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Randy Johnson Strikes Out 19 – 2nd Time – August 8, 1997

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Randy Johnson of the Seattle Mariners struck out 19 Chicago White Sox in the Kingdome, on August 8, 1997. He tied his own record for the most strikeouts in a game by an American League lefty. Seven weeks earlier, also in the Kingdome, Johnson faced the Oakland A’s and struck out 19 of them as well. Johnson was undoubtedly more satisfied with his effort against Chicago, because he and the and Mariners won that game, 5-0. Despite Johnson’s impressive strikeout tally against Oakland, Seattle lost the game 4-1. It was one of the four losses that Johnson suffered in 1997.

The record for the most strikeouts in a 9-inning game is 20. It’s held by Kerry Wood and Roger Clemens. Clemens did it twice. In 1962 Tom Cheney of the Washington Senators struck out 21 batters in a single game against the Baltimore Orioles, but Cheney pitched 16 innings in that game, which seems even more incredible than the 21 strikeouts.

On May 8, 2001, Randy Johnson pitched a game for the Arizona Diamondbacks against the Cincinnati Reds in which he struck out 20 batters in 9 innings. The Diamondbacks won the game in 11 innings, and therefore Johnson’s 20-strikeout game is listed in the MLB records among “Most Strikeouts in an Extra Inning Game”, even though he only actually pitched 9 innings.

In his losing effort against Oakland, Johnson gave up 11 hits including a monster 538-foot home run by Mark McGwire. He was much sharper against Chicago. In that game he allowed only five hits, all singles, two of which were infield hits. Chicago only hit five of Johnson’s pitches to the outfield.

At 20-4, 1997 Johnson became a 20-game winner for the first time. That year his ERA was 2.28 (the lowest in his 22 season career).He recorded 291 strikeouts against only 77 walks. In addition to his two 19 strikeout games, he also had a 16 strike out games, and he struck out 15 batters in two games.


Black Sox Banned from Baseball August 3, 1921

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Eight members of the 1919 Chicago White Sox, also known as The Black Sox, were banned from Major League Baseball, for life; on August 3, 1921. Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis. (He was known as Judge Landis. Prior to becoming Baseball Commissioner, he served 17 years as a Federal judge.) issued this statement:

“Regardless of the verdict of juries, no player who throws a ballgame, no player that undertakes or promises to throw a ballgame, no player that sits in conference with a bunch of crooked players and gamblers where the ways and means of throwing a game are discussed and does not promptly tell his club about it, will ever play professional baseball.”

Landis’s ban came the day after a Chicago jury acquitted the players of all the charges that they had faced.

Until the recent uproar over performance enhancing drugs, the Black Sox affair stood as the most spectacular scandal in baseball history, if not all of sports.

The Backstory of the Great Conspiracy From

While the origins of the conspiracy are unknown, it appears that there were two (or more) separate plans to fix the World Series. One involved Boston gambler Joseph “Sport” Sullivan, while another included retired pitcher “Sleepy” Bill Burns and his partner, Billy Maharg, a former professional boxer. These two gambling cliques were approached sometime between July-September 1919 by White Sox first baseman Arnold “Chick” Gandil and/or pitcher Eddie Cicotte. During the regular season, the Chicago White Sox had shown themselves to be the best team in the major leagues and, having clinched the American League pennant, were installed as the bookmakers’ favorites to defeat the Cincinnati Reds in the Series. At the time, gambling on baseball was rife and there were many stories about fixed games during the regular season, which were typically ignored by team owners and administrators.

Among the players, the ringleaders of the conspiracy are believed to have been first baseman Arnold “Chick” Gandil and pitcher Eddie Cicotte. Even in the pre reserve clause era of 1919, when nearly all baseball players were treated like chattel, White Sox owner Charles Comiskey was considered to be among the stingiest executive s in the sport. The players’ complaints against him were not without merit, although throwing the World Series, and getting paid by gamblers to do so, might not have been the wisest or most appropriate method of getting what they thought they were entitled to.

The scandal became a big, national, front page story as it unfolded, but the players’ grievances did not get a full airing until 1963 when “Eight Men Out” was published. It was a non fiction book written by Eliot Asinof.

