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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Kansas City Blues

Ninth Inning Heroics!

by
Guy Bacci
 

Whenever anyone asks me about the best Sox game I’ve ever been to, I immediately say, “Gary Redus.” If you have any idea who Gary Redus is, you were likely born before 1980. He’s a blip on the map of White Sox history. He was acquired in March of ’87 from the Phillies for pitcher Joe Cowley. He lasted less than two seasons, hitting a paltry .245 and blasting just 18 homers. But one of those homers came on June 4th, 1988.

 

June 4th, 1988: A meaningless mid-season game for a team that was in fifth place, 15.5 games out of first. But it wasn’t so meaningless for me. My family was making a rare trip to Comiskey Park -- one of a few we made each season. As a child, it is vitally important that your team win on the day you’re at the ballpark. Unfortunately, I was on a nasty losing streak. Considering how lousy the Sox were from ’86-’89, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise.

 

And June 4th, 1988, was shaping up to be another defeat. The Sox were down 8-4 heading into the 9th. My brother and cousin joined me in convincing my parents to stay for the final inning. It seemed perfectly plausible that our team could rally in the final stanza. (Where has all that optimism gone, I wonder? Or was it just naiveté?) The 9th inning started with a solo homer by Ivan Calderon. Right on cue, “Wild Thing” Mitch Williams entered the game for Texas, one year before becoming a Cub legend. Williams struggled, and the Sox started to mount a comeback. They pushed across another run, making the score 8-6, and eventually loaded the bases for Gary Redus.

 

 I’ve seen a lot of homeruns in my time, but the grand slam by Redus is one of the few that remains clear in my memory: a towering fly to left field that was gone as soon as it left the bat. June 4th, 1988: The last time a Sox team rallied from a four-run deficit in the 9th inning at home.

 

Until April 28th, 2004.

 

Last Wednesday, the Sox entered the 9th inning down 8-4, and proceeded to win 9-8. It wasn’t done with a grand slam -- just a ho-hum sac-fly -- but it was no less impressive. Even more astounding, it was the third stunning comeback of the past few weeks, and the sixth one-run victory.

 

These are the moments that turn doubters into believers. These are the streaks that begin to wipe away the frustration of three agonizing seasons of Gandhi ball. I’m not ashamed to admit I turned off the TV when the Sox went down 8-2. I gave up. Many other Sox fans did too. And now collectively we wonder: Have things finally changed? Is luck turning our way? Does Ozzie get credit for turning this team into a never-say-die bunch of scrappers?

 

Unfortunately, we won’t be certain for a while. Keep in mind, the 2002 Sox played like gangbusters out of the gate. They finished the first month 16-10 before reverting to their old ways and losing 16 games in May. We want to believe in this year’s Sox, but we’ve been burned before.

 

Thus far, the bullpen has been great, but Mark Buehrle’s ERA was 5.98 going into Saturday’s start, and Jon Garland has looked less than dominant. Dan Wright continues to struggle (get him out of the rotation, please!), and Scott Schoeneweis has a long way to go before we label him the next Loaiza.

 

In addition, the offense continues to go through abrupt slumps, unable to function effectively without a true lead-off hitter or left-handed stick. How much longer will Willie Harris’ .317 OBP be tolerated? Facts are facts: the Sox very well could have lost five games in a row to Tampa and Cleveland. If not for a few errors, a few lucky bounces, and some 9th-inning magic, we’d all be burying this team instead of praising it.

 

And yet, there’s something to be said for karma. The Twins have thrived off it the past few seasons, continually winning seemingly impossible games. They’re at it again this year, with a handful of astounding comebacks already on their resume. The difference is, the Sox are matching them. And that can create a certain kind of attitude in the clubhouse. The Cardiac Kids will always feel like they can win, no matter what the odds. That’s a stark contrast to the Sleepy Sox who petered out in the late innings for the past few seasons.

 

I’m eager to believe. I want to believe. But I’m just too old and bitter. It’s going to take more than 20 games. My cousin, two years younger than me, was there for the Gary Redus slam, and he managed to fight off cynicism during the great comeback last Wednesday. He watched the Sox win in the 9th, screaming his head off until the final run crossed the plate. Why can’t I be more like that?

 

Granted, the dramatic homer by Redus didn’t mean much to the ’88 Sox. They finished 71-90. But that comeback was an aberration, not a trend. The 2004 Sox are already invoking memories of Winning Ugly, and that team didn’t start winning until after the All-Star break. Sure, it’d be nice to start earning victories convincingly, but I’ll take as many ugly wins as we can get.

 

Whether I’m watching or not.


Guy Bacci is from the north suburbs of Chicago, where he couldn't avoid growing up as a pampered and snotty Cubs fan. Luckily, he saw the light in 1985 and never looked back.  He loved the hard-working, old-school tactics of Carlton Fisk, who would become his all-time favorite player.  His most memorable moment was going to a Sox double-header with his grandfather, who insisted on staying all nine hours (including a long rain delay).  Guy is a journalism grad from Northwestern, currently residing in Seattle, where he works as a computer programmer and freelance writer. He can be reached at guybacci@yahoo.com.

More features from Guy Bacci here!

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