Welcome to the first installment of Random Box Score: White Sox edition. This idea is directly inspired from the excellent series over at the Hardball Times, wherein writers find a box score from baseball history, and well…they write about that game. So, here’s the deal: once a month I’ll use a random date generator to pluck a box score from White Sox history. It might be a game from 1913, it might be one from 1970. Who knows? The fun in this is the research that I get to do, and the random facts that you get to learn and forget immediately. Ready? Here we go.
Friday, August 17, 1990, was a scorcher in Arlington, Texas, as they so often are. The game time temperature at 9:27 p.m. was 90 degrees: the two teams had just concluded the front-end of their doubleheader in a 13-inning, 98 degree affair that featured a brawl and ultimately saw the Sox fall, 1-0, on a bases-loaded single from Ruben Sierra and ten shutout innings from Nolan Ryan.
Cultural trivia and baseball miscellany
Hot on the pop music front was Mariah Carey’s Vision of Love, from her debut album. Vision of Love stayed at the number one spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 for four weeks. At the box office, The Exorcist III opened on this date at the number one slot to, shall we say, mixed reviews. On television, the first season of The Simpsons had concluded just a couple of months prior. And finally, perhaps relevant just to Illinoisans, 11 days after this game the infamous Plainfield tornado would rip through Will County.
Pertinent to White Sox baseball: Frank Thomas had just made his debut on August 2nd. So, too, had Alex Fernandez on the same date. A few other notable debuts around the league: Luis Gonzalez, with Houston; Moises Alou, Pittsburgh; and, Tino Martinez with the Mariners. Some notable draftees from the 1990 draft by the White Sox (in addition to the aforementioned Fernandez) included Ray Durham and James Baldwin. Around baseball, Chipper Jones was drafted first overall, followed immediately by Tony Clark. The Yankees had several good selections, including some lower rounds: Carl Everett at tenth overall, but also Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada in the 22nd and 24th rounds, respectively.
In the individual feats arena, Terry Mulholland had just pitched a no-hitter for the Phillies two days prior, adding to what would ultimately be nine total individual or combined no-hitters around the league that season (including, infamously, the game the Sox were no-hit and still won). Also in August of this season: Ken Griffey and Ken Griffey, Jr. became the first father-son MLB teammate combo in baseball history.
Of the notable White Sox players to have been born on August 17: Jeff Liefer is the only one that jumped out at me. Other interesting non-Sox players born on this date include Dustin Pedroia, Chad Qualls, Jorge Posada, and Boog Powell. The only player to have been born exactly on August 17, 1990? Kyle Farmer, of the Dodgers, who made his debut this past season.
And to have passed on this date: Happy Felsch, in 1964.
Umpires for this game
- Home: Durwood Merrill
Merrill was an umpire from 1976-1999, and witnessed two no-hitters: Nolan Ryan’s sixth, as well as Jack Morris’ against the White Sox in 1984. He might, however, be known more for his autobiography, “You’re out and you’re ugly too!: confessions of an umpire with attitude”.
- 1B: Don Denkinger
Denkinger umped from 1969-1998. He was present for two perfect games (Kenny Rogers and Len Barker); he’s most famous, though, as the first base umpire with the blown call in game 6 of the 1985 World Series.
- 2B: John Shulock
- 3B: Tim McClelland
Rounding out the quartet is McClelland, who worked from 1981-2013. Relevant to us White Sox fans, he was the second base umpire for Philip Humber’s perfect game, and worked the plate in the 2008 blackout game. He was also working behind home for the pine tar incident, and Sammy Sosa’s corked bat.
|Chicago White Sox||Texas Rangers|
Play by Play
Unlike the first game of this date’s doubleheader, where the Sox were unable to reach second base until the 13th inning, Lance Johnson got things rolling before you could say, “One Dog”. Johnson tripled to right off starting pitcher Charlie Hough (who would sign with the Sox just months later during free agency). Ivan Calderon followed up with a groundout to short that scored Johnson and gave the Sox a 1-0 lead.
In the second, Carlton Fisk took Hough deep, a 386 foot drive out to left. At the time, this home run had particular personal and franchise significance, as it shattered two records in one fell swoop. First: it broke Johnny Bench’s record for most home runs as a catcher (327); and second: Fisk surpassed Harold Baines — traded by the Sox to the Rangers the year before in the Alvarez/Fletcher/Sosa deal (then traded to the A’s just weeks after this game) — as the White Sox’ all-time leader in home runs with 187.
