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1993-94  Good Guys Wear Black
by WSI editor George Bova

A Bright Future -- Dashed!

In the spring of 1988, the Chicago White Sox franchise was all but dead and buried.  A new stadium deal looked hopelessly beyond reach.  The team had an agreement to move to Saint Petersburg for the 1989 season.  A 12:03 a.m. miracle saved our Sox for Chicago.  Like a phoenix rising from its own ashes, the Chicago White Sox began to piece together the ingredients to build a championship dynasty.  Under Sox GM Larry Himes, a succession of talented #1 draft picks became the core to the fully risen championship Sox of 1993:  Jack McDowell in 1987, Robin Ventura in 1988, Frank Thomas in 1989, and Alex Fernandez in 1990.

These young players broke through in 1990 to lead the Sox to 94 wins and their first run at a championship in five years.  The fans returned, too, the Sox drawing over 2 million in attendance the first of four consecutive seasons.  The new ballpark greeted the team and its front office in 1991.  Built precisely to the club's specifications, featuring over 100 diamond suites, a restaurant, and all the latest revenue-enhancing accouterments, the Chicago White Sox were set to build a dynasty well into the 1990's.

It all went terribly wrong in August of 1994.  The hopes and expectations of Sox fans were dashed and the dynasty killed amongst suspicion of sabotage from within.  For many, the bitterness still lingers.

The 1993 Season
 
With just 86 wins in 1992 under new manager Gene Lamont, the 1993 team showed little championship promise at the beginning of the new season.  Jack McDowell broke quickly winning his first five decisions, and Bo Jackson provided drama by hitting a home run with the first swing of his bat.  It was Jackson's first at-bat after hip replacement surgery.  The club however struggled, managing only a 24-23 record through the end of May.  The team was stuck in a virtual tie for third place with Texas.

The championship push started in earnest once the pitching rotation established itself.  Young Wilson Alvarez was joined by Triple-A farm hand Jason Bere on May 25.  The Sox skidded with six losses but still remained just 1.5 games off the pace.  The Sox won 13 of their next 22 and suddenly found themselves all alone in first place.  The date was June 23.  They would never look back.

The untimely release of fan favorite and Sox legend Carlton Fisk did not have a negative effect on the team's performance.  Six days after setting a major league record for games caught, Sox management ushered Fisk out the door in Cleveland on June 28.  He had just flown from Chicago with the team to start a road trip. But the Sox kept winning, posting an 18-9 record in July and a four game lead in the standings.  Nolan Ryan didn't like giving up a home run ball, so he brushed back Robin Ventura in the August 4 game in Texas.  The resulting fight left Robin with some noogies applied by the old goat, a shadow of his former self pitching in his last season.  It made no difference.  The Sox charged through August with a 17-12 record and solidified their hold on the division lead.

Texas proved to be the Sox's only competition but they simply weren't good enough to compete.  The Sox took the first two of a showdown series with the Rangers on September 24 and 26.  Texas crept out of town by salvaging the final game and avoiding the humiliation of watching the Sox clinch the title at home against their closet rival.  Bo Jackson's moon shot home run against Seattle clinched it the following night at Comiskey.  The opposition would be Toronto, the defending world champions, against whom the Sox split the season series.  Thomas was M.V.P., McDowell was Cy Young, and Gene Lamont was Manager of the Year.  The marketing hype truly fit the team.  The Sox were the good guys in black -- and appeared to have a date with destiny.
 

