April 18, 1972: Wilbur Wood tosses 3-hit shutout in White Sox’s first night opener

This article was written by Bob Wood

Wilbur Wood (THE TOPPS COMPANY)The Chicago White Sox were scheduled to open their season on Thursday, April 6, 1972, in Comiskey Park, hosting the Oakland Athletics. Midway Airport reported winds ranging from 9 to 23 mph that day, with some traces of fog, a bit of rain (0.02”), and some thunder, following the 5:25 A.M. sunrise.1 Not that it mattered. The park would remain empty all day long – and all week long, as the Major League Players Association went on strike, canceling games until a settlement was reached on April 13.

It was estimated that the strike cost the 24 major-league owners $5 million, and denied the players $1 million in salaries. The strike forced the cancellation of 86 games, which were never played, resulting in unbalanced schedules.2

During the offseason, Chicago had traded 13-game winner Tommy John and infielder Steve Huntz to the Los Angeles Dodgers to acquire Dick Allen, hoping to improve upon their third-place finish in the American League West Division. Allen had held out, finally signing a $135,000 contract, before making his debut with the White Sox, and was expected to be the linchpin for an improved offense.3 Allen already had 508 extra-base hits in his nine-year career, and would provide the White Sox with one of the best offensive seasons in Comiskey Park, winning the American League Most Valuable Player Award while leading the league in home runs (37), RBIs (113), walks (99), on-base percentage (.420), and slugging percentage (.603), while hitting .308. Manager Chuck Tanner hoped the addition of Allen would give the White Sox the offensive punch they needed to improve upon their 79-83 record of the year before.

The Texas Rangers had made even more dramatic changes, packing their bags, relocating from Washington to the Dallas-Fort Worth area and changing their name from the Senators to the Rangers. Texas had been scheduled to begin its new venture in Arlington, Texas, on April 6, opening the season against the Kansas City Royals. The strike canceled all of those games, as well as a White Sox series in Minnesota and a Rangers series in Oakland.

The White Sox finally were able to open their season on Saturday, April 15, in Kansas City, suffering a 2-1 loss in 11 innings to the Royals. Their hard luck continued as they dropped both ends of a Sunday doubleheader in Kansas City, 2-1 in the opener, and 4-3 in 10 innings in the nightcap.

The Rangers, managed by Hall of Famer Ted Williams, finally got to make their debut, with their new name and new uniforms, in California on April 15, dropping a 1-0 decision to the Angels and Andy Messersmith, a 20-game winner in 1971, who had finished fifth in the Cy Young Award voting. Texas rebounded with a 5-1 victory the next day. Both the White Sox and Rangers had travel days scheduled for Monday, April 17, allowing them to prepare for their Tuesday evening matchup to open the Comiskey Park season. This would be the first night-game opener in Chicago.4

Chicago called upon knuckleballer Wilbur Wood to make his second start of the season. Wood had won 22 games in 1971, finishing third in the Cy Young Award voting and ninth in the Most Valuable Player Award poll, while compiling a 1.91 ERA in 334 innings, after making 282 relief appearances and 10 spot starts in his first four seasons with the White Sox. The converted reliever would be facing Bill Gogolewski of the Rangers. Gogolewski was making his first appearance of the season, after a 6-5 campaign in 1971, and was beginning his third season in the big leagues. Wood, a 30-year-old left-hander who had debuted as a teenager for the Boston Red Sox in 1961, was in his 11th major-league season, and had done well, pitching the opener in Kansas City, shutting out the Royals until Bob Oliver hit a game-tying two-out, solo home run in the bottom of the ninth inning, resulting in a no-decision for Wood.

The game began with 20,943 fans in the stands. “The crowd, a noisy and sometimes unruly group, set the tempo, lavishing long ovations on Allen, Bill Melton and the others as they were introduced,” reported the Chicago Tribune. “Obviously, neither the players’ strike nor Allen’s long holdout had dulled their enthusiasm for their favorites.”5

Wood fanned the leadoff man, Lenny Randle, then got two groundouts to retire the side.

Chicago wasted no time at the plate. Pat Kelly tripled leading off. Jorge Orta singled Kelly home, opening the scoring. Dick Allen drew a base on balls and Bill Melton singled to drive home Orta. Carlos May capped the rally with a three-run home run. It would be quite a day for May, who added two singles, a double, and a base on balls before the game ended, knocking in six runs. Although Gogolewski struck out the next three hitters, the game was already out of hand, as the White Sox had scored five runs before an out was recorded.

The White Sox chased Gogolewski with a four-run fourth inning, then added five more against reliever Jim Panther in the fifth inning.

Wood was in top form, allowing a second-inning single to Tom Grieve and a third-inning walk to Toby Harrah before retiring 11 hitters in a row. Dave Nelson led off the Rangers seventh inning with a single, but was erased from the basepaths when Frank Howard grounded into a 5-4-3 double play. Randle was the last hitter to reach base for the Rangers when he doubled with two outs in the top of the ninth inning.

In all, Wood faced just 29 batters, tossing a shutout for his first victory, and the first victory for the White Sox, in 1972. By season’s end Wood had 24 wins, 17 losses, and eight shutouts. Wood started an amazing 49 games for the White Sox, the most by any pitcher since Ed Walsh made 49 starts for the White Sox in 1908 and Jack Chesbro started 51 times for the Yankees in 1904. Wood finished second to Gaylord Perry in the Cy Young Award voting by just six votes (64-58), and pitched 376⅔ innings, the most since Pete Alexander threw 388 innings in 1917.

The final score of 14-0 was the biggest victory of the White Sox season. They didn’t score more than 10 runs in a game until more than a year later, when they defeated the Royals in Kansas City, 16-2 on April 20, 1973. While Allen had a tremendous season personally, team production dropped significantly, from .250/.325/.372 in 1971 to .238/.310/.346 in 1972, resulting in a second-place finish behind Oakland in the American League West Division.



In addition to the sources mentioned in the Notes, the author consulted baseball-reference.com and retrosheet.org.





1 wunderground.com/history/airport/KORD/1972/4/6.

2 Stan Isle, “Clubs’ Losses in Strike to Run Into Millions,” The Sporting News, April 29, 1972: 6.

3 George Langford, “Sox Rout Texas 14-0 in Home Opener,” Chicago Tribune, April 19, 1972: 3, 1.

4 Ibid.

5 Ibid.


Additional Stats

Chicago White Sox 14
Texas Rangers 0

Comiskey Park
Chicago, IL


Box Score + PBP:

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