Saturday, July 14, 2012
On this day in 1979, Claudell Washington hit three home runs in a game against the Detroit Tigers.
Claudell always seemed to be an enigma on the White Sox. He had a reputation for sleepwalking through games. The ChiSox fans would reinforce this through banners with such disdainful phrases as "Washington Slept Here". Yet on a rare occasion, if the stars aligned perfectly, a display of Washington's power could theoretically be glimpsed, such as the case of July 14, 1979. In front of the home crowd, Claudell's game started out in typical fashion; with a strikeout. In the third, he hit a solo shot off of Detroit pitcher Steve Baker. In the fifth, he flied out to right fielder Jerry Morales. Things seemed to be settling back to normal, until the Tigers made a pitching change to Milt Wilcox. Leading off the seventh, Claudell took Wilcox deep to right for his second homer of the game. Wilcox would allow the next batter Rusty Torres to homer before getting pulled in favor of Dave Tobik. Tobik would allow a home run to Jim Morrison before the inning was over. This set up the eighth inning perfectly. Junior Moore singled to center, Jorge Orta walked, Mike Squires hit a flyball to short for the first out. Then Washington came up and blasted a home run to left that cleared the bases.
Washington would repeat this three homer feat in 1980 with the New York Mets. One reason for the resentment to Claudell in Chicago may be because he came to the Sox in a trade that sent Bobby Bonds to the Texas Rangers. Bonds was just starting to make his mark with the White Sox when he was traded away after only twenty-six games. The fans had already made a connection to Bobby when he was yanked away. Claudell didn't bring much in return when he was traded to the Mets. Only a minor league player that never made it to the majors came back. The trading of Claudell helped pave the way for a mainstay in right field; Harold Baines.