The Blackout Game: A Retrospective

The date is September 30, 2008. There’s one MLB game on, and there only needs to be one. This one is good enough. It’s late at night, and the location is in Chicago, Illinois at 35th street and Shields. It’s the top of the fifth, a 0-0 score, a 2-2 count with 1 out and a runner on third. That runner happened to be Michael Cudyer. Cudyer had only played in 71 games that year, and it amounted to a .249 AVG. He would have a 15 year career, but this was possibly the worst year of his career.

So how did he get on? Cudyer hit a double, only his fourth of the year. Delmon Young was next up, and he hit a deep fly ball that was caught, but it did advance Cudyer to the third base. That was when Brendan Harris stepped up to the plate. This was his first year with the Twins. He was a journeyman who would end up playing for 7 different teams before his career was over. In 2008 he had hit .265 in 130 games. Although that’s decent, he’s not exactly the type of guy who a team would like to be up in this situation. But he knew, as did all MLB players knew, how to hit a sacrifice fly, so the Twins figured that they would be okay. Brendan Harris worked it to a 2-2 count until he hit a medium-short fly ball to future hall-of-famer Ken Griffey Jr. Griffey Jr was acquired mid-season, and he played in 41 games total for the Sox. He hit .260 with 3 home runs and 18 RBIs. It wasn’t too bad for a player that debuted in 1989. Griffey Jr took the fly, and threw a perfect one hopper to catcher AJ Perzyiensky. Michael Cudyer didn’t have a chance. When he was tagged, he flipped over the plate. He never touched home plate.

Now it’s the bottom of the 7th. It’s still 0-0, but on a 2-2 count with 0 outs, Jim Thome steps up to the plate. Thome is in the end of a hall-of-fame career. In 2008 he played in 149 games, and he hit 34 home runs and a .245 AVG. Even though it wasn’t a great year, he wasn’t the type of gut that you wanted at the plate. Unfortunately for the Twins and pitcher Nick Blackburn, he was up in a clutch situation. Thome took a changeup, and he blasted it 461 feet to CF. The stadium erupted. Nobody could contain themselves, and the Sox had taken a 1-0 lead.

Now it’s the top of the ninth. It is still 1-0, and then closer Bobby Jenks comes into the game. He got the first 2 outs easy, and then Alexi Casilla came up to bat. Casilla had hit .281 that year with 7 home runs and 50 RBIs, but he wasn’t known as a hitter. When he came up to the plate, the game still was 1-0, so a home run would’ve tied it. Casilla hit a line drive fly ball swirl, and it looked like a hit. That was first glance. Brian Anderson, who was playing CF, came in, dove, and caught the ball.

This was a moment in White Sox history like no other. Although the game was good, everything that led up to the game was just as good.

In 2005, the White Sox won the World Series at 99-63, and they only lost one game in the playoffs. 2006 had high expectations, but the White Sox didn’t fully fulfill those expectations. They finished 88-74 that year. In 2007 the Sox finished 70-92, and it seemed like the end. That brings us to 2008.

It’s September 23, 2008. The Sox are going into the Metrodome with a 2.5 game lead in the AL Central. All they need to do is take one, and they’re good. But they got swept by the Twins. The Sox ended up with one chance, and it wasn’t too great. The road to the playoffs consisted of: Winning vs Indians in the final regular season game, beating the Twins in a rain makeup game, and then beating the Twins in a one game playoff. They won against the Indians, and then against the Twins.

This brought us to a one game playoff. The only problem was that the MLB had never really had one of these before, so they decided home-field advantage by a coin flip. Rick Hahn called heads, and it was. It was set to be one 9/30/08, and the White Sox arranged a blackout.

40,354 fans dug in for the game, and it was a tight one. The White Sox pitcher John Danks, who was 11-9, started the game. It went scoreless until the fifth inning, when the Twins were knocking at the door, and then Ken Griffey Jr performed his heroics. It wasn’t until the 7th inning that we would see runs, and it was Jim Thome who hit the home run to take a 1-0 lead. The eighth inning was uneventful, and that brings us back to the ninth.

Throughout the whole game we had seen two good teams going at it in an amazing game of baseball, and a pitcher’s battle. We had seen two division foes go through adversity, and we had seen a season of comebacks by both sides. This was a wild card before wild cards, a game that was so intense. But in the end, it came down to 3 big plays by 2 hall-of-famers, and 1 dominant closer. This was a moment in MLB history that will never be forgotten, but as Alexi Casilla came up to the plate, Sox fans braced for impact, although it would never come. A franchise would change out of this one game. Baseball would change out of this one game.

That is why when Casilla flied out to center, it was so important in Sox history. It also marked as the last time the White Sox would reach the playoffs, until now, I guess.

This game showed momentum, luck, great pitching, two washed up hall-of-famers dominating once more, and then a save by a dominant closer.

Welcome to a moment in history.

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