“Chili Dog MVP: Dick Allen, The 1972 White Sox and a Transforming Chicago” re-creates a unique time and place in baseball and Chicago history, when the arrival of a controversial slugger lifted the bedraggled Sox out of a daunting hole and briefly united a fractious fan base for the two hours-plus he played.
The White Sox swept almost everything in the way of the American League’s top individual awards for the 1972 season. Personnel director Roland Hemond was honored as Executive-of-the-Year by The Sporting News, Chuck Tanner was named Manager-of-the-Year, Dick Allen won the Most Valuable Player award by a landslide, Wilbur Wood was named the AL’s top pitcher by The Sporting News and narrowly missed taking the Cy Young accolade, and 20 year-old relief pitcher Terry Forster was runner-up for the AL’s “Fireman of the Year” award and hit .527 in the last year pitchers batted in the American League.
Saving the White Sox franchise
Dick Allen and the ’72 White Sox turned around the fortunes for the charter American League franchise very close to relocating to another city. In the fall of 1970, the leadership combination of Tanner and Hemond took over a team that was the worst in the majors with a 56-106 record and drew only In two short years Tanner and Hemond moved the White Sox from 50 games under .500 to 20 games over at 87-67 and more than doubled attendance with
There probably would have been no White Sox and no Guaranteed Rate Field for Chicago fans to see, had it not been for Dick Allen and ’72 White Sox team. In several previous years, through a series of lackluster seasons, attendance at old Comiskey Park was dwindling. Ownership was contemplating moving the White Sox to another city and the White Sox were starving for a hero to show up and it was Dick Allen who came to the rescue.
Sox peace, city upheaval
Allen found peace of mind, powering the under-manned Sox into pennant contention, while the “cityscape” around him roiled with political and social upheavals that have a direct link to similar events two decades into the 21st century. Lead author John Owens, along with Dr. David Fletcher and George Castle, combine to weave an entertaining narrative of Allen, his teammates and broadcaster Harry Caray bringing pride to a franchise that had one foot out of town to Milwaukee just 2½ years previously and equal status in profile with the dominant Chicago Cubs.
Too many books about the Sox concentrate on the “Eight Men Out” angle of the Black Sox of 1919. But “Chili Dog MVP” is a book about the more contemporary Sox fighting for their place in Chicago’s cultural consciousness. The book brings to life many forgotten or overlooked angles of how Allen carried the team on his shoulders and how John Allyn, the unlikely owner who financially rewarded the slugger, helped save the Sox for Chicago coming and going in his tenure leading the team.
Baseball innocence meets Chicago politics
The best baseball books endeavor to re-create the time, place and “feel” of a team and the people around it. “Chili Dog MVP” follows in that tradition to recall a more innocent time in baseball intertwining with the hard truths of a hyper-political city like Chicago. In both baseball and life, for which the game is often a metaphor, past is prologue.