Today is the 5th anniversary of "The Blackout Game," which is all but forgotten except by fans of the contestants. On September 30th, 2008, after finishing the season tied atop the Central Division, the White Sox and Twins played a 163rd game to decide who would go to the playoffs and who would stay home. A friend was at the game and shared some of his recollections.
First of all, there was a controversy about the game being held at the Cell. The Twins beat the Sox in the season series, 11 to 8, but the home field for that game was determined earlier by a coin flip. Now they use head-to-head record as a tiebreaker, but this was the last time they flipped a coin. I still remember before and especially after the game, Twins fans in the parking lot holding up signs that said, "11-8." So that was sort of the backdrop to the game.Everyone wore black. Black shirts, black caps, and people waved these black towels around. John Danks started for Chicago, and he pitched the game of his life, giving up only 2 hits in 8 scoreless innings. Mauer, Morneau, and Cuddyer, the middle of the Twins' lineup, went a combined 1-for-9.
In the 5th, and this is the part no one remembers, Ken Griffey Jr., who no one even remembers played for the White Sox, threw out Michael Cuddyer at home plate to end the inning, which ended up saving the game for Chicago. To this day, I talk to Sox fans who don't remember anything about Ken Griffey in Chicago.
It was still tied 0-0 going in the bottom of the 7th. It was very tense in the stands, we were all really nervous. Thome led off and hit an absolute bomb to straight center. The place went crazy. I'll probably never see a bigger home run in my life.
That was the only run in the ballgame. Bobby Jenks closed out the 9th. Brian Anderson made a great diving catch for the last out and the Sox went to the playoffs. It was a huge game. A one-nothing, win-or-go-home, Game 163, won by a late-inning home run by a beloved superstar. My brother and I alternate between calling it "The Thome Game," "The Blackout Game," and "Game 163."
But because the Sox lost to Tampa Bay in the first round, it was sort of forgotten. Also, the Cubs won 98 games and cruised to the playoffs that year, and they always get more media attention than the Sox anyway. When the Sox got into the playoffs, the story was, "Possible all-Chicago World Series."
I think it would be this legendary game everyone remembers if the Sox had made it to the World Series. But we'll never know.
A couple years later I met Thome -- we're from the same town -- and told him, "I was at Game 163!" He was really nice and remembered the game, of course, but I'm not sure a lot of other people do. Best game I've ever seen.