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Today in White Sox History: April 9

Huge homers from Pete Ward, Jim Spencer, Oscar Gamble and Bo Jackson.

Pete Ward got his Rookie of the Year campaign off to a great start, with a clutch homer to complete a comeback victory in Detroit, 59 years ago today.


The start of the season found the White Sox in Detroit, and it was a highlight game for third baseman Pete Ward. Ward smacked a seventh-inning, three-run home run off of Jim Bunning to push the Sox into the lead, and he also made a barehanded pick up-and-throw out of a slow roller hit by Al Kaline. The Sox won, 7-5, and it would be the start of Ward’s co-American League Rookie of the Year campaign. That year, he finished at .295 with 22 home runs, 84 RBIs, 34 doubles and six triples.


It was the biggest crowd for a home opener in years, as 43,253 fans poured into Comiskey Park to see the “New Look” White Sox under GM Roland Hemond and manager Chuck Tanner. The size of the crowd completely caught ownership with their pants down, as concession stands and vendors ran out of items by the middle of the game!

The players didn’t leave fans hungry, however, as Rich McKinney’s two-out, ninth-inning single scored Rich Morales with the game-winning run in a 3-2 victory over Minnesota.


Owner Bill Veeck was back, and 40,318 fans turned out to welcome him home on Opening Day. They got their money’s worth, as in a tribute to the Bicentennial Veeck, manager Paul Richards and front office executive Rudy Schaffer presented the colors dressed as the fife player, drummer and flag bearer of the Revolutionary War. Wilbur Wood tossed a complete game six-hitter and Jim Spencer had a two-run home run in the 4-0 win against Kansas City.


The White Sox defeated the Blue Jays in Toronto, 3-2, for the franchise’s first-ever regular season win outside of the United States. Oscar Gamble’s home run in the fourth put the Sox on top to stay, and the team added two more in the fifth. Chris Knapp got the win and Lerrin LaGrow earned his first save in what became the best season of his career (25 saves, 2.46 ERA).


For future Hall-of-Famer Tom Seaver, it was his record 15th Opening Day start. For Ozzie Guillén, it was his debut in the major leagues. The two of them combined to help the Sox beat Milwaukee, 4-2, at County Stadium. Guillén would get his first hit in the big leagues that day, a bunt single off of future Sox pitcher Ray Searage in the ninth inning. Seaver got the win with 6 23 innings of work.


It was the last home opener at the original Comiskey Park, and the Sox made it a good one in beating the Brewers, 2-1. Scott Fletcher’s sacrifice fly scored Sammy Sosa with what turned out to be the winning run. Barry Jones got the win, and Bobby Thigpen picked up the first of a record-setting 57 saves that season.


During the home opener with the Yankees, Bo Jackson showed that the human spirit is simply amazing. Jackson, playing with an artificial hip, hammered a Neal Heaton pitch into the right-field seats for a home run. It was Jackson’s first at-bat since his hip surgery, caused by an injury he suffered during his days as an All-Pro running back for the Los Angeles Raiders.

In 1993 Bo would hit 16 home runs, including one in late September against Seattle that would provide the GWRBI in the Western Division title-clincher. As far as the baseball hit off Heaton, a fan returned it to Jackson, and he later had it encased and welded to the headstone of his mother’s grave.


Just 1,677 fans watched the Blue Jays knock off the White Sox, 5-0, in Chicago. Originally scheduled as a night game, extreme cold forced the start time into the afternoon, when it was still just 34 degrees at first pitch. It was the smallest crowd at a White Sox game since 1970.