Opening Day: Warm weather helps

Years ago, I had a good job that required extensive traveling. During the 1970s taking an airplane from New York to, for example, Chicago was something to look forward to. The three major airlines that served Chicago—United, American and the old TWA, offered flights that left every hour. As your taxi pulled up to La Guardia, you looked at your watch, determined which flight you could make and bought your ticket at the gate.

Once on board, the stewardess (as they were then called) treated even coach passengers with a certain amount of dignity. While en route we ate, if not haute cuisine, at least something warm and free.

One of the best features of my job was that I made my own schedule.
During April I attended as many Opening Days as I could. I’d catch the Mets and the Yankees at home and then, with no trouble at all, go out of town to see a third. This, don’t forget, was pre-cell phone and in an era where job security, assuming you carried your own weight, still existed.

So it was that I found myself in Chicago on April 15, 1975 to see the White Sox play the Texas Rangers. During the 1970s the White Sox were nothing special. But that year, Bill Veeck had purchased the team—again and just before it was relocated in Seattle. Chicago was abuzz with enthusiasm that somehow the team could be restored a competitive level. The 1975 White Sox never lived up to the fans’ early hopes. The Pale Hose finished in fifth place, barely ahead of the California Angels but 22.5 games behind the Oakland Athletics.

In retrospect, no one should have been surprised. The Sox had pretty good pitching with Jim Kaat (20-14) Wilbur Wood (16-20) and an emerging Goose Gossage but not much offense. Deron Johnson’s 18 home runs lead the Sox.

Nevertheless, this was April and spirits were high. The Sox had opened poorly, but not calamitously, on the road. After losing two of three to Oakland and California, the Comiskey Park opener was set for Tuesday during the season’s second week.

Veeck walked through the stands, peg leg in place, to shake hands with as many people as he could. The old master talked the White Sox up with his typical enthusiasm. The problem was that only 20,000 showed up.

Those were the among the bravest individuals to ever set foot in a baseball park. I can never recall being colder for longer than that day at Comiskey. According to the weather bureau, the temperature hit 45 degrees but the wild chill, aided by freezing rain and snow flurries, made it seem like 20.

Sensible people would have left after the third inning. By then, you could say you “had gone” to Opening Day; no need to elaborate. But our group included White Sox die hards. And unfortunately, the game see sawed back and forth. The Sox prevailed in, wouldn’t you know it, extra innings, 6-5 in eleven frames played out over a frigid 3:51. I can’t remember a single thing about the game except the elation I felt when Tony Muser hit into a game ending double play to quash the mild threat the White Sox had mounted to tie it up.

By Wednesday, I was still thawing out.

One Reply to “Opening Day: Warm weather helps”

  1. Joe:

    OK, so you froze your butt off. But you got to do it in Comiskey Park, not that sorry excuse for a baseball venue now known as “U.S. Cellular Field.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *