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KenWo's Corner- Revisiting 1990

The year was 1990.  An 11 year old KenWo was a 6th grader walking around in a hot new pair of Z. Cavaricci pants, a neon colored IOU sweatshirt and listening to the Humpty Dance by Digital Underground on his Walkman. MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice were hot, the hair bands were still putting out hits and any time the Old Man would take me, I would venture to Old Comiskey Park- my summer home.   White Sox baseball had always been my favorite thing growing up, but this year something was different.  From the start of the year, you knew there was going to be some excitement in 1990 because the Baseball Palace of the World was entering its final season in the sun.  However, the Sox were coming off of a 1989 season when they finished 69-92 and had traded fan favorite Harold Baines at the trading deadline.  They also hadn't finished higher than 5th place since 1985.  The pitching had really struggled in the previous seasons , and the offense wasn't that much better as Ivan Calderon led the 1989 White Sox with 14 home runs and 87 RBI.  Yet somehow, the 1990 White Sox managed to "do the little things" and became one of my favorite teams of all time.  

The final opening day of Comiskey Park was played on April 9th, 1990 vs. Milwaukee.  That day, the previously shaky Melido Perez limited Brewer hitters to 1 run over 6 solid innings of work, Scott Fletcher hit a go ahead sacrifice fly in the 7th inning and Barry Jones, Wayne Edwards and Bobby Thigpen would close the game out in impressive fashion.  Jones would win his first of 11 games and Thigpen saved the first of his then record 57.  The Sox bullpen as a whole was dominant in 1990 with Thigpen (1.83 ERA, 57 Saves) and Jones (11-4, 2.31 ERA) leading the way.   The Sox started 5-1 that year, but lost the next 4 to drop back to .500.  They rebounded nicely,however, and finished April with a record of 10-6. 

Two April highlights happened in back to back nights vs. the Red Sox.  On April 17th, Ron Kittle hit his record 7th roof top home run off of Rob Murphy.  It was the last time a ball would reach the roof of Old Comiskey Park.  The very next night, a young third baseman by the name of Robin Ventura hit the first homer of his career- off of Roger Clemens.  Unfortunately, Ventura would then go 0 for his next 41.  Ventura wouldn't record another hit until May 11th, with a bunt single in the 5th inning.  He would then hit a home run in the 8th inning, igniting a come from behind win vs. the Royals.  The Sox started a 6 game winning streak that day, and had another 5 game winning streak in later in the month, which left them with a 28-16 record through May.  

The Sox started off June by alternating wins and losses the first 6 games until June 8th in Minnesota.  Back then, the Sox weren't afraid to play in the Dome as Ron Kittle hit a go ahead home run in the 8th inning off of Juan Berenguer.  They won the next 2 games to complete the sweep in Minnesota, won 2 of 3 vs. the Mariners in Seattle and then came home on June 14th to face the dreaded A's.  

The A's had been to the World Series the previous 2 years and had a roster that included Rickey Henderson, Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Dave Stewart, Bob Welch, Dennis Eckersley and late in the season they even acquired former Sox hero Harold Baines.  The Sox, however, scored 3 runs in the first 2 innings off of Dave Stewart in true Sox fashion.  A Sac Fly by Calderon, an RBI groundout by Ozzie Guillen and an RBI single by Lance Johnson.  Stewart settled down and went the distance but ended up with the loss as Eric King, Wayne Edwards, Barry Jones, Scott Radinsky and Bobby Thigpen made the lead hold up- putting the Sox 1 game back in the West.  Unfortunately, Oakland would end up winning the next 3 games and the California Angels took 2 of 3 to put the Sox 4 games back, heading into a rematch in Oakland.

