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In honor of actor Andy Garcia and his (unintentionally) hilarious reaction to Sofia (Mary Corleone) Coppola's death scene in "The Godfather, Part III."
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September 23 & 30,1973

Posted 12-03-2017 at 06:16 PM by TommyJohn
Updated 03-24-2018 at 07:57 AM by TommyJohn

September 23,1973
vs. Oakland A's
at White Sox Park

The team took the field for the 9th inning abuzz with excitement. They were leading 10-5 and on the verge of clinching the AL West title. All of their hard work and dedication was going to pay off. They were going to be champs, and were filled with that giddy feeling that comes with anticipation.

Two outs were made. With a runner on base, the final batter hit an infield pop up. The shortstop excitedly got under it and made the catch, and the Oakland A's raced to the mound and piled on each other to celebrate their third straight division title.

The Sox were never in this one at all-the A's jumped out to a 10-0 lead before they even got on the board. Seven of those runs came off starter Wilbur Wood, who was tabbed with his 20th loss of the season, making him the first pitcher since Walter Johnson in 1925 to win and lose 20 games in the same season.

This, coupled with Stan Bahnsen's 20th loss the day before, gave the team a pair of 20 game losers just one year after they had both been 20 game winners. (Bahnsen at one point was 18-16 and seemed a cinch to win 20, but the clearly gassed hurler lost his next four decisions and would lose a fifth).

The A's popped the corks and sprayed the champagne all over the visitor's clubhouse. Meanwhile, A's captain Sal Bando was in no mood to be charitable. The 3rd baseman had predicted before the season that the A's at full strength would be even better than they had been in 1972. Now that the race was over, he happily gloated.

"Nobody was talking much about us" he said. "They had forgotten us and were talking more about Kansas City or a Cub-White Sox World Series in Chicago. But here we are again, and this is more satisfying to me than winning the pennant or the World Series."

The White Sox, meanwhile could only sit morosely in their own clubhouse, harken back to the bygone days of late May when they were in 1st place and looked like a sure bet to dethrone the A's, and ponder all the "What Ifs."

What if Ken Henderson hadn't torn up his knee?

What if Bart Johnson hadn't been plagued by a knee injury?

What if players like Bill Melton, Carlos May and Pat Kelly hadn't been slowed at various points by nagging injuries?

What if the team had a decent starter in the rotation all season after Wood and Bahnsen?

What if Stu Holcomb hadnít released four role players, severely depleting the bench?

And most importantly of all...

What if Bill Melton realized he had no chance to get Epstein and had held the ball?

September 30,1973
vs. Oakland A's
at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum

So much for respectability.

The Sox had fought their way back to .500 and stood at 72-71 and in 3rd place on September 10 when they commenced another swoon, going 4-15 over their next 19 games. Included in this streak were the 20th losses of both Stan Bahnsen and Wilbur Wood. To make matters worse, the Sox also had a front row seat to watch the A's clinch the AL West title in Sox Park.

And so it came down to this-the final game of the season. They would close out the lost campaign against the very same team against which they had opened it-the Oakland A's, defending World Series champions and AL West titlists 3 years' running.

Steve Stone took the mound and delivered by far one of the best performances since coming to the south side from San Francisco. Stone pitched a two-hit shutout over 9 innings while striking out 12 batters. Three Oakland pitchers-Catfish Hunter, Paul Lindblad and Blue Moon Odom-were just as good, however, and the teams went into the 10th inning locked 0-0.

Carlos May and Bill Sharp opened the top of the 10th with singles off Darold Knowles, the fourth A's pitcher of the afternoon. Ed Herrmann bunted them over to 2nd and 3rd, so Knowles intentionally walked Brian Downing to get to Bucky Dent. Buck made 'em pay by drawing an unintentional walk to score May.

Stone carried the 1-0 lead in the bottom of the 10th, but would fall short in his bid for the complete game shutout. A single, a stolen base and walk on the first two batters convinced Chuck to come get Stone, who was relieved by Cy Acosta. Little Cy put a capper on a fine individual season by retiring the next three batters. Ray Fosse brought the season to a close by grounding to Luis Alvarado at 3rd. Luis whipped it to Jorge Orta for the force out at 2nd to end it.

The A's trotted off the field glowing with that warm championship feeling. In a few days they would be off to Baltimore to meet the Orioles and begin defending their World Series title. The White Sox went home for the winter to think about what might have been.

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