With the 2021 World Series about to begin and a second consecutive appearance in the playoffs for the White Sox, it’s great to recall one of the great recent experiences in White Sox history that I was able to experience: Game 163 – the Blackout Game at then U.S. Cellular Field in 2008. Playing centerfield that day back in 2008 was future Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr.
By this time, Griffey was already a 13-time All-Star, a 10-time Gold Glove center fielder, part of the 600 home run club, and Baseball icon. Griffey was traded from the Cincinnati Reds to the White Sox on July 31, 2008, in return for Danny Richar and Nick Masset. In Griffey Jr.’s first game, he went 2-for-3 with 2 RBIs, a walk, and a run. This was a promising start for Griffey Jr., as he was batting .239 with 12 home runs and 42 RBIs at the All-Star Break in 2008. Though a far cry from his heyday, Griffey was still a serviceable outfielder, and little did Sox fans know how valuable he would be.
The date was September 30, 2008, and the opponent was the dreaded Minnesota Twins. There would need to be a Game 163 to break the tie at the top of the AL Central Division and would be affectionately called “The Blackout Game.” The winner would move on to the ALDS and the loser would head home. With a Sox win, it would be the first trip back to the playoffs since 2005.
With the scoreless game in the top of the 5th inning and the Twins threatening, Brendan Harris hit a fly ball out to Griffey Jr., and with Michael Cuddyer tagging from third, the stage was set. Griffey Jr. threw a strike to the waiting A.J. Pierzynski as Cuddyer crashed into him and was tagged out. An eruption from the South Side faithful filled “The Cell” and would only grow louder in the 7th inning when Jim Thome put the Sox in front for good to take the game and the Central Division Title. As you know, the White Sox would go on to lose to the Tampa Bay Rays in 4 games to end their 2008 season.
Being only 3 seasons removed from a World Series Title, this game seemed to impact a lot of fans. Maybe it was John Danks dealing early in the game, maybe it was the Thome Home Run, or it could have been just the look of U.S Cellular Field covered in black. I have to say for me, it was seeing a legend and future Hall of Famer in the game of Baseball, in my favorite team jersey, playing in a meaningful game, and showing he was still a force to be reckoned with.
With the 2021 playoffs now over for the White Sox and seeing how the fans turned back the clock to 2008, it shows what an impact this game had and has on White Sox fandom. Not all midseason acquisitions work out (a topic for next time), and some may have the opinion that picking up Griffey was a mistake or past his prime, but you have to admire that throw.
Griffey Jr. may have only been on the South Side for a short period of time, but he made every minute count.
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