The morning of August 4, 1991 in Chicago dawned cool and cloudy: a very reasonable 68 degrees which would ultimately settle into a comfortable 72 degree game time temperature for the sellout crowd of 41,059. Playing against the White Sox this day were the Baltimore Orioles: while Baltimore was well out of the race at a lowly 42-60, the White Sox were in the midst of a pennant race, sitting at 58-45, tied with the Blue Jays for second place in the AL, up 1 game on the A’s in the West, and three games behind the Minnesota Twins. Despite the disparity in record, the White Sox were hoping to avoid a sweep and keep pace with the Twins.
Cultural and Baseball Miscellany
Before getting into the nitty-gritty of today’s game, let’s take a moment to process a snapshot of the happenings in baseball and elsewhere. Over the airwaves, one could expect to hear the #1 song on Billboard’s Hot 100: Bryan Adam’s “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You“, which would go on to claim the overall #1 Billboard song for 1991.
At the movie theater, one could pay a reasonable $4.21 to see the Top Gun parody starring Charlie Sheen, Hot Shots!, which was the top draw in film on this date and would eventually gross $180 million worldwide.
In the world of baseball, there were several significant events during the 1991 season. Two new cities were awarded expansion franchises this year: Colorado and Miami; both teams would be in play for the 1993 season. On May 1, Rickey Henderson would break Lou Brock‘s all-time stolen base record with #939:
Relevant to the White Sox, new Comiskey Park opened in 1991, and the inaugural game was one scrubbed from the ol’ memory banks: a 16-0 drubbing at the hands of the Tigers. This was also the year of the no-hitter, as seven no-hitters were thrown over the course of the season: Wilson Alvarez would make his place in history shortly, his first start being a no-hitter against these same Orioles.
In the draft, lefty Brien Taylor was taken first overall by the Yankees, though he would never advance past AA. The White Sox took Scott Ruffcorn at #25, and he, too, would not do much, accumulating -2.5 WAR for parts of the 1993-96 seasons. The only other notable (to me, at least) White Sox draft pick was Mike Cameron in the 18th round. A few other notable names from the first round of the draft as a whole: Manny Ramirez, Indians, 13th; Cliff Floyd, Expos, 14th, and; Shawn Green, Blue Jays, 16th.
Lastly, two White Sox relievers were born on this date whom you might recognize: Bob Howry in 1973, and Scott Linebrink in 1976.
Umpires for this game
- HP:Dale Ford
Ford umped from 1974-1999, and was the home plate umpire for Bill Buckner‘s infamous “Between the legs” error; he was also behind home plate exactly two years from now, in prime viewing position for the Robin Ventura–Nolan Ryan brawl.
- 1B: Dave Phillips
Phillips worked as an umpire from 1971-2002, and had a distinguished career that saw a variety of playoff games, all-star appearances and more: I’ll highlight one event he worked, though: crew chief for Disco Demolition Night, on July 12, 1979.
- 2B: Ted Hendry
Hendry (no relation to Jim Hendry that I could find) saw action in the American League as an umpire from 1977-1999, and called two no-hitters: Bret Saberhagen‘s in 1991, and Jim Abbott‘s in 1993. He also cut his head open on Joe Girardi’s catcher mask, which required seven stitches.
- 3B: John Hirschbeck
Hirschbeck, most recent of today’s umpires, had a career which spanned from 1984 to 2016. Not one to shy away from confrontation, Hirschbeck also worked plenty of notable games. A couple picks: home plate umpire for Barry Bond’s 756th home run, and home plate umpire for Roy Halladay‘s playoff no-hitter.
|Baltimore Orioles||Chicago White Sox|
|Mike Devereaux, CF||Tim Raines, LF|
|Joe Orsulak, LF||Robin Ventura, 3B|
|Cal Ripken, SS||Frank Thomas, DH|
|Dwight Evans, DH||Dan Pasqua, RF|
|Chito Martinez, RF||Matt Merullo, 1B|
|David Segui, 1B||Lance Johnson, CF|
|Leo Gomez, 3B||Ron Karkovice, C|
|Bob Melvin, C||Joey Cora, 2B|
|Juan Bell, 2B||Ozzie Guillen, SS|
|Mike Mussina, SP||Charlie Hough, SP|
Play by Play
Starting on the mound for the White Sox was 43-year-old knuckleballer Charlie Hough, acquired over the offseason after Texas granted him free agency (he appeared in the inaugural edition of Random Box Score). Hough had started the season on a cold streak, not picking up his first win until May; that early-season stretch also included a rough outing against these same Orioles, a loss which saw him concede four runs over 3 ⅔ IP, largely from control issues (5 walks, 2 HBP). Lately, though, Hough had pitched well and entered this game with a record of 6-6 and a 3.59 ERA.
At first, Hough looked like he would continue his struggles against the Orioles. Leadoff man Mike Devereaux singled on a 2-1 count, then moved to second after Hough balked. The knuckleballer came back to get the next two outs — a Joe Orsulak strikeout and a Cal Ripken groundout — then walked Dwight Evans on four straight. With runners on first and second for the Orioles, right fielder Chito Martinez swung through a 2-2 knuckleball to end the scoring threat.
