With the White Sox bearing down on an American League Central championship under manager Tony La Russa, Friday was the 38th anniversary of when the 1983 team clinched the AL West flag also with La Russa in charge.
In front of a Comiskey Park crowd of 45,646, Harold Baines’ ninth-inning sacrifice fly delivered a 4-3 win over the Mariners and the Sox’ first postseason appearance since their loss to the Dodgers in the 1959 World Series. In a joyous celebration that would be frowned upon today, many of those fans ended up on the playing surface to take part in the moment.
“Probably as much as anything else, if you saw the pictures or the [footage] of it, the fans just flooded the field,” La Russa recalled before Friday’s game against the Rangers in Arlington, Texas. “Everybody climbed over the walls and joined in. You can’t do that anymore, but they did it then. It really added to the enjoyment.”
For many reasons, the 1983 Sox are one of the most beloved groups in franchise history, even though they fell six wins short of a World Series championship. The Sox still wear their uniforms for every Sunday home game, and perhaps they would’ve gotten past the Orioles and won the American League pennant if they would’ve extended the best-of-five series to the fifth game when ace LaMarr Hoyt would’ve taken the mound.
For La Russa, they were also his first trip to the postseason in a managerial career that’s seen three World Series titles and a plaque in the Hall of Fame. Yet that “Winning Ugly” team – which ended up taking the division by 20 games and finished with the best record in baseball – still holds a special place in La Russa’s heart.
“We really had excellent camaraderie between everybody in uniform, the trainers, so once we got it going, the excitement level that ‘we might be able to do this’ just kept building and building,” La Russa said. “It just kept motivating us just to keep going.”
That’s what happened in the second half, when the Sox were 59-26 after a 40-37 first half and ran away from second-place Kansas City and third-place Texas.
“It’s forever tied for first as far as memories of teams that get to October, especially with the slow start,” La Russa said. “That second-half surge was just… the team was relentless.”
Catcher Yasmani Grandal is earning plaudits for his work at the plate, entering Friday having reached base in 30 consecutive games for the longest active streak in baseball and the third-longest this year.
Hitting, though, is only part of Grandal’s game. La Russa has taken notice of Grandal’s work behind the plate. La Russa said Grandal is “very conscientious” and praised how much work he does on receiving pitches, studying hitters and finding ways to communicate with pitchers.
“I don’t know if you can do it more than he does,” La Russa said.
Grandal was back in the lineup after resting Thursday, catching and hitting fourth.
Yoan Moncada also made his return to the lineup after getting a day off Thursday, playing third base and hitting sixth. Moncada entered Friday having reached base safely in 25 straight games.