25th anniversary: Illinois politics keeps the Sox in Chicagoby Chris Jaffe
June 30, 2013
Twenty-five years ago today, the Chicago White Sox stayed the Chicago White Sox. When the day began, it wasn’t clear that would be the case. There was a very real chance the Chicago White Sox would end the day as the St. Petersburg White Sox.
Back in the 1980s, the Sox still played at old Comiskey Park. Opening in 1910, it was the oldest park still in use at that time, but it was falling apart, and the Sox wanted a new stadium. And like seemingly every sports team, they wanted the taxpayers to foot the bill for their new stadium.
That led to negotiations. Ultimately, the battle for financing a new stadium went to Springfield, the state capital of Illinois. White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf is (of course) a very successful businessman, and he knew nothing helps a business negotiation like some leverage—and he had some mighty nice leverage.
St. Petersburg, Fla. wanted a major league team badly. The city had wanted one for years. If it acquired one, it wouldn’t just be the junior city in Tampa-St. Pete area, city officials believed. They wanted a team so badly, they began construction on a year-round dome in 1986.
Reinsdorf entered into negotiations with St. Pete officials, and it wasn’t just talk. Reinsdorf may have been a lifelong Chicagoan, but he also wanted his deal. If Illinois wouldn’t give him the money he wanted, he’d take the team to Florida and try his luck there.
So it came down to what the Illinois state legislature did in the summer of 1988. The clock was ticking ... give Reinsdorf what he wanted or say goodbye to the White Sox. And June 30, 1988, was the big day. The legislature had to get funding passed that day or … bye. People in Florida watched the news wire with baited breath. They were on the verge of getting their team.
The clock certainly was ticking. The bill made it through one house but still had that second one to get through, and there just weren’t enough votes to get pass funding.
Reinsdorf’s bill would give the Sox $200 million, and plenty of state congress members thought that was too steep a price. Governor Jim Thompson began lobbying legislatures as best he could, but he was still short. And the clock kept ticking. 11:00 p.m. came and went, and they didn’t have the damn votes. 11:30 p.m. came, and the bill backers were closer, but not close enough. Tick, tick, tick went the clock.
With midnight approaching, the city and business leaders in St. Petersburg were about the pop the corks on champagne bottles. Midnight inched ever closer, and the clock kept ticking. As badly as Governor Thompson might’ve wanted to keep the Sox, it’s not like he could stop the clock from ticking.
Oh, wait—check that. He could stop the clock from ticking. In fact, that’s exactly what he did.
He may not have been able to control the hands of time, but he could control the clock in the Illinois state legislature, so he ordered the damn thing unplugged. So it was. He had to get a few more votes rounded up, and he rounded them up.
After a few non-clock minutes, the bill went up for a vote and passed by one legislator. The Sox had their money and would stay in Chicago—because the official time stamp on the bill still said June 30, 1988. Floridians cried foul, but it didn’t matter. The deal was done.
Illinois has long had its share of shady political stories. Plenty come from Chicago, but folks in Chicago hardly have a monopoly on, um, “curious” Illinois political stories. (Just google Paul Powell, for example.) But this was one of the more memorable tricks, and it happened 25 years ago today.
3,000 days since Mike Hargrove wins his 1,000th game as manager.
3,000 days since Albert Pujols has the worst game of his career, according to WPA. He’s 1-for-5 with a –0.542 WPA in a 6-5 Cardinals loss to the Reds.
3,000 days since Don Blasingame dies.
Huh. That’s it. Really not many day-versaries at all today.
1884 Charley Radbourn allows the only walk-off home run of his career, as fellow Hall of Famer King Kelly hits it.
1888 Philadelphia releases catcher Deacon McGuire, who goes on to play another 20 years or so.
1892 Boston releases 300-game winner John Clarkson, who is near the end of his career.
1894 Hall of Fame left fielder Fred Clarke has a historic big league debut, belting five hits in his inaugural contest.
1896 Roger Connor, the all-time home run king prior to Babe Ruth, hits the last of his 17 inside-the-park home runs.
1902 Left fielder Jim Jones of the Giants guns down three runners at home in an 8-0 loss to Boston.
1905 Nap Lajoie is sidelined due to blood poisoning from a spike wound. He’ll play only 65 games this year.
1908 Cy Young throws his third no-hitter. He’s 41 years old. Young walks the leadoff batter, who promptly gets gunned down in a failed steal attempt. Then Young proceeds to retire the next 26 batters in a row.
1909 Forbes Field opens in Pittsburgh. A crowd of 30,338 sees the Cubs beat the Pirates, 3-2.
1911 The Indians purchase Ray Chapman from Davenport in the Three-I League. He’ll be a star shortstop before becoming the only major league to die from a hit-by-pitch.
1912 Shoeless Joe Jackson, Cleveland, hits three triples in one game.
1913 Tigers skipper Hughie Jennings manages his 1,000th game. His record is 552-436.
1914 Terry Turner of the Indians hits his first home run since 1906, ending a drought of 3,186 at-bats.
1916 For the second time in three days, first baseman Ed Konetchy gets the only hit for the Braves in a game.
1922 The New York Giants purchase future (albeit ill-deserving) Hall of Famer Travis Jackson from Little Rock in the Southern Association.
