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WSI News - Season Features

June, 2000.  The critical stretch of the season involves 14 games exclusively against Cleveland and New York.  WSI's Hal Vickery reviews the team's glorious success!

Death March?  Not on your life!

by Hal Vickery

It started with the Sox holding a slim lead over the Cleveland Indians. It was billed as the thirty-eight game stretch over forty-on days that would make or break the White Sox in the 2000 season. Some went so far as to call it the Bataan Death March, fearing that the Sox could never make it through such a grueling stretch of games. It started on May 16 in New York. It ended on June 25 with the Sox playing the Yankees. The last seventeen games were played without an off-day. The Sox did just fine, thank you!

Let's quickly review what happened. The Sox faced the Yankees in New York on May 16-17 and split the two games. When you face the good teams on the road, that what you expect to do. After a day off, they faced a surprisingly good Blue Jays team at Skydome. They took three of the four games, giving them a record of 4-2 for the first road trip of this stretch.

Then it was home to face the World Champion Yankees and AL Central champion Indians, who were hot on our heels, for three games each. The Sox went 1-2 against New York in what turned out to be their only series loss of the long march. But they came back and beat Cleveland in two out of the three games, giving them a 3-3 split for the home stand. Through the first dozen games the Sox were 7-5. Everyone was happy to see them over .500 at that point.

It was back on the road again for three games each against Seattle and interleague opponents Houston and Cincinnati. The Mariners looked to be a strong contender in the AL West. On the other hand, Houston had fallen from glory. The Sox took two from each team. When the Sox came to Cincinnati the Reds were hot and sitting on top of the NL Central. When they left town, the Reds were in a tailspin after the Sox swept them. The Sox finished the second road trip of the "Death March" with a 7-2 record and were now 14-7 overall.

The schedule makers gave the Sox enough time to maybe get some laundry done before going out on the road again, and what better team to play while doing laundry than the Chicago Cubs. After a day off, their last for seventeen days, the Sox took the first two games, and lost a lead in the third game, which they eventually lost. But Jerry Manuel had bigger fish to fry than the Cubs. The Indians were using up their bullpen in an extra inning game while Manuel saved Sean Lowe, Bob Howry, and Keith Foulke for the Indians, whom the Sox had to face in Cleveland the next day. Still, two out of three is a series win, and the Sox were now 16-8 with fourteen consecutive days in which they had to face the Yankees or Indians.

Did I say face them? I should have said they pillaged them, demolished them, destroyed them. Instead of looking like the Bataan Death March, the Sox turned the tables and made it look more like Hiroshima. A three-game sweep at Cleveland, a four-game sweep in New York, and the Sox came home with a 7-0 road trip, and now had a record of 23-8 with just seven more games to play.

I don't know if anyone expected the Sox to keep it up. I certainly didn't. Considering the number of times these teams had faced each other, it stood to reason that a lot of the hitters would have the opposing pitchers figured out, and it sure looked like it most of the time. I told people I'd be happy with a split against Cleveland and two out of three against the Yankees, and that's exactly what the Sox gave us, finishing up the last half of those fourteen games 4-3.

Overall the Sox finished that thirty-eight game stretch with a completely unexpected record of 27-11. They finished the "Death March" eight games up on the Indians, and they only have to face the Indians three more times, those games coming in September.

Am I advising you to buy your ALCS tickets? Not yet. There is still a long way to go, and a lot could happen between now and October 1. But there is one good sign that I found. If you're superstitious you might want to latch on to this one. The Sox finished the most critical stretch of the season with a winning percentage of .711. If that's not a good omen, I don't know what is!

Editor's Note:  Hal Vickery has been a White Sox fan since 1955 when he was five years old.  For much of that time he also had a secondary rooting interest in the Cubs, which he has shown the good sense to abandon.  When not cheering for or writing about the Sox, Hal teachers physical sciences at North Boone High School, in Poplar Grove, IL.  He obviously likes to drive because he commutes there daily from Joliet, where he lives with Lee, his wife of 25 years, their son Jeff, and Buster T. Beagle.

Hal's opinions are strictly his own and do not necessarily reflect those of North Boone High School, or Buster T. Beagle.


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