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It Gave Me the Willies

There are a number of things I like about Willie Randolph. I think one of them is that he's a guy who usually ends up on the right side of games like the one that took place between the White Sox and the Brewers on May 1, 1991.

You may forget that Willie Randolph was a Brewer, but he was for one season and a pretty good one at that. He hit .327, played his usual steady second base and walked nearly twice as much as he struck out, which wasn't too bad for a guy who turned 37 in midyear.

Speaking of which, this turned out to be a game for the ages, though no one seemed to know it when it began. It looked like it was going to be a White Sox runaway in the early going. Frank Thomas homered in the first inning and Chicago pounded out five runs in the first three frames.

The Brewers rallied with a six-run fifth inning, capped by a go-ahead three-run home run by Franklin Stubbs. Randolph hit into what appeared to be a rally-killing double play in that frame, but was bailed out by a bad throw to first by White Sox future skipper Ozzie Guillen. Tim Raines evened things up for the White Sox with a seventh inning home run and that's when the game really started to get really interesting, or really boring, depending on your perspective.

Neither team scored in the eighth or ninth, so we headed to bonus baseball, in this case, a lot of bonus baseball.

The White Sox threatened in the 10th and 11th but didn't score, nor did the Brewers when they loaded the bases with two outs for Robin Yount in their half of the 11th (he lined out). Eventually we reached the 15th inning and it seemed logical that plating one run would be enough to win. The White Sox did better than that, tallying three times in the 15th, the rally started by a promising youngster named Sammy Sosa.

However, having already used their closer, the White Sox sent ancient reliever Charlie Hough out to toil for a fourth inning and Hough's knuckler wasn't dancing quite so finely. Greg Vaughn, realizing a home run would do no good, led off with a bunt single. Dante Bichette doubled and then back-to-back sacrifice flies brought home both runs. This made it a one-run game at 9-8. Hough walked Greg Brock, then allowed a single to Paul Molitor, putting runners on the corners, albeit with two out. That brought up Randolph, who though hitless in the game, loomed dangerous because he usually hit Hough well (.310 career average against him). So Sox manager Jeff Torborg (funny how the Mets connections work their way in) took Hough out and decided to test the nerves of rookie Brian Drahman.

Drahman was pitching in his eighth big league game. Randolph was playing in his 1,997th. Guess who won the matchup? Randolph singled to tie the game and after Yount grounded out, we headed to the 16th frame.

Give Brewers starter Don August credit for yeoman's work (not Youmans work) out of the bullpen because he battled through four more innings without allowing any further damage. He also survived a noggin clunking in the 15th when he was hit in the head by a line drive by Guillen.

In the last of the 19th inning, the baseball gods decided that six-plus hours of action was enough. With one out, Jim Gantner reached on an infield single, stole second on a botched pickoff, and after an intentional walk, advanced to third on a fly out. Torborg decided pitching to Paul Molitor wasn't worth the gamble, and ordered his moundsman, Wayne Edwards, to give him a free pass in favor of Randolph.

This was a case of fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. Randolph, a .276 career hitter, hit .322 with the bases loaded, and on this occasion he delivered again, singling to center to bring home the winning run.

The game story in the Chicago Tribune the next day references a quote from Torborg: "I've been around Willie a long time, and I hated to have to pitch to him in those situations" while noting he was bookended by future Hall of Famers Molitor and Yount. Perhaps that explains why, when Torborg became Mets manager the next season, his second baseman was none other than the man who reports to spring training this week for his second season as Mets skipper.

True Metllies know...Like Mookie Wilson, Willie Randolph once ended a game via walk-off, against Bob Stanley, without getting a base hit. Randolph's bases loaded sent Stanley steaming off the mound, and gave the Yankees a 5-4 10-inning win over the Red Sox on August 16, 1985.


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