In my previous post (many weeks ago!), I wrote of the arrival of Harry Caray, in 1971, as the voice of the White Sox. And the legendary fan favorite would remain in that role for eleven seasons, although it seems like it was much longer–at least it should have been! But that’s another story, entirely. Regardless, those eleven seasons with the White Sox were full of “fun out at the old ballpark” and some pretty exciting baseball by the White Sox as well.
Along about the time Harry got rolling in the Sox’ booth, superstar Dick Allen joined the team and added a much needed spark with dramatic screaming homers in the late innings to pull out victories for the White Sox. Bill Melton, Wilbur Wood, Carlos May, and many other “unsung” heroes would emerge early on, and the lackluster White Sox would suddenly be rejuvenated through the 70s.
Harry’s effervescent style and bon vivant lifestyle bubbled through each broadcast–TV or radio–and it was a completely different style to what White Sox fans were accustomed. But it took off and going to Comiskey Park was fun again, and attendance grew and grew through the decade.
During those first years, Harry would team with partners Ralph Faucher, Gene Osborn, Bill Mercer, and Lorn Brown. But it was a chance interview with former ball player, Jimmy Piersall, in 1976, while the Sox were playing the Rangers, whom Piersall was working for at the time, that proved very fortuitous. Caray and Piersall, both firebrands in their own right, seemed to fit together in the booth, and the following season, Piersall was hired on as Harry’s partner.
1977 is one that the White Sox fans will recall with fond memories, for it was the summer of The Southside Hitmen, the funny uniforms, and packed grandstands.
Owner Bill Veeck, always operating on a shoestring, brought in some “rent a players” such as Richie Zisk, Oscar Gamble, Jim Spencer, and Eric Soderholm. Lamar Johnson and Chet Lemon, legitimate young players, were solid complements to the others who provided the long ball–time and again–in that most exciting of seasons.
The pitching staff was adequate with Steve Stone winning 15 games, followed by Francisco Barrios with 14. Chris Knapp and Ken Kravec were strong contributors in the starter roles.
Of course, Kansas City eked out a division crown, and the Sox finished in third place, 12 games behind, and many of us are still way too disappointed about that. The magic that the summer of 1977 was, and the explosive fun “out at the old ballpark,” it always has seemed that such wonderful summer should have had a championship as a culminating reward. Alas, it wasn’t to be.
And the fun on the field carried right on up to the radio and TV booth with Harry and Jimmy having a wonderful time!
Writing about that summer of 1977 now, so many years later, I smile and remember the thrills that occurred night after night out at dear old Comiskey. Thanks, Southside Hitmen…and Harry and Jimmy!
See you at the ballpark!