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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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August 16,1977

Posted 05-17-2018 at 07:02 PM by TommyJohn
Updated 07-20-2018 at 09:30 PM by TommyJohn

August 16,1977
vs. New York Yankees
at Yankee Stadium

The Sox followed up their power display against Seattle by losing four of their next five, including two to Cleveland and one to Texas on the 12th that dropped them out of 1st place for the first time since July 1. They regained the top spot the next night with a win and held on to it despite losing the next game. Another loss to the Yankees in the first of this two game miniseries dropped them back to second place. That is where they stood going into this game.

Many fans and players came into Yankee Stadium this night in a state of shock over the huge national news that had been announced earlier that day-Elvis Presley had died that afternoon at the age of 42. Later that night, the Sox would still be in shock, but for different reasons.

The Yankees went into the game at 66-50, in 3rd place in the AL East, 4 1/2 games back and surging towards the top. The Penthouse Yankees were also only a 1/2 game behind the Poorhouse White Sox in terms of record. Many fans' dreams of seeing the poor team stick it to the rich boys were starting to look like far-flung fantasies.

The teams played exciting, nip-and-tuck ball for the first seven innings. The Yankees took a 2-0 lead on a 2nd inning single by Bucky Dent. The Sox answered with two to tie it. Roy White broke the tie with a two run homer in the bottom of the 5th, but again the Hitmen surged back with two more, the last on a solo homer by Jim Spencer in the top of the 7th.

The Yankees took a 5-4 lead in their half of the 7th, then broke the game open with 4 in the 8th, with Chris Chambliss and Bucky Dent contributing RBIs. On the receiving end of the barrage were Francisco Barrios and Lerrin LaGrow, who had a rare poor outing. LaGrow was lifted in favor of rookie lefty Randy Wiles, appearing in only his 5th major league game. Wiles got the last two outs to end the inning.

The Sox entered the 9th trailing 9-4. Yankee ace Ron Guidry was on the mound, all but ensuring a Yankee win.

The Sox had other ideas. Chet Lemon singled to open the inning and Spencer cracked his second home run of the game to make it 9-6. Brian Downing singled and that was it for Guidry. Sparky Lyle induced Ralph Garr to foul out, but Alan Bannister doubled, Jorge Orta singled to score Downing and Richie Zisk hit a drive to right that Lou Piniella reached over the wall to catch, reducing a potential three run homer to a sacrifice fly. Still, it was suddenly a one run ballgame, and the Sox weren't finished.

Lamar Johnson and Eric Soderholm got on to load the bases. Oscar Gamble came out to pinch hit to a rousing standing ovation from Yankee fans who remembered him from his year in New York. Gamble responded by cracking a double down the right field line. Two runs blazed across the plate and the White Sox now led 10-9. Brian Downing flied out to end the inning and cap off one of the most stunning comebacks in White Sox history-6 runs in the 9th in New York against a Yankee team just hitting their peak.

Six run 9th innings against the Yankees didn't happen very often. The Sox hadn't done it against them since September 21,1962, in Comiskey Park. There was only one problem in this game. The Yankees still had one more turn at bat.

Randy Wiles walked Thurman Munson to open the inning. Lou Piniella laid a sacrifice bunt down that moved Munson to 2nd, with Lou out at 1st. That brought Chris Chambliss, the hero of the 1976 ALCS, up to bat. The fired up crowd roared as Chambliss stepped in against Wiles. A veteran like Chambliss against a rookie in a game situation? The fans had a feeling what was going to happen next. Hell, my family watching on TV at home knew what was going to happen next. Perhaps even the White Sox knew it too.

Chambliss took strike one, then golfed Wiles' second pitch high and deep to right. The ball landed in the stands for a two run home run. Just like that, the Sox' six run comeback went up in smoke. What should have gone in the books as one of the greatest single game comebacks in franchise history instead went down as a galling 11-10 defeat. The loss made the Sox 4-13 in their last 17. Whatever magic they had for the first four months of the season was rapidly disappearing.

Pitching was a huge reason for it. It said something about the sorry state of the staff that in such a huge game situation, the best Bob Lemon could manage was a rookie who had played in only four games.

Randy Wiles, for his part, was devastated over his inability to hold the lead. He had tears in his eyes as he spoke after the game.

"I feel terrible" he told Bob Verdi. "I have to shake this off if I want to stay around much longer, but it won't be easy. I feel terrible."

He didn't last much longer. The Sox released him one week later, bringing his brief major league career full circle. The first batter he faced, John Wathan of the Royals, reached him for a game-winning hit. So too did the last man he faced. The home run ball he served up to Chris Chambliss was the last pitch he would ever throw in a major league game.

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