“Sleepy” Bill Burns fired a one-hitter, defeating Walter Johnson and the Senators in Washington, 1-0.
If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Burns would become one of the ringleaders in the plot to fix the World Series 10 years later. It was he who had the idea of going to gambler Arnold Rothstein to get the financial backing to rig the White Sox-Reds World Series of 1919.
Lee Tannehill hit the first White Sox home run at Comiskey Park, when his ball rolled under the fence. According to the rules at the time it was still considered a home run — and a grand slam, to boot.
It’s ironic that Tannehill would be the first player to get a home run, as he was considered one of the worst hitters in the early days of the American League. The Sox lost to the Tigers that afternoon, 6-5.
White Sox star lefthander Juan Pizarro struck out 14 Senators in a 6-0 win in Washington. Pizarro allowed only four hits.
Pizarro would make the All-Star team that year, winning 19 games with an ERA of 2.56.
It was another baseball rarity. Dick Allen’s magical season continued, with two inside-the-park home runs in a single game, tying the major league record.
It happened in Minnesota, at old Metropolitan Stadium, as the Sox beat Bert Blyleven, 8-1. Bobby Darwin was the Twins center fielder who misplayed both of Allen’s drives. He slipped on the first one, which saw the ball bounce completely over his head in right center. Then on the second one, he mistimed his dive in left-center and the ball got by him and rolled all the way to the wall. Allen was credited with five RBIs on the day.
It was the high point of the 1977 season. The South Side Hit Men had won the first two games of a crucial four-game series with the Royals by coming from behind each time.
In the first game of a Sunday doubleheader, Chet Lemon’s two-run home run in the last of the 10th tied the game 4-4, then Ralph Garr’s single drove in the game-winner. The Sox were now 6½ games ahead in the Western Division, the franchise’s largest first-place margin since 1967. Three straight come-from-behind wins had the crowd of more than 45,000 in a frenzy.
The second game also produced fireworks, as the Royals routed the Sox, 8-4. Hal McRae homered, then did a slow trot around the bases, tipping his cap as he touched home plate, mocking Sox fans who had demanded “curtain calls” all season long. Sox fans reacted by throwing garbage at McRae and the Royals from the stands.
Pitcher Steve Stone, now a White Sox announcer, always felt that manager Bob Lemon made a major mistake by not putting his best lineup out for the second game and going for the jugular.
The Sox would finish the surprising season with a record of 90-72, in third place.
The white-hot White Sox capped off a sizzling month with one of the most dramatic moments in team history. The Sox trailed the Rangers, 8-6, going into the bottom of the ninth inning. Texas brought in former White Sox All-Star pitcher Rich “Goose” Gossage to close things out. But the goose got cooked on this night, as with two out, Robin Ventura hammered a grand slam into the right-field stands, winning the game 10-8.
A full house, which included noted Cubs fan Bill Murray sitting almost directly behind home plate, went wild as Ventura was lifted off the ground by massive Frank Thomas in a celebration hug at home plate. The Sox went 19-8 that month.
With the White Sox looking for any type of reliable starting pitching help in the middle of a pennant race, GM Ron Schueler was finally convinced to deal two of his “can’t-miss kids” to Cincinnati for pitcher Tim Belcher. Belcher provided some consistency to help the rotation, including throwing a shutout against Oakland, but came up big when it was really needed, in the postseason. In Game 4 of the ALCS, he relieved a shell-shocked Jason Bere, pitched nearly four innings, and picked up the win to tie the best-of-seven series at two games each.
The White Sox infuriated their fans and angered their own players by refusing to make any significant trade moves at the deadline, settling for relief pitcher Tony Castillo later in August, to try to help a bullpen that was among the worst in baseball. In fact, the 1996 White Sox would set the record (since broken) for most blown save opportunities. The Sox were in the midst of losing a substantial lead in the Wild Card race at the time, after having started the season at 40-21.
The following week, pitcher Roberto Hernandez and outfielder Tony Phillips ripped the organization to The Sporting News.
The Sox ended the year a disappointing 85-77 and out of the postseason.
Perhaps the lowest point in the history of the Chicago White Sox franchise occurred, as owner Jerry Reinsdorf issued his ”Anybody who thinks this club can catch Cleveland is crazy” comment and gutted the team. Reinsdorf allowed GM Ron Schueler to trade Wilson Alvarez, Roberto Hernandez and Danny Darwin to the Giants with the Sox only 3½ games out of first. The Sox got back six minor league prospects.
The “White Flag Trade” resulted in catastrophic consequences for the team from an attendance and local/national public relations standpoint. No team before had ever traded their top pitchers when they were only a few games off of the lead.
Joe Morgan went on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight and angrily denounced Sox management, saying how sorry he felt ”for the fans and the season-ticket holders.” Dave Campbell echoed those remarks on the same show. Sports Illustrated had the “Sox Surrender” as their feature story, and quoted both Alvarez and Hernandez as stating that when manager Terry Bevington told them they were traded he was ”laughing.”
Many Sox fans never forgave Reinsdorf and refused to ever attend games again in person. White Sox star third baseman Robin Ventura, who worked his way back from a grotesque injury to his lower leg in late March, then issued his famous, ”I didn’t know the season ended in August” quote.
Albert Belle clocked his 16th home run in the month, which set the major league record at the time. The old mark was 15, set by Joe DiMaggio, Hank Greenberg, Juan Gonzalez and Joe Adcock. The Sox hammered the Rangers in Texas, 10-2.
At the trade deadline, GM Ken Williams made a pitching swap that would dramatically alter the franchise. He sent former All-Star Esteban Loazia to the Yankees for disappointing José Contreras and cash.
In 2005, Contreras would become the best pitcher in baseball after the All-Star break and help lead the Sox to the World Championship. He then set the club record with 16 straight wins, spanning the 2005 and 2006 seasons.
In a very minor deal, the White Sox picked up utilityman Geoff Blum from the Padres for a minor league pitcher. Blum wrote his name into Sox history with his extra-inning home run in Game 3 of the 2005 World Series less than three months later, helping the Sox beat the Astros, 7-5, in 14 innings.
Fewer than two seasons removed from winning a World Series title, the White Sox allowed the most home runs ever in a single game in franchise history. The Yankees hit eight of them in a 16-3 pounding at Yankee Stadium. José Contreras gave up three, Charlie Haeger a pair and Gavin Floyd the other three.