Fired-up fans make Lamont prime target

October 14, 1993|By Ron Rapoport | Ron Rapoport,Los Angeles Daily News

CHICAGO -- This is Sam from Downer's Grove, and Gene Lamont is an idiot.

This is Jeff from Evanston, and Gene Lamont ought to take a long walk on a long pier.

This is Mike from the South Side and I just want to ask Gene Lamont one question. What was going on in your brain, man?

Chicago's red-hot sports-talk radio rivalry will be shrieking with indignation this week. The three stations that rabidly chew every sport into bits in this town will be running with this one for all it is worth.

And while the Bears, the Bulls, the Cubs and the other teams that get Chicagoans all worked up will sit this one out, there is one thing they can all be happy about.

They are not Gene Lamont.

Sometime in the distant past, there is a baseball manager who had a worse week than the manager of the White Sox just did. Somewhere there is an old-timer who can tell us how John McGraw and Connie Mack and Casey Stengel and Earl Weaver had their problems once in a while, too.

It will come as small comfort to Gene Lamont.

Even before the White Sox began their American League playoff series against the Toronto Blue Jays, Lamont's strategy was being questioned. Why pitch Jack McDowell and not Wilson Alvarez? Why not have Frank Thomas play first base, bruised arm or not?

And as the games were played, the fans, the press and even the White Sox players got into the act.

How could Lamont keep Bo Jackson out of the lineup?

How could Lamont keep Bo Jackson in the lineup?

Not to mention the wit and wisdom of George Bell.

But now that the series is over, it is really going to heat up.

Now that Toronto is on its way to a return engagement at the World Series and now that the White Sox, who haven't been there since 1959, find themselves spectators again.

Chicago's fans, a captious bunch if ever there was one, will not take Tuesday night's 6-3 loss with good grace.

Each of Lamont's failings will be gone over in public again and again. Everything he did that didn't work will be thrashed out over the airwaves. Everything he didn't do, too.

Lamont's first big move Tuesday was starting Warren Newson, who had only 40 big-league at-bats this season, as the designated hitter in place of hitless Bo.

Anything to get the ball in play, Lamont said. Alas, Newson didn't get it in play out of the infield until it was too late.

In the seventh inning, with the White Sox trailing by a run, Lamont decided he needed a pinch runner, so who did he choose? Steve Sax, who is 22nd on baseball's all-time stolen-base list? Why no, Ron Karkovice, who is a catcher and has the torpid gait to prove it. Karkovice was doubled off first on a line drive to second.

Then it was the top of the ninth and Kirk McCaskill, the former Angel, has just retired four batters in a row.

Did Lamont let McCaskill try his luck with Devon White?

Not when he had Simi Valley, Calif.'s, favorite son, left-handed Scott Radinsky, who would force the switch-hitting White to bat from the right side of the plate, where he is supposedly weaker.

Weaker, schmeaker. White homered to left to pad the Blue Jays' lead.

Radinsky then compounded the felony by mishandling a throw to first that set up two more runs and gave the Blue Jays a 6-2 lead.

But hold on, it wasn't over yet.

Newson led off the Chicago ninth by jerking a home run to left field and Lance Johnson followed with a walk. One more base runner and the tying run would come to the plate. One base-clearing blast and the White Sox would be down by one run with nobody out.

Who would it be, a singles hitter or a home-run hitter? Somebody who could move the runner up or somebody who could drive him in? Bo Jackson? George Bell? Some other pinch hitter with a shot at keeping the rally going?

Lamont's answer was clear. None of the above. The hitter would be -- Karkovice. Karkovice, who was 0-for-14 with six strikeouts in the playoffs to that point. Karkovice, who had been dropped from the starting lineup. Was Lamont thinking about who his catcher would be if the Sox tied the game? Was he thinking at all?

Karkovice struck out, of course. He struck out looking. Two batters later, the Blue Jays were jumping around on the diamond celebrating and the White Sox were holding their heads in their hands.

As for Gene Lamont, who has the callers backed up for hours, he hasn't heard nothing yet.

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