1927 Pittsburgh shortstop Glenn Wright is having a rotten week. He’s traveling separate from his teammates in order to go home to recover from a recent beaning. His train wrecks, however, injuring him near Dennison, Ohio.
1931 The A’s purchase Waite Hoyt from the Tigers.
1934 Gee Walker of Detroit sets a record in bad baserunning, getting picked off twice in one inning. The team suspends him for 10 games in response. It doesn’t help that Detroit went on to lose, 4-3, in 10 innings to the Browns.
1934 One day after being badly beaned, Lou Gehrig checks out of the hospital and triples for the Yankees.
1938 Hall of Fame shortstop Joe Cronin blasts his 100th triple.
1938 After 51 years, Philadelphia says goodbye to the Baker Bowl. The Phillies retire it as only they can, losing 14-1 to the Giants.
1944 Ron Swoboda, hero of 1969 Miracle Mets, is born.
1947 The Red Sox purchase Denny Galehouse from the Browns.
1948 Bob Lemon, Cleveland, throws a no-hitter against Detroit, 2-0. Lemon walks three but fans four.
1949 In his third game of the year, Joe DiMaggio (who had a nasty heel injury to begin the season) hits his third homer. He hits it so hard that it caroms all the way back to second base.
1950 Joe and Dom DiMaggio become the first brother combination in 15 years to homer in the same game.
1950 It’s a game Ned Garver would just as soon forget. He pitches a complete game in the St. Louis Browns' 13-inning loss to the White Sox, 3-2. The Browns could have, and should have, won it in the ninth with Garver scoring the winning run, but he didn’t touch third while rounding the bag and was called out on appeal. Fun fact: Garver fanned zero batters in 12.2 innings pitched that day. Sine then, no one has gone 12 or more innings without fanning at least one batter.
1954 Yankees pitcher Tom Morgan hits three batters in one inning in 6-1 loss to the Red Sox.
1955 Infielder Vern Stephens plays in his last game.
1956 Al Kaline could’ve hit for the cycle if he just didn’t hit so well: He has a home run, a triple and two doubles, but no singles.
1957 Al Lopez manages his 1,000th game. His record is 613-380. (There were more ties back then).
1957 Padres manager Bud Black is born.
1957 WPA’s favorite Eddie Mathews game: 0.713 WPA. He went 2-for-5 with a homer and two strikeouts. His home run was a bottom-of-the-13th-inning, walk-off shot that turned a 5-4 deficit against Pittsburgh into a 6-5 win for Milwaukee.
1958 The Kansas City A’s suffer one of their toughest losses ever. They lead Detroit, 6-4, but the bases are loaded. All three runners score when the A’s make two errors on the last play.
1958 The Detroit Tigers sign amateur free agent Mickey Lolich.
1959 Toothpick Sam Jones nearly has a no-hitter and arguably deserves one. The only hit he allows is an infield single by Jim Gilliam, and that could’ve been ruled an error, as shortstop Andre Rogers had trouble picking up the ball.
1959 In one of the most bizarre moments in baseball history, umpire Vic Delmore has a mental lapse and puts two balls in play at once in a Cards-Cubs game. Cub pitcher Bob Anderson throws a ball that gets away from the catcher and goes to the backstop. Catcher Sammy Taylor thinks the ball ticked off Musial’s bat and doesn’t retrieve it, while batter Stan Musial thinks it was ball four and heads for first.
The umpire doesn’t notice infielder Alvin Dark scampering after the ball behind the backstop and throws a new one to the pitcher. Musial notices the confusion and breaks for second. Both balls are thrown to second, with Anderson’s toss going into center field and Dark’s toss nailing him, where the ump calls Musial out. Musial ignores it because the original ball went into center, and he moves to third, where the ump there calls him safe. Eventually, the call at second stands. The NL fires Delmore after the season.
1961 Mickey Mantle hits his fourth and final inside-the-park home run.
1961 Knuckleball god Wilbur Wood makes his big league debut.
1962 A Cincinnati-Houston game is called after seven innings due to extreme fog as the outfielders can’t see home plate.
1962 Sandy Koufax throws his first no-hitter, beating the Mets 5-0 with 13 whiffs and five walks.
1962 Infielder Tony Fernandez is born.
1963 The Angels sign amateur free agent Jay Johnstone.
1964 Larry Jackson of the Cubs gets the better of it in a great pitchers' duel. He allows one hit as the Cubs beat the Reds, 1-0, despite Cincinnati hurler Joey Jay allowing two hits. The run scores on an RBI single by Jackson. Like I said, he got the better of it that day.
1967 Infielder Cookie Rojas pitches at the end of a blowout, meaning he’s now played all nine positions at one point or another in his career.
1970 Mark Grudzielanek, long-lasting second baseman, is born.
1970 Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati hosts its first game.
