White Sox baseball in zero degree weather

Chris Kamka
NBC Sports Chicago

White Sox baseball in zero degree weather originally appeared on nbcsportschicago.com

As we freeze here in Chicago, let's take it back to a White Sox game played in zero degree temperatures.

Zero degrees Celsius, that is (32 degrees Fahrenheit).

April 7, 1977. It was the first ever American League game in Canada, where Celsius is the accepted measure of temperature.

It was also the first ever game in Toronto Blue Jays history, so that's a big reason why despite the frigid conditions, a crowd of 44,649 still filled Exhibition Stadium.

Many of the fans chanted "We want beer!" since Ontario law prohibited sales of alcoholic beverages at sports events (that changed in 1982); ironic since a part owner of the team was the Canadian brewery Labatt.

The game started after an 18-minute delay due to the snowy weather. The Chicago Tribune ran a picture of Jack Brohamer using a pair of catcher shin guards as skis on the snow-covered Exhibition Stadium field. They even had a Zamboni running on the field to help get ready for baseball.

Even Dave McKay, the Jays' lone Canadian-born player at the time, later commented on the weather, noting it "was the coldest day I ever played [baseball] in my life."

History was made as "Roadrunner" Ralph Garr worked a walk off "The Singer Throwing Machine" Bill Singer in the first ever American League plate appearance north of the border. Then Garr recorded the first ever American League stolen base in Canada. The Sox scored a pair of runs on a Jorge Orta sacrifice fly and a Richie Zisk home run (another AL first in Canada). It was Zisk's first plate appearance in a White Sox uniform.

It was an improbable slugfest, considering the conditions. The White Sox took a 4-1 lead in the second. The Blue Jays scored at least one run in each of the first five innings. Doug Ault hit the first home run in Blue Jays franchise history off Sox starter Ken Brett (brother of George) in the bottom of the first. Ault added a second longball later. Al Woods of the Jays hit a pinch hit home run in his Major League debut. The White Sox left multiple runners on base in each of the first eight innings; 19 stranded for the game. Scorecards were stuffed; the teams combined for 14 runs, 31 hits and 10 walks. 9-5 was the final score with the Southsiders on the losing end.

After two seasons with the White Sox, Pete Vuckovich got the save for Toronto in the first game with his new team. Vuckovich later won the 1982 AL Cy Young award for the Brewers. He's probably even more famous for his role as Yankees slugger Clu Haywood in the movie Major League.

The Sox lost but at least it was exciting. It set the tone for what would be the Summer of the South Side Hitmen. Richie Zisk and Oscar Gamble would hit 30 home runs apiece in their first campaign with the White Sox before both moving on after the season. Gamble was the first White Sox lefty to hit 30 in a season. Steve Stone would lead the pitching staff with 15 victories. They hung in there for a while but came up short, finishing third with a 90-72 record.

It all started with a cold, snowy day in Toronto.

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