The 1993 American League Championship Series

Game 1 at New Comiskey Park.  The two best pitchers in the league squared off.  Our guy lost.  Juan Guzman was hardly sharp, but Jack McDowell suffered his worst performance of the year, allowing 7 earned runs, 13 hits, and a homer to Paul Molitor.  Sox lose 7-3.
Game 2 at New Comiskey Park.  The sports world abuzz with the news that Michael Jordan was retiring, the Sox bats fell silent leaving Alex Fernandez to suffer a tough 3-1 loss.  Bo Jackson remained in the dugout when Joey Cora batted as the tying run in the ninth, and joined fellow DH bench warmer George Bell in making some stupid and distracting comments to the press.  Dan Pasqua was 0 for 6 and wouldn't get another at-bat in the series.
Game 3 at Toronto.  Wilson Alvarez went the full nine innings and the Sox bats pushed Toronto back with a convincing 6-1 victory in SkyDome.  Pat Hentgen was shelled for five runs in the third inning.  New Sox DH Bo Jackson went 0 for 4.
Game 4 at Toronto.  The Sox come back from the dead and evened the series with a convincing 7-4 victory.  Toronto's fans were stunned as Lance Johnson provided the unlikely power with a two-run homer off Todd Stottlemyre in the second inning.  Jason Bere was roughed up but Tim Belcher picked him up. The vaunted Sox bullpen chewed up what was left of the Jays.  Kirk McCaskill, then Scott Radinsky, and then Roberto Hernandez shut the door.  It was now a best of three series with two games in Chicago!  Unfortunately, the seventh game was never played.
Game 5 at Toronto.  McDowell didn't last three innings.  Juan Guzman shut down the Sox and a ninth inning rally fell short.  Sox DH Bo Jackson was now 0 for 10 including a strike out to end the game.  Sox lose 5-3 and face elimination.
Game 6 at New Comiskey Park.  Warren Newsom got the start as Sox DH.  A pitcher's duel ensued between Dave Stewart and Alex Fernandez.  Toronto wisely pitched around Frank Thomas and waited for Sox defensive miscues to make the difference.  Each team had two earned runs but three Sox errors led to one unearned run for Toronto.  Newsom hit a solo homer in the ninth inning, the one and only hit the Sox's designated hitters had the entire series.  Not a peep was heard from Bo Jackson or George Bell.  Neither would be around in 1994.  It was a 6-3 pennant-clinching victory for Toronto, en route to their second consecutive world championship.


The Truncated 1994 Season

There was bitter disappointment evident amongst the young Chicago White Sox after losing the 1993 ALCS.  They played even up with a veteran two-time world champion team -- only to fall short half way through.  1994 would be different.  "I can't wait for next year," was Ozzie Guillen's comment that could have spoken for the entire team.

1994 had nothing to do with championships, the will to win, or fulfilling destiny.  No -- 1994 was all about greed.  The maturing cast of players who entered that campaign in April left the ball field in August, half-finished, short of their goal -- and never to be the same again.

The 1994 team was better than the 1993 squad.  Gone were Dan Pasqua, Bo Jackson, and George Bell, replaced by free agent Julio Franco who proved himself an outstanding bat to protect Frank Thomas in the line up.  Ellis Burks left via free agency but Darrin Jackson was a capable replacement in right field.  The core of the pitching staff was intact, now another year older and wiser for a far more competitive campaign.

Cleveland was the new rival in the realigned A.L. Central Division.  A young and powerful everyday line up was only tempered by a pitching staff comprised mostly of aging arms and inexperience.  The Tribe broke quickly and claimed first place through April with a 13-9 record, the Sox a half-game back.  In a season of phenomenal hitting heroics, the Sox pitchers struggled to match their '93 statistics, but the quality of the staff shown through.  The Sox ripped through May with a 16-9 record leaving Cleveland 2.5 games back.  If the Sox thought this would be a replay of the previous season they were soon in for a shocking surprise.  Cleveland hung tough and claimed first place in mid-June, the Sox struggling through a 2-13 stretch.

The battle was joined as the Sox won 18 of their next 22 games.  The stage was set for two showdown series against Cleveland July 14-17 and July 21-24.  The teams split the eight games, the most noteworthy event involving Albert Belle's corked bat which a Cleveland teammate stole from the umpire's locker room inside Comiskey Park.  A four-game sweep by Kansas City dropped the Sox into second place on July 28, but the Sox won the next four games and reclaimed first place, finishing July with a 19-10 record, 2 games ahead of the Tribe.

On August 10 the Sox finished a successful six-game trip to the west coast with their fourth victory, a 2-1 defeat of Oakland.  They were one game ahead of Cleveland.  The team was to fly home to begin a seven-game homestand against fourth-place Minnesota.  Instead, they flew home and scattered.  A strike organized by the Major League Baseball Players Association was begun.  The World Series was canceled.  The owners declared the White Sox "champions" of the A.L. Central -- thus avoiding any litigation from expected class action suits which season ticket holders might bring.

The major league owners had announced their intention to unilaterally impose a new plan for restricting player compensation and free agency.  The players union announced their intention to fight the move through a strike.  Neither side blinked -- and the strike came.  It was the longest labor impasse in American sports history and only ended after a federal judge ruled that the owners had violated the law by not negotiating with the players before imposing the new work rules, thus making the owners liable for all damages caused by not allowing the players to return to work the following spring.  The owners fired the replacement players who they had hired and intended to use in the '95 season.  A revised and shortened schedule was implemented for the 1995 season.  Though he always denied it, a wide and credible group of sources identified Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf as the ringleader of the hard line group of owners.  His fans would pay the ultimate price.

