Don Gutteridge has passed on at the age of 96. Gutteridge was the manager of the Chicago White Sox when I started following the team, way back in the Summer of 69. Woe, yeah, in the Summer of 69, sing it! Things were simpler then. I attended a preseason Sox game in 1968 in Milwaukee before the 1968 season, the Boys Benefit game. It won by the Sox over the Cubs 3-2 in 10 innings, it was freezing cold, the game was almost cancelled, as it was a few days after the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated. I didn’t make it out to Comiskey Park in 1968, but did get there for the last game of the 1969 season. The neighborhood around Comiskey Park was scary and we were afraid to go down there. But to my father’s credit he took me down there, although money was tight, and he wasn’t a baseball fan. I remember an usher getting us a baseball. I’m sure not many fans were in attendance. We took that baseball to the team parking lot after the game, the parking attendant let us in, and we got that ball signed by everybody. I’m sure Don Gutteridge’s autograph is on that ball, along with Luis Aparicio, Walt Williams, Tommy John, Ken Berry, Ed Herrmann, Bill Melton, and many, many others. I can still remember being a little nervous walking to our car, with our prized possession, not another fan in sight. There was a black man wiping down the windshield of our car when we got to it. Dad gave him some money and we were on our way. The northside of the city and the southside were completely segregated, and we were scared of black people. Times were different back then, there was alot of racial tension in the air.
The 1969 White Sox ended the season with a record of 68-94. Gutteridge replaced Al Lopez as the manager during the 69 season, he would be replaced midway through the 1970 season, with Chuck Tanner in place by the end of the 1970 campaign. Only 589,546 fans showed up and I complain about the lack of support today. The White Sox were in serious trouble and they almost were moved to Milwaukee. Bill Veeck took over the ballclub, traded Tommy John for Dick Allen, and the southside franchise was safe, at least for awhile. There was some talk, later, of moving to either Seattle or St. Pete, but thankfully neither took place.
No wonder, it really didn’t matter if we won or lost, I was more concerned with my team not leaving town. I mean, of course I wanted the Sox to win, and was heartbroken when they lost, but I was never delusional enough to believe we might win a championship. While the Cubbies were licking their wounds after collapsing in their quest for a championship, I was just glad to see I was going to have my team.
Let me tell you a little bit about my team. Little Luis Aparicio was our SS, at age 35, he was just reacquired from Baltimore prior to the 1968 season. The veteran was the team leader in hits, steals, walks, doubles, and runs, while excelling in the field. Only our rightfielder Walt “No-Neck” Williams, .304, had a better batting average than Aparicio’s .280 mark. Ken Berry, the Bandit, patroled centerfield. We were strong defensively up the middle with Bobby Knoop at 2B, a sign in the stands said it all, “EVEN SNOOPY LOVES KNOOPY”. The stars of this team were 23 year old Beltin Bill Melton and 21 year old Carlos May. Melton had more homers & RBI’s than anybody on the team, 23 & 87. Carlos May was the younger brother of N.L. slugger Lee May, but as luck would have it, Carlos would blow off his thumb while in the National Guard, and never have the power promise he had in 69, 18 homers that year in only 367 at bats. Buddy Bradford was another talented young outfielder, who could hit the ball as far as anyone when he connected, but struckout too much to fulfill his promise. The team also had a 22 year old catcher named Ed Herrmann, who had a career year in 1970 with 19 homers, but never developed either.
The White Sox were built around pitching & defense, hitting was a bonus. My favorite pitcher Tommy John was a delight to watch. I was heartbroken when he was traded to the Dodgers for Dick Allen, although it kept the Sox in Chicago. Back in 1969 I never thought Tommy John might be traded. I’ll always hate Dick McAuliffe for slamming my hero to the ground in 1968, after John came to close to his coconut with a fastball. Another young pitcher I liked was Paul Edmondson, a tough luck starter, who had a 1-6 record, despite a respectable 3.70 ERA. Edmondson would die before the 1970 spring training when the car he was driving went off a cliff near Santa Barbara, both Paul & his fiance were killed in the crash.
Don Gutteridge had a 60-85 record in 1969 and his team was 49-87 under him in 1970. Gutteridge was an infielder, who played most of his ball in St. Louis, first with the Cardinals and then with the Browns. Steve was telling me Gutteridge was the last surviving member of the 1st place 1944 Browns, who lost in the World Series to the Cardinals. With the passing of Don Gutteridge, another window to yesterday seems to have been closed. So Goodbye Mr. Gutteridge, you will be missed.