Mr. Asinof, writing after painstaking research into the printed records, reconstructs the events with graphic skill. One clique of bettors pretended to represent Arnold Rothstein, the gambling tycoon. Another gambler did represent Rothstein, but appropriated for his own wagering most of the money that was meant for the players. Still another pair of shysters became go-betweens and prospered for a couple of the games that went according to plan only to be wiped out when the swindled players grew angry and really played. A jury eventually acquitted the players, but they were banned from baseball. Rothstein went on successfully from deal to deal, until he was shot.
The author feels that Charles A. Comiskey, owner of the Chicago team, should be blamed for paying the players too little and that he was slack about exposing the scandal. In many ways the scandal, as the book shows, was an indictment of American mores. It seemed like a tragedy then, but perhaps it was part of the human comedy that helped the American people on the long road toward maturity. NY Times Review

A film dramatization of “Eight Men Out” was released in 1988 starring David Strathairn and John Cusack.

In 1989 the movie “Field of Dreams” was released, starring Kevin Costner and Ray Liotta as Shoeless Joe. It was based on the 1982 W.P. Kinsella novel, “Shoeless Joe”.

Shoeless Joe Jackson was not only the star of White Sox, he is one of the greatest hitters of all time. His career batting average of .3558 puts him in third place among all players in Major history. (behind Ty Cobb .3664 and Rogers Hornsby .3585. In 1920, his last full season before he was banned from baseball, Jackson hit .382. Moreover, in the in 1919 World Series, his “contribution” to the conspiracy was to hit .375. (The highest average among all the players on either team, with 10 or more at-bats.)

In 1998 Ted Williams filed a 58-page appeal with Commissioner Bud Selig, calling for an end to Jackson’s banishment, a move that would enable Jackson to take his rightful place in the Hall of Fame. So far Selig has not acted on that appeal.


Comiskey Park Opens July 1, 1910

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July 1, 10 was a glorious day for the city of Chicago. It marked the first time a game was played in Charles Comiskey’s “baseball palace”. When it opened, the stadium was called White Sox Park, but it took on the owner’s name and forevermore was known as Comiskey Park.

The Tribune’s I.E. Sanborne described it as follows “Charles Comiskey’s big housewarming party went off without a hitch yesterday, unless the subsidiary fact that the Saint Louis Browns were ungracious enough to beat our boys, 2-0, in their first game at their splendid new home was construed as a disappointment by some of the throng which gathered from all parts of the baseball world to do honor to the occasion.”

On July 1, 1910, the White Sox played their first game in the fireproof park, made entirely of steel and concrete, which seated 32,000, including 7,000 in twenty-five-cent bleachers. A trolley from downtown brought businessmen to late-afternoon games after work. Fans from nearby South Side communities attended on Sundays. Night baseball, initiated August 14, 1939, allowed working-class fans even greater access. Growing numbers of African Americans attended Comiskey as well. From 1933 to 1950, Comiskey Park hosted the Negro League East-West All-Star Game. On July 5, 1947, Larry Doby of the Cleveland Indians became the first African American to play in the American League, debuting during a doubleheader at Comiskey.Encyclopedia of Chicago

Comiskey Park was one of the game’s treasures. It notably hosted the first-ever All-Star game in 1933 but may be better remembered as the place where Bill Veeck’s innovative “exploding” scoreboard first came to life in 1960. During the park’s eight decades of active duty it welcomed 72,801,381 fans to watch the White Sox.

It never saw its home team win a World Championship on its field in its 80 year-year history (that is if you don’t count the Chicago Cardinals 1947 NFL Championship thrilling 28-21 come-from-behind win over the Philadelphia Eagles on December 28, 1947).

It did, however, witness some incredible history and is one of the most hallowed grounds in our nation’s history. Comiskey Park witnessed pivotal moments in our country’s civil rights history, as well as baseball history, serving as the epicenter of Negro League baseball and the birthplace of the MLB All-Star game in 1933 and hosting four World Series (1917, 1919, 1959 for the White Sox and in 1918 for the Cubs – yes the Cubs who during the WWI-shortened season feared that the Red Sox pitcher Babe Ruth would find Weeghman Park — now better known as Wrigley Field’s short right field porch in 1918 — too inviting at 356 feet and its 14,000 seating capacity inadequate for the World Series).