Both of these records, of course, have since been broken, but at the time it was important. As the Daily Herald notes in their recap from the next day:
The only order Fisk concerned himself with after his 386-foot blast over the left field wall at Arlington Stadium Friday night was which of five champagne bottles to open first, and the serving order — pitchers, hitters, then coaches.
The Sox weren’t finished with the Rangers’ veteran knuckleballer yet, though. After Fisk’s home run, and a groundout by Carlos Martinez, the Sox went double-single-double by Ventura, Fletcher, and Guillen. Once the dust cleared, it was 4-0. Hough would settle in after this outburst, and I wonder if the knuckleball was slow getting going: he would face just one over the minimum the rest of the way, striking out four, walking none, and allowing two singles.
Melido Perez, for his part, was effective, but in and out of trouble all evening. The Sox’ right-hander went seven, while scattering seven hits, striking out eight and walking two. Perez went 1-2-3 the first two innings, but the Rangers were able to get things going against him in the third. Petralli, Buechele, and Huson hit back-to-back-to-back singles to get one run back, and it looked like more might be on the way. Perez was able to dance out of trouble, though, stranding both runners with back-to-back strikeouts and a Palmeiro lineout.
Again in the fourth, three runners reached. Ruben Sierra led off the frame with a double, and Harold Baines reached on a misplayed ball in left by Bradley. After an Incaviglia strikeout, Geno Petralli continued turning the screws, singling to score Sierra, advancing Baines to third, and making it 4-2. Perez again was able to conjure up some magic, inducing a double play to get out of the inning.
After quieting Rangers’ bats in the fifth, Perez gave up a single to Palmeiro to start the sixth. While he was able to strike out Sierra next, Perez didn’t help himself by making two of his next three pitches of the wild variety, thus allowing Palmeiro to advance to third. On a 3-2 count to Baines, though, Perez struck him out, and generated a groundout from Incaviglia to once again end a Rangers’ scoring threat.
A harmless seventh by Perez gave way to the Sox bullpen in the eighth, with Ken Patterson taking over. Patterson — perhaps best known for being the guy the Sox sent with Sammy Sosa to the Cubs for George Bell a couple of years later — worked around a leadoff single: he got two outs on a strike ‘em out, throw ‘em out double play and the final out by way of a Ruben Sierra flyball (Julio Franco, incidentally, was the one caught stealing on the strike ‘em out, throw ‘em out: he was worth 6.8 bWAR this season, the best of his career).
In a move that should surprise no one, White Sox skipper Jeff Torborg called on his ace reliever, Bobby Thigpen, to close out the game in the ninth. Thigpen, as you might recall, was in the midst of the best season of his career (1.83 ERA and an ERA- of 47): ultimately recording 57 saves: a major league record that wouldn’t be broken until Francisco Rodriguez recorded 62 in 2008. Thigpen answered the call, going 1-2-3 to close out the Rangers, and notching save number 39. The White Sox won, 4-2.
The Sox would wind up taking the season series 7-6, which featured three walkoffs and two doubleheaders. At the time of this game, the Rangers were floating around .500 at 61-57, having crawled back from a season-worst 11 games below .500 on June 6. The White Sox, meanwhile, were desperate to gain ground on the division-leading Oakland Athletics. At the start of August the Sox were just three games back, but would see their deficit increased to 6.5 at the start of this day. Ultimately, of course, the White Sox would fall short of the playoffs, finishing 9 games back from the A’s, but with a still-impressive record of 94-68. The Rangers would finish in third behind the Sox, at 83-79.
Texas wouldn’t do much over the next several seasons, mostly hovering between not-really-good and not-really-good-enough. The ‘96 season saw their first division crown and playoff appearance in franchise history (Offense! Not much pitching!), where they lost to the Yankees, 3 games to 1. The Yankees would prove to be their playoff nemesis, as they were also swept by the Yanks in the divisional round in both ‘98 and ‘99. The White Sox, as we well know, were gearing up for a run at the title. They finished behind the A’s and/or the Twins the next couple of seasons before breaking through in 1993.
The Sox would conclude this series the next day, losing 8-3, with Alex Fernandez getting rocked to the tune of 8 earned over 5 ⅔. He would have better games.
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