The Aftermath

The 1995 Sox reported to camp late and out of shape to compete in the new season.  Jack McDowell had been traded and Julio Franco had left to play in Japan.  Sox GM Ron Schueler cobbled together a team of has-beens (John Kruk) and never-weres (Mike Devereaux) that had nothing but long hopes of repeating previous championship aspirations.  Gene Lamont was fired when the club stumbled to an 11-20 start, but the news gets worse, because mental midget Terry Bevington was named as his replacement.  Boomer's most noteworthy contribution to the '95 team's failures was a fist fight with Milwaukee's manager, the equally-stupid Phil Garner.  The '95 Sox finished in third place, 68-76, a whopping 32 games behind division champion Cleveland.

1996 was only marginally better, an 85-77 record, 14 games back.  An early surge was short circuited after the bullpen blew up from overuse by the hopelessly overmatched Terry Bevington.  The 1997 team obviously needed pitching help but the Sox chose instead to sign the biggest free agent hitter available, Cleveland's Albert Belle.  The clubhouse environment in tatters, the team pulled the plug on a late-season pennant rush, trading away the core of the pitching staff in the infamous White Flag Trade, killing off the scant remnants of the Good Guys in Black dynasty started ten years earlier by Sox GM Larry Himes.

In five seasons the Sox had been transformed from a young, revenue-rich dynasty in the making, to a "small market" rebuilding also-ran.  The fans haven't been back since.
 

1993 Chicago White Sox
American League
West Division Champions
94-68, .580,+8 games

Manager:  Gene Lamont

                        Everyday Line Up

Position   AB BA HR RBI
1B Frank Thomas 549 .317 41 128
2B Joey Cora 579 .268 2 51
3B Robin Ventura 554 .262 22 94
SS Ozzie Guillen
Also Craig Grebeck.
457 .280 4 50
LF Tim Raines 415 .306 16 54
CF Lance Johnson 540 .311 0 47
RF Ellis Burks 499 .275 17 74
C Ron Karkovice 403 .228 20 54
DH George Bell
Also Bo Jackson and Dan Pasqua.
502 .255 32 95

                        Pitching Staff

  G IP W L S ERA
Jack McDowell 34 256.2 22* 10 0 3.37
Alex Fernandez 34 247.1 18 9 0 3.13
Wilson Alvarez 31 207.2 15 8 0 2.95
Jason Bere 24 142.2 12 5 0 3.47
Kirk McCaskill 30 113.2 4 8 2 5.23
Roberto Hernandez 70 78.2 3 4 38 2.29
Scott Radinsky 73 54.2 8 2 4 4.28

BOLD led the team
* led the league

Individual Honors
Most Valuable Player      Frank Thomas
Cy Young Award         Jack McDowell
        Gold Glove        Robin Ventura
Manager of the Year    Gene Lamont

 

1994 Chicago White Sox
American League
Central Division Champions
67-46, .592,+1 game

Manager:  Gene Lamont

                        Everyday Line Up

Position   AB BA HR RBI
1B Frank Thomas 399 .353 38 101
2B Joey Cora
Also Norberto Martin
312 .276 2 30
3B Robin Ventura 401 .282 18 78
SS Ozzie Guillen 365 .288 1 39
LF Tim Raines 384 .266 10 52
CF Lance Johnson 412 .277 3 54
RF Darrin Jackson 369 .312 10 51
C Ron Karkovice
Also Mike LaValliere
207 .213 11 29
DH Julio Franco 433 .319 20 98

                        Pitching Staff

  G IP W L S ERA
Jack McDowell 25 181.0 10 9 0 3.73
Alex Fernandez 24 170.1 11 7 0 3.86
Wilson Alvarez 24 161.2 12 8 0 3.45
Jason Bere 24 141.2 12 2 0 3.81
Scott Sanderson 18 92.0 8 4 0 5.09
Jose DeLeon 42 67.0 3 2 2 3.36
Kirk McCaskill 40 52.2 1 4 3 3.42
Roberto Hernandez 45 47.2 4 4 14 4.91

BOLD led the team

Individual Honors
Most Valuable Player      Frank Thomas


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