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Sox's hitless victory a real wonder
Outlined against the squinty sunshine and swirly winds of Chicago's great South Side, the Hitless Wonders were resurrected Sunday.
In baseball history, the Hitless Wonders were the 1906 Chicago White Sox. They won the pennant and beat the hated Cubs in the World Series with pitching, defense and a bare minimum of batting power.
But they were merely forerunners to Sammy Sosa, Robin Ventura and Ivan Calderon, the 1990 Hitless Wonders who showed up at Comiskey Park Sunday to celebrate the 80th and final birthday of the ball park.
If Comiskey II, currently under construction across 35th Street, lasts another 80 years, it will not house a stranger game than the one the Sox won 4-0 over the Yankees on their final game in Comiskey I.
Andy Hawkins pitched a no-hit game for the Yankees. He lost because the Sox scored four runs in the eighth inning when Sosa, Ventura and Calderon each hit a ball that a Yankee fielder botched up for an error.
"I'm stunned," said Hawkins after throwing the sixth no-hitter in the majors this season. "This is not the way I envisioned a no-hitter. I always dreamed of getting the last out and jumping up and down."
Hawkins retired the first two batters in the eighth on easy infield popups. Then the sun and wind and the Hitless Wonders began making baseball history.
Sosa reached, diving into first, when Mike Blowers backhanded and misplayed his bounder to third. Ozzie Guillen and Lance Johnson walked, filling the bases for Ventura's decisive drive.
Rookie Jim Leyritz raced from shallow to deep left field for Ventura's fly in the wind, gloved the ball . . . and dropped it as the crowd of 30,642 gasped. All three runners scored.
The next batter, Calderon, lofted a fly to right field. Jesse Barfield, troubled by the sun, gloved the ball and dropped it, as Ventura scored the final run.
"It was hit right at me," Leyritz said. "It got caught up in the wind, and I couldn't reach it."
"I lost it in the sun coming down," Barfield said. "The call was right. It was an error."
Shades of Paul Richards' Go Go Sox in 1951 and Al Lopez' pennant winners in 1959. Like those teams, the 1990 Sox rely on pitching, defense and speed. Only Jeff Torborg's 1990 crew seems to have the elements on its side, too.
"When a team wins a pennant, things like this seem to happen," said Greg Hibbard, who yielded just four singles in seven shutout innings. "Sun in fielders' eyes. Wind blowing the ball from them. . ."
"I didn't see him (Leyritz) drop the one I hit," Ventura said. "I thought it might be over his head. I hit it good, and he was playing close because of the wind."
Ron Kittle tried to explain the problems Leyritz and Barfield faced from the elements.
"This is the toughest outfield to play because of the weather." said Kittle. "Both the wind and sun.
Leyritz is just a kid, and Barfield is a dandy outfielder. The higher the ball goes, the more it swirls. I've run all over the place to reach a fly ball."
Torborg also felt that Sosa's speed was a factor making Blowers hurry on the first of the three errors.
The odd happenings in the last of the eighth could not obscure brilliant the pitchers' battle between Hibbard and Hawkins.
Getting his sinker over the plate, Hibbard had a perfect game until the Yanks made two infield hits in the sixth. Torborg replaced him with Barry Jones after the Yanks got two more singles in the seventh.
Twelve of the 21 putouts registered by Hibbard were on groundouts. He threw 91 pitches, only 30 of them balls.
"I didn't even think of a no hitter," said Hibbard. "I do what I do best, get them hitting ground balls. I wanted to stay, but he (Torborg) called for Barry Jones."
"No way he wanted to go out," said Torborg, "but in the seventh, the two hits off him were hard, and I told Sammy (pitching coach Ellis) 'That's it.' We went to our 'Vulture' (Jones)."
Jones pitched only the eighth and received credit for the victory boosting his record to 10-1.
"I feel bad for Hawkins, but that's baseball," said Jones. "The wind blows. The sun comes into play. Things just happen."
Hawkins also had a perfect game until, with two out in the fourth, he walked Ron Karkovice and Scott Fletcher. His 25-pitch inning ended when Leyritz backed to the wall in left and caught Sosa's long, high drive that was held in the park by the north wind.
Hawkins walked Calderon to lead off the seventh, but Bob Geren gunned him down trying to steal.
Hawkins refused to blame his outfielders for their errors.
"I don't blame Leyritz or Barfield," said the hard-luck loser. "It was a tough field out there. The wind was blowing everywhere."
Yankee manager Stump Merrill echoed players in both clubhouses when he said, "Incredible! I've never seen anything like that in my entire life."
But it did happen before to the Yankees. On Aug. 30, 1910, the Indians scored five runs in the 11th inning and beat Tom Hughes, who pitched a not-hit game.
And 1910, of course, marked the construction of Comiskey Park, the ballyard that celebrated its 80th and final birthday Sunday.
It was quite a party . . . starring the new Hitless Wonders and their helpers, the wind and sun.