White Sox series a dose of reality (and history) for Twins

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 10, 2008 - 2:45 PM

The Twins and the Chicago White Sox of 1977 were teams with tremendous hitting and thin pitching. On June 26, the teams combined for 31 runs -- 19-12, Twins -- in a game at Met Stadium.

Five days later, the Twins came into Comiskey Park for a four-game series and holding a one-game lead over the Mighty Whiteys in the American League West.

Richie Zisk hit two mammoth home runs off Dave Goltz, and the White Sox won 5-2 on Friday night. Jim Spencer hit two home runs and drove in eight runs, and the White Sox won 13-8 on Saturday.

On Sunday, Chicago knuckleballer Wilbur Wood threw a three-hitter for a 6-0 victory in the first game of a doubleheader, and the White Sox held off a Twins rally for a 10-8 victory in the second game.

The highlight of misery came for the Twins on Saturday, when they took a 7-6 lead into the bottom of the eighth. They failed to get an out on a ground ball to first, they failed to get a double play on a ground ball to shortstop, and Al Bannister's routine fly ball eluded Dan Ford in right field.

The reason for this was Disco Danny had forgotten to bring sunglasses with him to the outfield on this sunny afternoon. The White Sox wound up scoring seven runs in the inning.

Twins manager Gene Mauch made his traditional angry laps around a silent clubhouse and then retreated to a small office. More silence followed, until the St. Paul beat reporter asked about Ford's gaffe.

Mauch glared from behind his cigarette smoke and said: "Yes, he forgot his sunglasses. I forgot to remind the players to be sure to take their glasses ... their gloves, their shoes and hats."

On Sunday, the clubhouse was open for several minutes between games so reporters could get quotes from the principals in the first game.

Bob Greenberg was a Chicago radio reporter. He was blind. He had a companion to help him around the ballpark.

The key Twins players were making themselves unavailable. Greenberg was heard saying to his companion: "OK, then let's go visit with Gene."

Mauch had lost three in a row. Kibbitzing with reporters was not high on his list of between-games priorities.

The St. Paul beat guy decided as a humanitarian gesture to step into Mauch's office before Greenberg. Bob arrived and greeted the manager joyfully. He wasn't able to see that the blood vessels in Mauch's head were about to explode.

"Come on, Bob," I said. "We'll visit Gene after the second game."

The Twins were not able to repeat that disaster until Monday afternoon. The 7-5 loss completed the first four-game sweep suffered on the South Side since 1977.

No account of manager Ron Gardenhire's level of angst can be offered here, although I'm confident it couldn't match Mauch's.

Mauch also had better reason for anger. The Twins of '77 had a terrific lineup and were only a couple of pitchers shy of winning a division title. The Twins of '08 are short in every area compared to the White Sox and several other AL teams.

The Twins don't have a starting pitcher who could make the White Sox rotation. The White Sox have an outstanding closer (Bobby Jenks) and a deep, balanced bullpen. The Twins have Joe Nathan and no other reliable reliever to get big outs.

Ken Williams, the White Sox general manager, has made his lineup much better with the additions of Carlos Quentin, Orlando Cabrera, Alexei Ramirez and now Nick Swisher to the lineup. Bill Smith, the Twins general manager, has taken his lineup backward with the acquisitions of Delmon Young, Mike Lamb, Brendan Harris and mistake-ridden neophyte Carlos Gomez.

The White Sox are outstanding defensively in the infield, where the Twins are porous on a daily basis.

The White Sox have rallied from 72 victories in 2007 and found the ingredients for a playoff team. The Twins are destined to go backward from their 79 victories in 2007.

Four games in Chicago, four losses, and 40 runs allowed.

Dick Bremer and other dreamers can call it frustrating, but what Twins fans actually witnessed during these four days from Chicago was reality.

Patrick Reusse can be heard weekdays on AM-1500 KSTP at 6:45 and 7:45 a.m. and 4:40 p.m. • preusse@startribune.com

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