson signed the ball.
After Rivera looked at it, he said to the President, “You’ll have to do better than that, John. This is a scribble I can hardly read!” So Kennedy, in block letters, spelled out his name on the baseball.
Oh … the Sox won the game, 4-3. It was the first game the “new” Washington Senators ever played.
For the White Sox and the country, the old good days were a thing of the past. The social unrest on the West Side of Chicago after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King held the Opening Day crowd at Comiskey Park to fewer than 8,000. The Sox got shut out by Cleveland’s “Sonny’’ Siebert, 9-0.
It was the first of a franchise-record 10 straight losses to open the season. Coupled with the five straight losses to close out 1967, the Sox dropped 15 regular season games in a row.
If you had written the script and pitched it to Hollywood, they would have refused it on the grounds of corniness — but reality is sometimes stranger than fiction.
Carlton Fisk, native son of New England, returned to Boston for the first time, on Opening Day as a member of the White Sox. Fisk was declared a free agent after the Red Sox mailed him his contract late, and he left. With a new team, in a new uniform, Fisk immediately began making Boston pay, as he ripped a three-run home run in the eighth inning off of Bob Stanley to put the Sox ahead, 3-2, in a game they’d win 5-3.