I was originally going to write about my experience attending a Northwoods League game in LaCrosse between the Loggers and the Alexandria Beetles. Unforntunately my experiences would best be characterized as waiting in a hotel room for the rain to stop. Instead, I’ll run the recap the game that occurred on the day of my birth again, 31 years and a day ago.
June 7, 1978
Chicago White Sox 21-29 5th AL West vs
Minnesota Twins 21-30 6th AL West
The Minnesota Twins, since winning back to back AL West titles in 1969 and 1970, remained just about in the middle of the pack for most of the 70’s, finishing either 3rd or 4th in the division in most years.
In 1978 there was some optimism that Gene Mauch’s Twins may take the next step. In addition to a returning nucleus of Rod Carew, Dan Ford, and Dave Goltz, the team added a veteran relief pitcher in Mike Marshall, and a fan favorite Bombo Rivera.
The buzz for the first few months of the season, however, was about rookie pitcher Roger Erickson. Erickson was only 21 (and one year removed from the draft) but had already won six of his first nine major league decisions. The only major glitch on his record was an 11 hit 7 run outing against the White Sox on May 10. The White Sox were coming off of a 90-72 record in the 1977 campaign, the franchise’s first winning season since 1972. The team struggled out of the gate in 1978, and sat dead last in the AL West with a 12-28 record heading into a double header on on the Sunday before Memorial Day.
The Sox swept the A’s that day, beginning a run of nine out of ten wins heading into a two game series at Metropolitan Stadium against the Twins.
Bob Lemon 5th Season (2nd with White Sox) vs
Gene Mauch 19th Season (3rd with Twins)
Ken Kravec 3-4 5.36 ERA vs
Roger Erickson 6-3 4.36 ERA
White Sox Lineup 4.0 RPG
1. Thad Bosley CF .327/.353/.408 1 HR
2. Ralph Garr LF .275/.317/.359 1 HR
3. Jorge Orta 2B .280/.324/.460 7 HR
4. Jim Breazeale 1B .375/.444/.438 0 HR
5. Henry Cruz RF .194/.268/.444 2 HR
6. Ron Blomberg DH .203/.257/.377 3 HR
7. Bill Nahorodny C .252/.315/.400 5 HR
8. Alan Bannister SS .156/.206/.219 0 HR
9. Eric Soderholm 3B .203/.238/.304 3 HR
Twins Lineup 4.5 RPG
1. Willie Norwood LF .245/.303/.397 3 HR
2. Rod Carew 1B .371/.442/.532 5 HR
3. Dan Ford CF .310/.369/.489 6 HR
4. Jose Morales DH .305/.348/.424 0 HR
5. Bombo Rivera RF .328/.438/.403 1 HR
6. Larry Wolfe 3B .250/.329/.406 2 HR
7. Roy Smalley SS .262/.339/.381 4 HR
8. Bob Randall 2B .268/.321/.266 0 HR
9. Glenn Borgmann C .229/.349/.343 1 HR
Kravec fans 12, Sox keep rolling.
by Dave Nightingale
Bloomington, Minn- Minnesota’s Rod Carew is the perennial American League batting champion and Twins’ rookie pitcher Roger Erickson is heralded in these parts as the second coming of Don Drysdale.
Neither of them meant a thing to Ken Kravec and the White Sox juggernaut here Monday night.
Kravec registered a career-high strikeout total of an even dozen, with Carew a three-time victim.
And the Sox made mincemeat of Erickson for the second time in four weeks, driving him from the game with a six-run second and coasting to an 8-3 victory.
It was the 10th Chicago victory in the last 11 games; gave the Sox a 5-1 record on their current road trip; and cemented the South Siders’ edge over the Twins at 1 1/2 games in the scrap for fifth place in the American League West.
Chicago Tribune, 6/8/1978, Accessed via ProQuest
Scoring (from RetroSheet)
WHITE SOX 1ST: Bosley singled to left; Erickson balked [Bosley to second]; Garr singled to center [Bosley scored]; Garr was picked off and caught stealing second (pitcher to first); Orta homered; Breazeale struck out; Cruz was called out on strikes; 2 R, 3 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. White Sox 2, Twins 0.
WHITE SOX 2ND: Blomberg walked; Nahorodny singled to center [Blomberg to third]; Bannister singled to right [Blomberg scored, Nahorodny to second]; Soderholm was hit by a pitch [Nahorodny to third, Bannister to second]; Bosley hit a sacrifice fly to left [Nahorodny scored]; Garr reached on an error by Smalley [Bannister scored (unearned), Soderholm to third]; SCARCE REPLACED ERICKSON (PITCHING); Orta struck out; Breazeale walked [Garr to second]; Cruz singled to right [Soderholm scored (unearned), Garr scored (unearned), Breazeale to third]; Blomberg singled to center [Breazeale scored (unearned, but earned for the pitcher), Cruz to third, Blomberg out at second (center to shortstop to second)]; 6 R, 4 H, 1 E, 1 LOB. White Sox 8, Twins 0.
TWINS 7TH: Rivera tripled to right; Wolfe singled to left [Rivera scored]; Smalley grounded into a double play (third to second to first) [Wolfe out at second]; Randall struck out; 1 R, 2 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. White Sox 8, Twins 1.
TWINS 9TH: Rivera singled to center; Wolfe was called out on strikes; Smalley singled to center [Rivera scored (error by Bosley), Smalley to second]; Randall walked; Borgmann singled to left [Smalley scored, Randall to second]; WILLOUGHBY REPLACED KRAVEC (PITCHING); ADAMS BATTED FOR NORWOOD; Adams grounded into a double play (shortstop to first) [Borgmann out at second]; 2 R, 3 H, 1 E, 1 LOB. White Sox 8, Twins 3.
For two weeks in the early summer of 1978 the Chicago White Sox were the best team in baseball. From May 28 to June 17 the team had an 18-3 record, including a two game sweep over the Minnesota Twins on June 7-8.
Despite the hot play, the Sox never managed to break even in the W-L column. On two occasions a win would have done it, but the Sox came up short. The next time the White Sox visited Bloomington in early July, manager Bob Lemon was handed a pink slip in favor of baseball’s second black manager Larry Doby.
The change in command had little impact on the field. A nine-game losing streak in July undid all of the gains made in early June, and the Sox stumbled to a 71-90 finish, 5th in the AL West.
The Twins fared only slightly better in 1978. The loss to Chicago on June 7 was the second in a string of six straight defeats, one of four streaks of six or more losses for the Twins that year. The Twins finished 73-89, just 1.5 games better than the Sox.
Roger Erickson finished a promising rookie season 14-13 with a 3.96 ERA. It was, by far, the best season of his career. By 1983, at the age of 26, he had seen the last of his major league career.
FWIW- the Astros didn’t play that day. They were scheduled to play a game in Pittsburgh, but the weather didn’t cooperate. Also that day, Washington defeated Seattle in Game 7 of the NBA Finals.