John Allyn was introduced as the Chicago White Sox new principal owner and CEO on Sept. 24, 1969, the same day the New York Mets clinched the NL East over the Cubs. But when talking with media, the then 52-year-old Allyn first talked about family commitments. He was then raising four children with wife Margaret in Winnetka. “I’ll have to talk fast, I have to get home for a birthday party,” he said.
He then pledged to keep the White Sox at Comiskey. His brother’s plans to build a multi-purpose facility was on hold, due to the city’s reluctance. And he did not want a publicly-funded stadium managed by the city. “I don’t believe a tax-supported stadium is completely ethical,” he said.
Instead, John Allyn liked the idea of remaining at Comiskey — his main goal was to once again draw more than one million fans, an attendance level not reached since 1965. He said that, despite living on the North Shore, his family loved going to Sox games on the South Side. “(We) only saw about 40 games this year, not as many as our family wanted to see,” he said. “You know, I’ve been bringing my family to this park for years and we’ve never seen an unpleasant incident.”
Important hires overhaul the Sox
John would proceed to overhaul the organization, getting rid of GM Ed Short and manager Don Gutteridge (a holdover from the Comiskey-Lane era) and naming Holcomb and Leo Breen as team executives. He would later oversee the most important hires for the White Sox in the early 1970s— from Roland Hemond and Chuck Tanner to Nancy Faust and Harry Caray.
His boldest move provided a tremendous return-on-investment: Adding the six-figure salary of Dick Allen to his modest payroll.
“He gave his blessing because he showed respect for Chuck (Tanner) and myself,” Roland Hemond recalled 40 years later. “He knew that we weren’t trying to throw the money away; that we solidly felt this is a special player.”
John Allyn remained a low-key but consistent presence as Sox owner in the early ‘70s. At spring training in Sarasota, Fla., he would show up in a personalized White Sox uniform, filming the team with a handheld home movie camera. And during the season, he was a regular at the home games, making appearances in Chuck Tanner’s office after victories with a cigar for his manager. “He’d mingle with the guys,” outfielder Carlos May would recall. “He was a fun guy, easy to play for. For me, (even in contract negotiations) it was easier to communicate with (Allyn) than it was with Roland (Hemond) and Stu (Holcomb) because he seemed like he was fair minded man.”