Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sox in Shorts

     Renegade baseball owner Bill Veeck, Jr., purchased the White Sox from John Allyn in December 1975, heading off the very real possibility that the franchise would move to Seattle. Veeck had earlier been the head man of the Cleveland Indians' world champions of 1948 and the White Sox' pennant winners of 1959, as well as the atrocious St. Louis Browns in the early 1950s.
     In his earlier tenure with the Sox, Veeck had introduced the exploding scoreboard that soon became iconic on the South Side, and has remained so for half a century. When Veeck ran the Browns, a vote among the fans determined pitching changes in one game, and three-foot-seven Eddie Gaedel appeared as a pinch hitter in another game, drawing a walk in his only big-league plate appearance.
     When the Sox took the field in 1976, they did so in unusual navy blue-and-white uniforms (designed by Veeck's wife Mary Frances) that harkened back to the 1890s. They featured prominent collars, untucked shirts, softball-style pants, and socks with no stirrups. Not content to stop there, Veeck also unveiled a variation that featured short pants which supposedly would keep the players cooler on hot days.
     As might have been anticipated, the shorts exposed the White Sox players to all sorts of ridicule from opponents and fans. To say the players hated them would be an understatement. The shorts were embarrassing and also unsafe, players argued, in the event that they had to slide into a base or dive for a ball.
     The Sox donned the shorts in several spring-training games, but in the end they wore them only once in a regular-season game. On August 8, 1976, the Sox beat Kansas City 5-2 in the first game of a doubleheader wearing the shorts, then came out for the second game in their regular pants. The shorts never appeared again.

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