1972 Garret Anderson, longtime Angels outfielder, is born.
1973 Joe Morgan hits his only pinch-hit home run, one that ties the game in the bottom of the ninth.
1975 Dave Duncan hits four doubles in one game. Within a few years, he’ll become the longtime pitching coach for Tony LaRussa. As a player, Duncan worked as a catcher.
1975 Gorman Thomas fans in a pinch-hit appearance against Boston, ending one of the worst series any player ever had. In three games against the Red Sox, he was 0-for-9 with seven strikeouts and a GIDP.
1975 For the third time in four days, the Reds win a game on an extra-inning homer, as a Johnny Bench three-run shot gives them a 9-6 over Houston in 12 innings.
1976 Firpo Marberry, the first prominent reliever (back in the 1920s), dies.
1977 Joe Morgan scores five runs in one game despite not getting any hits. He walked three times and reached on error twice.
1978 Willie McCovey blasts his 500th home run.
1978 Dave Parker, Pittsburgh, suffers a shattered cheekbone in a collision at the plate with Mets catcher John Stearns.
1978 Larry Doby, baseball’s second black player, becomes its second black manager when he replaces Bob Lemon as White Sox skipper. Owner Bill Veeck tabs Doby as the manager, just as he’d picked him as a player 31 years before.
1979 Bobby Grich hits his 100th home run.
1979 A Mets-Cubs game has wild finish. It’s 3-3 entering the 11th inning, but the inning ends with a 9-8 New York victory.
1980 Gene Mauch becomes the tenth manager to win 1,500 games. His record: 1,500-1,676.
1982 Cal Ripken plays third base. He won’t play there again until 1996.
1983 Minor league outfielder Lance Junker hits two grand slams in one inning.
1984 Mickey Tettleton, slugging catcher, makes his big league debut.
1985 Sparky Anderson loses his 1,000th game as manager: 1,383-1,000.
1986 The Red Sox beat the Blue Jays, 10-9 in 10 innings, when Dwight Evans receives a walk-off walk.
1987 David Wells makes his major league debut.
1987 Wade Boggs goes 3-for-3, raising his average to .391, but that’s as high as it will go this year.
1992 Tony LaRussa manages his 2,000th game. His record so far is 1,083-914.
1993 The Indians win their 23rd straight home game.
1993 Minnie Minoso plays DH for the St. Paul Saints and grounds out to the pitcher in his only at-bat.
1994 Catcher Mike Lieberthal appears in his first big league game.
1995 Eddie Murray rips his 3,000th hit.
1995 Mark McGwire hits a walk-off grand slam, his second such blow in his career and third overall walk-off home run.
1995 Barry Bonds also hits a walk-off home run on June 30, 1995, but it’s not a slam.
1996 Rockies 16, Dodgers 15. The Dodgers led 5-1, 6-5, 10-8, 11-9, and 15-14, but lose. The Rockies steal 10 bases in 10 attempts, six by Eric Young.
1997 Raul Casanova hits the 10,000th home run in Tiger history.
1997 Mike Mussina notches his 100th victory. His record is 100-43.
1997 In the first ever all-Canada game, the Expos top the Blue Jays, 2-1.
1997 Bobby Witt becomes the first AL pitcher to homer in the regular season in 25 years.
1998 Sammy Sosa sets a record by hitting his 20th home run of the month.
1998 Alex Rodriguez has what is, according to WPA, his worst game ever. He goes 0-for-5 with a pair of GIDPs for a –0.486 WPA as the Rockies beat the Mariners, 6-4.
1999 Randy Johnson fans 17 in a complete-game loss as opposing pitcher Ron Villone one-hits the Diamondbacks for a 2-0 final. The last time Johnson pitched, the Diamondbacks were no-hit. This is the second of four consecutive Johnson starts during which he pitches brilliantly but the team scores zero runs for him.
2003 Magglio Ordonez gets his 1,000th hit.
2003 Todd Helton hits his 200th home run.
2004 Larry Walker gets his 2,000th hit.
2007 Pirates fans attempt a protest, as 1,000 walk out after the second inning.
2008 The Pirates bat their pitcher eighth for the first time in over 50 years.
2008 Ken Griffey’s 603rd career home run is his fifth and final walk-off shot.
2009 The Orioles stage the greatest comeback in franchise history, rallying from a 10-1 deficit to beat the Red Sox, 11-10.
2010 Luke Scott of Baltimore blows out a hamstring while sprinting around first. It turns out he didn’t need to sprint at all because the ball went over the fence for a home run.
2010 A Pennsylvania woman sues the Philly Phanatic, claiming that the mascot’s climbing on her in a 2008 minor league game caused her arthritis to flare up, leading to knee replacement surgery.
2010 The Giants trade Bengie Molina to their eventual World Series rivals, the Rangers.
History instructor by day, statnerd by night, Chris Jaffe leads one of the most exciting double lives imaginable; with the exception of every other double life possible to imagine. Despite his lack of comic-book-hero-worthiness, Chris enjoys farting around with this stuff. His new book, Evaluating Baseball's Managers is available for order. Chris welcomes responses to his articles via e-mail. Oh, and now he's on twitter.