5 most memorable White Sox home openers over last 100 seasons
By Joe Santoro
The White Sox began a new era with an exciting win in 1971 home opener.
The White Sox were coming off a demoralizing 56-106 season in 1970. So they fired the manager (Don Gutteridge) and replaced him with Chuck Tanner.
Tanner was a former major league outfielder best known for hitting a home run in his first major league at-bat in 1955 for the Milwaukee Braves off Cincinnati Reds and future Sox pitcher Gerry Staley.
The Sox hired Tanner and general manager Roland Hemond out of the California Angels' organization on Sept. 4, 1970, just three days after firing Gutteridge.
Tanner, though, coached the Triple-A Hawaii Islanders for another two weeks in the Pacific Coast League championship series (he was swept in four games by the Spokane Indians) before making his White Sox debut on Sept. 18.
Tanner then went 3-13 in a White Sox uniform, losing his last seven games to close out the 1970 season. In Tanner's 12 games (nine losses) at Comiskey Park as the Sox manager none of the crowds were larger than 5,403.
All of the apathy and negativity, however, seemed to disappear when the 1971 season began as a crowd of 43,253 showed up for the home opener. It was the largest crowd at Comiskey since 44,659 showed up to see the Yankees for a doubleheader (the Sox lost both games) on Aug. 18, 1963.
The Sox switched to red-and-white uniforms and made numerous acquisitions in the offseason, bringing in new players such as Mike Andrews, Tom Bradley, Vicente Romo, Tom Egan, Jay Johnstone, Pat Kelly, Steve Kealey, and Rick Reichardt and unveiling exciting rookies such as Terry Forster, Rich Gossage, and Lee "Bee Bee" Richard.
The 1970 season seemed like ancient history, thanks to the new players' uniforms and Tanner's positive attitude. Sweeping a season-opening doubleheader in Oakland on April 7 also didn't hurt.
The new-look, unbeaten (2-0) and suddenly interesting White Sox stepped into Comiskey Park for their home opener on April 9 to face the Minnesota Twins. Tom Bradley, who went 11-1 for Tanner at Hawaii in 1970, started for the Sox.
Bradley came to the Sox in a November 1970 trade with Egan and Johnstone for Syd O'Brien, Billy Wynne, and long-time fan favorite Ken Berry. The trade helped transform the Sox.
Bradley was brilliant in the 1971 home opener, going eight innings and allowing just two runs and nine hits while striking out eight. Both runs, though, came in the eighth inning on a two-run single by Rich Reese, wiping out a 2-0 Sox lead.
Bradley began the inning by striking out Cesar Tovar and Rod Carew. But he then gave up a single to Tony Oliva and a double to Harmon Killebrew and was obviously tiring. Tanner, though, kept the right-handed Bradley in to face the left-handed Reese.
Romo pitched the ninth for the Sox, preserving the 2-2 tie, though he had to fan Cesar Tovar and get Carew to fly out to end the inning with two runners on base.
Rich Morales, inserted in the game in the seventh as a pinch runner for Egan, played third base for Bill Melton in the eighth and ninth. The career .195 hitter (eight seasons) then opened the bottom of the ninth with a single to center off Twins reliever Ron Perranoski.
Romo then bunted Morales to second. Perranoski then unleashed a wild pitch with Richard (a .209 career hitter in five seasons) at the plate, moving Morales to third. Perranoski, though, struck out Richard for the second out.
Tanner, now playing the percentages, then sent up righty Rich McKinney as a pinch-hitter for the lefty Johnston to face the lefty Perranoski. McKinney then singled to left, scoring Morales, for the White Sox's first walk-off win in its home opener since a 3-2 win in 14 innings over the Angels in 1966.