White Sox pitcher Ed Walsh won his 40th game of the season, as he beat Detroit, 6-1. It was a crucial win for the team, staving off pennant elimination and drawing the South Siders to within a half-game of the first-place Tigers. With the Naps splitting their final games of the season in a doubleheader with St. Louis, Cleveland was eliminated from the fierce, three-way battle for first place. Walsh’s win set up a winner-take-all game for the pennant vs. Detroit on the final day of the season.
Walsh himself completed one of the most extraordinary seasons in major league history. His 40 wins led the majors, and is a milestone no one has matched in 114 seasons since (the closest to 40 wins has been Walter Johnson, with 36 in 1913). The 40 wins tied for 30th all-time in major league history and made him just one of two pitchers to attain the mark in the 20th Century.
Walsh led the AL in winning percentage (40-15, .727), FIP (1.42) and K/W (4.80). In addition to wins, Walsh led all of MLB in games (66), starts (49), complete games (42), shutouts (11), innings (464) and strikeouts (269). Oh, and he led the majors in saves as well, with six.
And yet Walsh clocked “just” 10.3 WAR, which doesn’t even represent the best season of his career — he topped 11 WAR in both 1910 and 1912.
Cy Young winner LaMarr Hoyt pitched a complete game, five-hitter in beating the Orioles, 2-1, in Game 1 of the ALCS. It was the first time since divisional playoffs started in 1969 that Baltimore lost the first game of a postseason series. Unfortunately, it would be the high-water mark for the Sox in the series.
Hoyt struck out four, and lost his shutout in the ninth inning on a bloop hit by Cal Ripken Jr. With Ripken on base, Hoyt got slugger Eddie Murray to hit a ground ball up the middle and got a glove on the ball just enough to slow it down for Scott Fletcher to field it, step on second base, record the force out and end the contest played at Memorial Stadium.
Game 1 of the ALCS was an unmitigated disaster, both on and off the field for the White Sox.
On the field, Toronto ripped the Sox, 7-3, but by the middle of the game, not one fan cared. Reports were confirmed that the Bulls were holding a press conference the next morning so that Michael Jordan (who threw out the ceremonial first pitch for Game 1) could announce his retirement from basketball. Fans at the game and around the city were in shock.
Adding insult to injury, future Hall of Fame catcher Carlton Fisk and Chicago native and former White Sox pitcher Donn Pall (both of whom had played for the White Sox that season) were turned away by security guards when they attempted to wish their former teammates good luck in the locker room before the game started. The White Sox claimed the rules were set by Major League Baseball, but no fan or media member was fooled by that comment. Most media members felt Fisk was turned away on explicit orders from owner Jerry Reinsdorf; it was an insult Fisk never forgot.
Reinsdorf would then take an unprecedented step of apologizing to the team in the clubhouse before the start of Game 2, saying he had no wish to take away their spotlight because of the Jordan situation.
In the postseason for the third time of the 2000s, the White Sox were on the brink of elimination in the 2008 ALDS. But behind a strong starting pitching effort from John Danks they beat Tampa Bay, 5-3, to survive another day. Danks pitched into the seventh inning, with seven strikeouts. A three-run fourth inning set the tone for the Sox in the game. Dewayne Wise had two RBIs for the Sox.
It was the end to one of the most disappointing seasons in White Sox history.
Six years earlier, GM Rick Hahn started the rebuild by saying that the franchise was “mired in mediocrity.” After the Twins pounded the Sox, 10-1, to end the 2022 campaign, the team finished … at 81-81 — the very definition of mediocrity.
It was only the fifth time in team history the club ended a year exactly at .500.
The season was supposed to see the Sox make the postseason for a third straight year and potentially play in the World Series. Instead, the team was listless, seemed to have little sense of urgency, couldn’t stay healthy and was saddled with bizarre in-game decisions by manager Tony La Russa (who resigned before the season even ended because of serious health issues).
The year marked Year 10 under Hahn, whose track record was less than stellar: seven losing years, two winning ones and a .500 year. Under his watch, the Sox had two playoff appearances — but also two quick first round playoff exits.