The Sox took game 1 in Oakland 5-0 behind home runs from Dan Pasqua and Scott Fletcher and an Eric King shutout.  Ron Karkovice, Ozzie Guillen and Black Jack McDowell (who plunked Canseco and McGwire) were the driving forces in the 5-3 victory in game 2.  Game 3 featured a matchup between Melido Perez and Dave Stewart.  Perez went 8 strong innings and the Sox led 2-0 going into the bottom of the 9th.  Manager Jeff Torborg handed the ball off to Bobby Thigpen to close the door.  Unfortunately, Thigpen, who had been so solid all season, couldn't do the job as Dave Henderson hit a 2 run shot to tie the game up.  Stewart (much like Britt Burns from times past) remained on the hill in the 10th for Oakland and Manager Tony LaRussa.  Danny Pasqua promptly greeted him with an opposite field home run and Barry Jones closed the door to give the Sox an unthinkable sweep and moved them back to within 1 game in the West.  Stewart, then delivered a great rant saying that "none of the White Sox could hold his jock strap besides Fisk, Kittle and Calderon... maybe".  The Sox would then move on to Anaheim where they would sweep the Angels and come back home where they split the first 2 with the Yankees.  They finished June a remarkable 45-26, 1 game back of Oakland.

Sunday, July 1st marked the 80th anniversary of Old Comiskey Park.  The Sox had played their first game at the Baseball Palace of the World on July 1st, 1910 vs. the St. Louis Browns, losing 2-0.  On its final anniversary, the Baseball Gods had something special in store for Comiskey.  It happened to be the last time I sat in the center field bleachers.  The matchup was Andy Hawkins vs. Greg Hibbard.  It was a great pitching matchup as they worked through 7 scoreless innings.  The Yankees had 4 hits off of Hibbard.  The Sox had 0 hits vs. Hawkins.  Barry Jones came in and pitched a perfect 8th for the Sox.  In the bottom of the 8th, Hawkins retired Karkovice and Fletcher, bringing up Sammy Sosa.  Sosa reached on an error by Mike Blowers and promptly stole 2nd base.  Ozzie Guillen and Lance Johnson each worked a walk which left the bases loaded.  Up stepped Robin Ventura, who hit a routine fly ball to left fielder Jim Leyritz, who lost the ball in the sun and allowed the Sox to clear the bases giving the Good Guys a 3-0 lead.  Calderon then stepped up and hit a high fly to right field and Jessie Barfield camped under it..... AND ALSO MISSED IT! Ventura scored giving the Sox a 4-0 lead.  The next batter, Dan Pasqua, popped to short ending the inning.  The Sox led 4-0 without recording a hit in the game.  Scott Radinsky entered and shutdown the Yankees giving the Sox a win- in a game they were No-Hit!  You can't tell me there weren't other forces at work during that bottom of the 8th.  3 errors in an inning with walks to prolific free swingers Guillen and Johnson in between.  This game still ranks as the most unbelievable game I've ever seen.  Poor Andy Hawkins has since been scratched from the "no hit" book because he didn't go 9 innings, but that rule sucks so I still give him credit for it.

The Sox remained between a tie for first and 2 games back until July 19th, when the Orioles began a 4 game sweep of the Sox in Baltimore, putting the Sox 3 games back, where they would remain through July.  July was the first losing month for the Sox, who finished it 13-14 with a record of 58-40.  Ozzie Guillen and Bobby Thigpen represented the White Sox at Wrigley Field for the All Star Game.  Guillen was 0-2 and Thigpen pitched a perfect 7th inning as the American League won 2-0 on a double by future White Sox, Julio Franco.  Other July highlights include the first ever "turn back the clock" game, which took place on July 11th vs. the Brewers.  The Sox wore 1917 throwback jerseys, shut down the electronic scoreboards, using a man made one and sold tickets for .50.  The Sox lost the game in extra innings.  

July 30th was a rough day for me, as the Sox again traded my all time favorite player, Ron Kittle, to the Orioles for Phil Bradley.  I hate Bradley to this day, but now, years after that disappointment I have come to terms with why that move was made.  On August 2nd, a young first baseman by the name of Frank Thomas debuted for the Sox against the Brewers and began what is the greatest career in White Sox history.  On that same day, the White Sox first round draft pick from June 4th of the same year, a righty named Alex Fernandez,  also made his debut.  Fernandez was outstanding as he limited the Brewers to 2 runs (a 2 run shot by Gary Sheffield) over 7 innings.  Thomas won the game on a fielder's choice which scored Calderon in the 8th inning and Thiggy nailed down his 33rd save as the Sox won 4-3.  Interesting to note is the 4-5-6 combination of that game for the Sox.  Carlton Fisk was the cleanup man, The Big Hurt batted 5th and Sammy Sosa was in the 6 spot.  I guarantee nobody would have ever guessed that the 3 would combine for 1,506 career home runs when all was said and done.

