The fans were in a rotten mood when they arrived for Wednesday’s game, anyway, but by the time the Toronto Blue Jays’ 3-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox was consummated, they had turned into an angry mob.
The sellout crowd of 46,101 at Comiskey Park unleashed all of its built-up hostility, booing the White Sox in utter disgust the moment Joey Cora popped up for the final out. It just might be the haunting memory the White Sox players will carry into the winter, knowing it’s quite possible that they won’t be seeing their fans again this season.
It was painful enough for White Sox followers to sit in their living rooms Wednesday morning watching Michael Jordan announce his retirement from the NBA, but to then endure the ineptness of the White Sox, well, it became unbearable for many.
“No one likes to get booed,” said White Sox designated hitter Frank Thomas, “but right now we’re playing absolutely terrible. You can’t beat anyone the way we’re playing now, let alone a team like Toronto.
“If we don’t win this next game, we don’t have a chance.”
The White Sox trail, two games to none, in this best-of-seven series, and they’ll be attempting to accomplish what no other team has in league championship history--win a series after losing the first two games at home.
Their woes have been rather basic to document. Simply, they are gagging in virtually every clutch situation. The White Sox find themselves batting .095 with runners in scoring position this series, stranding 23 baserunners in two games.
“I’m not going to say I feel bad for them,” Blue Jay catcher Pat Borders said, “but their frustration is pretty evident. You can sure tell their fans are upset.”
The man responsible for incurring the latest trauma to this city was Dave Stewart, who added yet another chapter to his postseason heroics by limiting the White Sox to four hits in six innings. He might wear a different uniform these days, but this is still the same old Stew. The trademark glare, the cap pulled low over his eyebrows, and thriving in the upmost pressure.
“It’s egotistical, I know, but these are the situations I live for,” said Stewart, who is 7-0 with a 1.99 earned-run average in nine playoff starts. “And there was nothing better than the one today. Believe me, it was the ultimate.”
The White Sox, who haven’t been to these postseason affairs for 10 years, can be pardoned for foolishly believing they had Stewart in trouble in the sixth inning. Sure, they had heard the legendary stories of his postseason feats. They were aware of his dramatics. But how could he escape this?
The White Sox, trailing 3-1, had the bases loaded with no one out in the sixth inning. Stewart had given up singles to Thomas and Robin Ventura, and appeared to be unraveling by walking Ellis Burks on four pitches.
“To be honest,” Thomas said, “I felt pretty confident at that point. I mean, we had the bases loaded and nobody out. It was just a question of how many runs we’d be pushing across the plate.”
Dan Pasqua, who played himself out of the starting lineup by the time the game ended, had the first crack at Stewart. Pasqua hit a fastball into shallow center field, keeping Thomas at third base for the first out.
Next up, Lance Johnson. He popped up an off-speed forkball to third baseman Ed Sprague, and the crowd was getting quite restless.
White Sox Manager Gene Lamont, who drew the crowd’s wrath by leaving Bo Jackson on the bench the entire game, summoned Warren Newson to pinch-hit for catcher Ron Karkovice. Stewart, who admittedly started to relax, fell behind 3 and 0. He threw a strike, got Newson to foul off the next pitch, and the inning ended with Newson hitting a bouncer back to the mound. Stewart, in his elation, ran to first base himself, throwing his arms into the air.
“I may be 36 years old,” Stewart said, “but believe me, I can still get excited about this game.”
Stewart, who missed the first month of the season because of a strained forearm, proved again that there are few better in the business with money on the line. He won his last four starts with a 1.44 ERA down the stretch, enabling the Blue Jays to put away the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles in the division race. And here he was, up to his postseason tricks once again.
“Who I am in baseball is determined by what I do on the field,” Stewart said. “Well, I didn’t come into baseball for people not to know who I am. People always remember the winners. I want people to remember me.”