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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 2,1974

Posted 01-14-2018 at 11:16 AM by TommyJohn
Updated 06-22-2019 at 11:41 AM by TommyJohn

September 2,1974
vs. Kansas City Royals
at Royals Stadium

The White Sox of the early 1970s had their problems with pitching. Wilbur Wood was never one of them. The knuckleballer had been the solid anchor of a sometimes shaky rotation since the moment that Chuck Tanner and Johnny Sain had made him a starter before the 1971 season. Wood quickly became the iron pitcher with the rubber arm, and Chuck's favorite go-to guy. He hurled over 300 innings from 1971-73 and from the start of 1971 to the end of May, 1973 had a record of 59-33. He slumped at the end of both 1972 and 1973, which may have been due to Tanner overusing him, though Woody always denied he was tired. He was at this point 28-33 since June of 1973 and was now prone to being streaky. Still, he was the undeniable ace of the staff and on this night had a shot at another 20 win season.

It wasn't his first chance. Wood had taken the mound on August 29 sitting at 19-15, but got handed a one-run loss by Boston and Bill Lee. This night he would face off against the up-and-coming Royals and get an assist in his quest from an old pro who would have one of the last good moments of his fast-waning career.

It started a bit rough. KC managed to smack Wood for two runs before recording an out, and added one more to take a 3-0 lead at the end of the 1st.

It stayed that way until the top of the 5th, when Dick Allen singled home Jorge Orta to make it 3-1. Other than that, the Sox were not able to make a dent against Royal hurler Al Fitzmorris. The Royals, meanwhile, added one more against Wood in the 7th to lead 4-1.

The Sox heated up against Fitz in the top of the 8th. Ken Henderson led off the frame with a double. Two outs later Brian Downing drove him home with a single and Bucky Dent followed with another. At this point Royal manager Jack McKeon called on lefthander Joe Hoerner to face lefty-hitting Pat Kelly. Chuck Tanner decided to counter with a right-handed pinch-hitter off the bench.

Ron Santo at this point in the season bore not even the slightest resemblance to the fiery, emotional, heel-clicking All-Star 3rd baseman who had captained legendary Cubbie teams of myth and yore; teams that captured the imaginations of a generation of Cub fans, including many artistically-inclined folks who in the years ahead would make it in the entertainment world and spread the Gospel of the Cubbies far and wide. He had seemed on the verge of regaining his old form in early June with his two day, three home run outburst; that however, had been only a brief flirtation. He had homered only once since then and now sported 5 home runs and a .219 batting average. These days Ronnie was mostly riding the bench, brooding about his decision to force the reluctant John Holland to trade him to the south side.

The bench is where he was when Chuck Tanner summoned him to pinch-hit for Pat Kelly. Ronnie grabbed his helmet and bat and stepped in against Hoerner. He came through in the clutch, lining a double off the wall in right-center to score Downing and Dent to tie the game at 4.

The game was in the 10th inning when Jorge Orta continued to sparkle in his breakout season by lining a two-out double to score Bucky Dent and Jerry Hairston.

Nowadays, Wood would most likely have been long departed from the game and listening on the clubhouse radio, but not in 1974. He took the mound in the 10th to nail down the coveted 20th.

The Royals decided to make the outcome suspenseful. With two out and one on Fran Healy walked and Al Cowens singled to load them up for Orlando Cepeda, older now but still capable of turning the game around with one swing. Wood bore down and induced a groundball. Bucky scooped it up and whipped an on-target throw to Tony Muser, who gloved it for the 3rd out.

Wood walked off the mound a 20 game winner for the 4th year in a row, the first White Sox pitcher to accomplish the feat.

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