Monday, August 8, 2011

Who wears short shorts?

It was 35 years ago today the White Sox first wore shorts in a real major league game.

On December 10, 1975, former Sox owner and baseball promotion king Bill Veeck regained ownership of the team. At the time he vowed to make the White Sox an exciting team again. Besides his customary promotions, Veeck tried to peek interest in the club when he introduced retro throwback uniforms and shorts. It did not help, as the 1976 team was one of the worst White Sox teams ever... winning only 64 games (against 97 losses) amd drawing fewer than 915,000 fans.

The "Sox shorts" were only worn three times and the club won two of those games. The first time was during the first game of a doubleheader against the Kansas City Royals at Comiskey Park on August 8, 1976. The Sox won that game 5-2. Surprisingly (considering they were wearing shorts) five different players successfully stole bases during this game (Jerry Hairston, Pat Kelly, Jorge Orta, Jack Brohamer, and Jim Essian).

This was one of two stolen bases for Essian in the 1976 season... who ended his career with a total of nine SBs. The Sox put on their long pants for the second game of the double-header and promptly lost 7-1.

The shorts also showed up a couple of weeks later for two home games against the Baltimore Orioles. On August 21st they beat the O's 11-10 in 12 innings and on August 22nd they lost the front end of a double header 6-2. Interesting enough, Jim Essian apparently enjoyed the element of surprise gained while he was wearing the shorts, because he stole his second (and final) base of the season in this game.

As I was looking for details on the 1976 White Sox shorts, I found this home-video from the last "shorts" game ever, against the Orioles (started by lefty Ken Kravec). This video brings back some great memories of old Comiskey Park, including the shower in centerfield. There are a lot of recognizable players for an old guy like me, including: Chet Lemon standing in the batters box as Kravec warms up, Pat Kelly in left field, a little later into the file you see a walk by Oriole's outfielder Ken Singleton, and (at the 3:43 mark) the ninth inning grand slam by Reggie Jackson. In classic Reggie fashion, he watches the ball fly over the right center field fence before he leaves the batters box.

Edit: I found an old newspaper article about the first "shorts" game, including a pretty funny quote by John Mayberry. Ralph Garr made it to first base a couple of times during this game, but Mayberry never gave him the kiss.


Steve Gierman said...

I love hearing about the "shorts" games! :-) Great job on digging up the article.

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