Sep 21, 2021

Ranking every White Sox playoff clincher in franchise history

Ranking every White Sox playoff  clincher in franchise history

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With the White Sox on the cusp of their first AL Central title in 13 years, let's rank the 10 previous playoff spot clinchers in the franchise's history.

Some were more memorable than others.

10. 2020 American League wild card

Date: September 17
Place: Comiskey Park II

This is the worst clincher in Sox history and nothing else comes close. While the Sox were excited to be back in the playoffs for the first time since 2008, there were cardboard cutouts in the stands instead of fans and the team couldn't cut loose together because of the pandemic. And while the Sox held a three-game lead in the division after this game, they'd lose eight of their last 10 to cough any claim. Three playoff games against Oakland later, they were done.

9. 1906 American League pennant

Date: October 3
Place: N/A
Lead: 4.5 games over NY Highlanders
The Sox were inactive on the day that New York dropped the second game of a doubleheader against Philadelphia, giving the Sox their first pennant. It gave the Sox a spot in the World Series against the 116-win Cubs, who'd clinched their spot weeks earlier. The Sox would win the ensuing series in six games.

8. 2000 AL Central title

Date: September 24
Place: Metrodome
Lead: 8.5 games over Cleveland

The Sox had a chance to spark their own celebration, but Matt Lawton hit a 10th-inning homer off Kevin Beirne for a 6-5 Minnesota win. The celebration was delayed until Kansas City beat Cleveland a little while later and the Sox returned to an empty field to celebrate in front of a party of traveling Sox fans.

7. 1917 American League Pennant

Date: September 21
Place: Fenway Park
Lead: 10.5 games over Boston

Future Hall of Fame pitcher Red Faber pitched all 10 innings and got 22-year-old Babe Ruth to ground into a double play to end the game. There was obviously no television or radio for this one; owner Charles Comiskey followed the results by calling an editor at the Tribune and having the ticker scores relayed to him.

6. 2005 AL Central title

Date: September 29
Place: Comerica Park
Lead: 3.0 games over Cleveland

It's easy to forget how close Cleveland made this race in the last month of the season. The Sox owned a 9.5-game lead with 24 to play, but dropped 10 of the next 14 and their lead shrunk to just 1.5 games. The Sox closed strong, though, winning eight of their final 10 — including this victory closed out by Paul Konerko spearing a line drive at first.  The final out was a cause for celebration — but also the biggest sigh of relief imaginable.

5. 1919 American League pennant

Date: September 24
Place: Comiskey Park
Lead: 5 games over Cleveland

A late-season 10-game winning streak by Cleveland put some pressure on the Black Sox, but Shoeless Joe Jackson clinched the team's second pennant in three years with a walkoff RBI single in a 6-5 win over the St. Louis Browns.  Jacob Pomrenke notes it was the first time in baseball history that a pennant was clinched via walkoff. One other note: The game happened on the same day that Babe Ruth hit his 28th homer of the season, setting a record he'd later more than double.

4. 1993 AL West title

Date: September 27
Place: Comiskey Park II
Result: 4-2 win over Seattle
Lead: 7.5 games over Texas

The Sox failed to close out the division a day earlier when it fell in the second game of a Sunday doubleheader against Texas. I was sitting in the last row of the upper deck on tickets I won from 670's Sports Huddle and no, I'm not still bitter Bo Jackson grounded out to Tom Henke with the bases loaded and down a run in the bottom of the eighth.

But Bo made it up to the fans who came out on Monday night with a towering 3-run homer in the sixth that may still not have landed. (Bo knows launch angles?) Ellis Burks caught Dave Valle's fly ball in the ninth to clinch the 90th win of the season and the team's first trip to the playoffs in 10 years.

3. 1983 AL West title

Date: September 17
Place: Comiskey Park
Lead: 16 games over Kansas City

Clinchers are always better when they're of the walk-off variety. They just are. Over 45,000 people jammed old Sox Park on a Saturday night to wrap up a division they dominated in the second half. It became official when Harold Baines lofted a sacrifice fly to center field to bring Julio Cruz home in the bottom of the ninth. A good portion of the stands emptied onto the field following the run, making for the kind of postgame scene you never see in professional sports any more.

2. 2008 AL Central title

Date: September 30
Place: Comiskey Park II
Lead: 1 game over Minnesota

The only win or go home contest on this list, 2008's Game 163 was one of the most intense games in White Sox history. Also known as "The Blackout Game," the 1-0 Sox victory was marked by Jim Thome's mammoth homer to center in the bottom of the seventh and John Danks' incredible eight innings of two-hit ball. This one felt more like a playoff game than a division clincher; the only mark against it is that it didn't lead to much: The Sox were knocked out of the playoffs four games later by Tampa Bay.

1. 1959 American League pennant

Date: September 22
Place: Cleveland Municipal Stadium
Lead: 4.5 games over Cleveland

Up until 2016, this was the biggest game a Chicago baseball team had ever played in Cleveland. The Sox hadn't made a World Series trip in 40 years and they just needed to hold off the Indians to get there. Over 54,000 people packed Cleveland's ballpark for the game and untold thousands more in Chicago listened to Jack Brickhouse call the action. The Sox clinched a 4-2 win on a game-ending double play and Mayor Richard J. Daley celebrated by scaring the city when he turned on the air raid sirens in the middle of the Cold War. The game didn't happen in front of Sox fans, but that wasn't necessary for this to go down as the franchise's most memorable clincher.

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