April 21, 2021

Beauty Is In The Eye Of Those Who Don’t Care About Ugly Baseball Jerseys

August 28, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

 

The 1970s returned to Chicago’s South Side on Thursday night, only this time, the disastrous decade was a bit kinder to the White Sox.

The Sox topped the Seattle Mariners 4-2 on “70s Night” at U.S. Cellular Field, an event that featured great 1970s rock music, lamentable 70s disco music, Afro wigs, 70s trivia, Sox slideshows and, best of all, the triumphant return of the greatest uniforms in the history of baseball.

Yes, the Sox dug deep into the closet for this one, sporting those big-collar, no-tuck softball-style jerseys that the Pale Hose first sported in 1976 and, just to piss off Fashionistas and baseball purists everywhere, kept wearing through 1981.

These threads are among the most glorious and notorious in sports history especially because they were originally accompanied by shorts. The shorts did not return this time but the gorgeous floppy shirts from the days of Wilbur Wood, Francisco Barrios, Chet Lemon, Jorge Orta, Bucky Dent and Brian Downing did.

And oh baby, they were fabulous.

When the White Sox first donned these leisure suits of the diamond during our beloved Bicentennial year they were universally despised but, seriously, what does the universe know? Perhaps what people really hated, especially South Siders, was that those Sox sagged lower than their shirts that season, finishing the ’76 campaign with just 64 wins.

Most of us who remember and revere the let-it-flow and wear-it-loud look of the late 70s Sox have a certain fondness for it because we remember not so much ’76 but ’77, the year of the South Side Hit Men. When does a third place team get treated like it won a World Series? When that team plays in Chicago, south of Madison.

The ’77 Sox flexed their muscle inside those baggy shirts and hot pants, leading the American League West for much of the season en route to 90 victories while slugging 192 home runs, second most in the American League. It was an endless summer at the old Comiskey Park as it felt like Richie Zisk, Oscar Gamble and Eric Soderholm made Comiskey’s scoreboard explode with a home run every night.

Sadly, the Sox went belly-up worse than the Poseidon and a four and-a-half game lead on August 1st was a five and-a-half game deficit by Labor Day. When the season ended the Sox, and their sharp suits, were 12 games behind the Royals.

Thirty-eight years later it feels like not much has changed as the White Sox approach the final month 17 and-a-half behind the Royals and, for the seventh straight year, won’t have any scheduling conflicts during apple-picking season.

But on Thursday night, the few, the proud, the fun moments from a filthy decade were back. The Sox’ bats sprayed the ball over the field and Carlos Rodon overcame a shaky start (then had a visit from pitching coach Don Cooper) then was nearly unhittable until the 7th before another visit from Cooper preceded a two-run blast by Seattle’s Franklin Gutierrez.

And the Sox, despite wearing old clothes, looked like they had new life, with errorless play in the field and a sense of urgency, not panic, both at the plate and on the base paths.

The result was a 4-2 victory on a chilly late summer night in front of 15,076 true believers that might be meaningless in the standings, but stirred the echoes of special time.

It’s a reminder to leave that closet door open a bit.

 

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