The Sox fell 4.5 games back on August 11th as Charlie Hough beat Melido Perez 7-5, which set up a must win game on Sunday, August 12th.  Fans that attended the park that day will never forget what happened.  They sat in the rain for 7 hours and 23 minutes, the longest rain delay of all time, and never saw one pitch thrown.  The Rangers weren't coming back to Chicago again that year which meant the make up game would be played in Texas- a place the Sox weren't too successful.  The Sox lost 2 of 3 to the Blue Jays and then split the 4 game set (they lost the make up game 1-0 in 13 innings) leaving them 6.5 games back of the A's, who came to Chicago Monday August 20th.  

On the mound that day were Jack McDowell for the Sox (who beaned the Bash Brothers the last time they faced off) vs. Dave Stewart (who told the Sox they can't carry his jock strap).  The Sox, and the fans, were ready for Stewart.  The A's would scratch first on a double by Canseco in the first inning.  The Sox would then score the final 11 runs of the contest, including 6 in 7 innings vs. Stewart to win 11-1.  The big blow was an absolute moon shot into the upper deck off the bat of Sammy Sosa.  As Sosa ran the bases, jock straps rained down on the field from the fans in attendance to the ire of Stewart.  The Sox would win game 2 of the series to pull within 4.5 games, but that was the closest they would come to the A's for the rest of the season- who really took off after game 3 when Bob Welch defeated Melido Perez 7-1.  The Sox finished August 17-15, were 75-55 on the season and 6.5 games back of Oakland.  Another August highlight came on August 28th from the Metrodome, where Frank Thomas hit his first home run off of Gary Wayne in the 9th inning of a loss to the Twins.  

As we got into September, the Sox fell a season low 11 games behind the A's on September 12th- a loss to Cleveland which dropped the Sox to 80-62.  It became clear that they weren't going to catch the A's, and with no wild card, were going to miss the playoffs.  Late into September, the Sox had one eye on the past and one on the future.  They unveiled their new uniforms, basically the same as they still wear,  yet they celebrated the history and memory of the original Comiskey Park.  It was becoming clear that the future was in good hands, as Frank Thomas hit the final White Sox home run at Comiskey Park, in a 13-4 loss, off of Randy Johnson.  The next night, the final night game at Comiskey, Thomas again came through with a huge 2 run single to give the Sox a 5-2 win behind Eric King (who gave up the final home run ever in Comiskey Park to Alvin Davis), and Bobby Thigpen's 56th save (he had already broken the record, previously held by Dave Righetti with his 47th save way back on September 3rd).  

The final game was played at Comiskey on Sunday, September 30th.  It was a very emotional day for everyone (including my old man and myself) who were there.  This was the place where Sox fans watched their team through the good and the bad and had witnessed some amazing baseball for 80 years.  It was a second home and it was about to come to an end.  With the Sox trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the 6th, again it was Frank Thomas who tied things up with a run scoring single.  Danny Pasqua followed with a triple to score Thomas, giving the Sox the lead.  McDowell went 8 strong and Thigpen closed it out on a Harold Reynolds groundout to Scott Fletcher.  It was Thigpen's 57th and final save of the season.  After the game, the fans stayed.  The players tossed balls and hats into the stands, and waved to the fans.  I don't think there was a dry eye in the ballpark.  It was easily one of the most emotional moments I've had in my life.

The Sox finished September 18-11, and then closed out the season 1-2 in Boston.  This left the club with a record of 94-68... 9 games behind the A's.  The only team in baseball other than Oakland with a better record than the Sox were the 95-67 Pirates.  The A's knocked off Boston in the ALCS and got swept by the Reds in the World Series.  

1990 was one of my favorite years as a Sox fan.  It marked the end for a great ballpark, but the beginning of one of the most successful eras in team history.  Frank Thomas went on to become one of the best hitters in baseball history, Jack McDowell continued what he started in 1990, eventually winning the Cy Young award in '93. Alex Fernandez became a very good pitcher for the Sox.  Robin Ventura became the best 3rd baseman in team history.  They didn't win the World Series, or even make the playoffs, but that 1990 Sox team will always have a special place in my heart.