On the bump for Baltimore was a rookie pitcher by the name of Mike Mussina making his MLB debut. Drafted 20th overall the previous year by the Orioles, Mussina had done nothing but dominate in the minors: over 28 games across AA and AAA, Moose went 13-4 with a 2.19 ERA and decent peripherals to match. While the future Hall of Fame righty had averaged 2 BB/9 in AAA, early-game adrenaline helped to equal that average in short order. After Tim Raines flew out to left for the first out, Mussina issued back-to-back walks on nine pitches to Robin Ventura and Frank Thomas. With men on first and second and just the one out –in front of that sellout crowd of 41,059, no less — Mussina buckled down and delivered as someone worthy of his first round pedigree. Dan Pasqua: pop-up to short, followed by a 4-3 Matt Merullo groundout and a Hall of Fame career was underway.
The next several innings saw Mussina and Hough go toe-to-toe in a classic pitchers’ duel. The young Mussina allowed just two more walks and a double to right off the bat of Frank Thomas through five, while the elder statesman in Hough was even better: 15 of 16 retired (14 in a row) through six, allowing just one single to Joe Orsulak. It was in the bottom half of the sixth that Mussina blinked.
After Ventura flew out to center for the first out of the inning, the Big Hurt was up next, and well, he put put some patented Hurt on a hanging changeup…
The no-doubter from Thomas (his 22nd of the season) didn’t shake Mussina, though: he retired Pasqua and Merullo to get out of the inning and keep the score 1-0, White Sox.
The seventh was where Hough began to run into trouble. After two quick outs on six pitches, David Segui singled to center. Leo Gomez followed that up with a single of his own, a little infield dribbler which forced Ozzie Guillen to throw wide of first and allowed both runners to advance: men at second and third with two out and the first time all day the Orioles had a man 90 feet away from a run. Fortunately for Hough and the White Sox, Bob Melvin popped up to conclude the inning.
After the Sox’ bats were quiet in their half of the inning, the Orioles got back to work again in the eighth. Juan Bell lead off with a single to left, and Mike Devereaux advanced him to second with a sac bunt. Joe Orsulak then walked to give the Orioles men and first and second with just one out. Hough was able to get Ripken on a flyout to center, but then bounced a knuckleball to the screen to advance both runners with Dwight Evans up. Again, the Orioles were just 90 feet away from the tying run. Evans worked Hough over, getting the count to 3-2 and then smashing a come-backer right to the mound…where it was speared by Hough for the third out, preserving the 1-run lead.
Mussina came back out for the eighth, and was able to retire both Raines and Ventura before facing Thomas for a third time. Different at-bat, but another hard-hit ball: this time a double ripped to left, and Mussina’s day was done: 7 ⅔ IP, 4 H, 1 R, 4 BB, 1 K. Not too shabby a first start. (Thomas, by the way, owned Mussina over their respective careers: 96 PAs, .366/.458/.805 with 9 doubles and 9 dingers…only Albert Belle had a higher OPS, and that was with just half the PAs, 51)
Jim Poole came on in relief and retired Dan Pasqua for the third out to bring the game to the ninth for a last-gasp attempt at pulling out a win and sweeping the Sox. It wasn’t to be, though: Hough stayed in, at 111 pitches, to go for the complete game shutout. And shut them out he did: a 1-2-3 ninth — all groundouts — secured the 1-0 victory for the Sox and salvaged the series. It was Hough’s first shutout since April 4, 1989, and his career penultimate: he would record one more with the Marlins on June 14, 1994.
For each franchise, fortunes were about to trend upwards. Despite finishing the 1991 season 67-95, the Orioles would surprise in 1992, finishing third in the AL East after going 89-73 in their shiny new ballpark (Mussina, by the way, would complete an 8-win season and finish 4th in Cy Young voting). This would start the franchise’s sustained run of success (never lower than third in the standings, two playoff appearances) through to near the end of the 1990s.
The White Sox, of course, were coming off their own surprise campaign in 1990, and would finish this season at 87-75, good for 2nd in the AL West. Outside of the golden ‘50s and early-60s-era, these early- to mid-90s teams were the most successful White Sox fans had seen in quite some time. Alas, as we well know, the strike very much interrupted what could well have been something far more successful.
Random Box Score White Sox record: 9-4
References and resources consulted
- Baseball Reference
- Chicago Tribune
- Weather Underground
Thanks, Ted, for a nice recap of a game that happened 40 days before my wedding. Nice to see Dan Pasqua’s name. I don’t know how many times I’ve typed his name into various sporcles only to find he didn’t meet the parameters of the quiz.
But boy did I hate that blue color in the first edition of the New Comiskey Park.
Yup, those blue seats were pretty awful. It was nice when they began to switch them over to the dark green.
I was at this game. My Dad flew myself and my two brothers in from Detroit for this game and the game the night before. Frank hit a 3 run homer the night before but the Sox lost. It was the first time I’d ever seen the exploding scoreboard at night.
“tied with the Blue Jays for second place”? 1st Wild Card didn’t start ’til 1995 and we were never in the Blue Jays division. Were we?
Brain cramp on my end, thanks. I’ll get that fixed.