x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

When Chicago's South Side was caught short

True Colours: Chicago White Sox (1976) - There may be several answers to the question: "What's black and white and red all over?"

Bill Veeck, right, with the Sox player Jim Riveramis .
Bill Veeck, right, with the Sox player Jim Riveramis .

There may be several answers to the question: "What's black and white and red all over?" but one of the most memorable must be the Chicago White Sox team that played the Kansas City Royals on Aug 8 1976. The blushing baseball side looked more at home in the playground after being decked out in shorts, rather than the usual trousers worn by players of the game. Baseball may not involve much physical contact but you hate to think of the chaffed knees which were sustained as the Sox slid into bases on the dusty diamond.

That was only part of the pain suffered by the team, as they won just 64 matches and attracted only 915,000 fans to home games. The kit was the idea of Bill Veeck, who in Dec 1975 took ownership of the team for a second time. He vowed to make the Sox more exciting, and thought the introduction of a retro kit based on a design from the early 1900s would somehow help this process. The bad season hit its lowest ebb when, for the first match of a double header against the Royals, the Sox socks were on full display.

"You guys are the sweetest team we've seen yet," cackled Kansas' John Mayberry. Mercifully, Chicago wore trousers for the second match, but the memory of the shorts has lived long in the memory. Veeck had championed the "Spirit of 76" as the team's slogan for that year to help celebrate 200 years of American independence. Sadly the spirit died as the losses and bare legs came to the fore. Always the showman, Veeck excelled himself three years later when a Disco Demolition Night doubleheader with Detroit lived up to its name, with fans rioting on the pitch.

* Alex Kunawicz