The Chicago White Sox figured out who their manager would be -- Tony LaRussa -- and also figured out a way to beat the Cleveland Indians tonight, something that hadn't been done by anyone in the last 10 games.
The White Sox got three runs in the top of the ninth on RBI singles by Carlton Fisk and Tim Hulett to defeat the Indians, 4-3, much to the disappointment of the 48,146 fans at Municipal Stadium on a cool, blustery night.
Cleveland's 10-game winning streak was the longest in the American League and second-longest in the major leagues this season. The loss dropped the Indians out of first in the AL East, one-half game behind the New York Yankees, whose game at Texas was rained out.
The White Sox trailed, 3-1, entering the ninth, but Wayne Tolleson walked and Harold Baines singled him to third, finishing relief pitcher Ernie Camacho.
Reliever Scott Bailes (4-2) then gave up a one-out RBI single to Fisk. After Bobby Bonilla flied out, pinch-hitter Reid Nichols singled to load the bases for Hulett, who lined a single to center off Rich Yett.
Gene Nelson (2-1) pitched 1 1/3 innings of relief for the victory.
The White Sox ended a six-game losing streak.
Cleveland led, 2-1, after the fifth, and added a run in the seventh when Andre Thornton doubled into the right field corner to score Joe Carter. Veteran Phil Niekro pitched a solid 7 1/3 innings.
But the White Sox produced a surprise ending for the game, just as they had produced a surprise in their managerial saga earlier in the day.
Just as speculation was nudging into certainty that LaRussa would be fired and Billy Martin likely named as his replacement, the White Sox pulled a switch.
They announced that LaRussa would remain as manager, the position he's held since Aug. 2, 1979, and Ken (Hawk) Harrelson said he would give LaRussa more control.
The decision means the White Sox will forgo some of the changes Harrelson had instituted since becoming vice president for baseball operations in October.
"Tony will work in a situation that he has been familiar with for seven years," Harrelson said at the press conference. "The man has won 500 games 504-490 after this victory and should have a clear slate without the Hawk's will on him.
"Someone had to back up a step or two and it was me."
Among Harrelson's changes was to shift Fisk, last year's starting catcher, into left field. Fisk was a catcher throughout his 15 seasons in the big leagues and his production has dropped dramatically from last year's pace.
He also brought in two pitching coaches, one for relievers, and two batting coaches.
Now, Fisk is expected to return behind the plate, possibly during this series. Moe Drabowsky (pitching) and Willie Horton (hitting) will be given other jobs in the organization.
"They had tried to makes changes involving the way I operate and I was being held responsible," LaRussa said tonight before the game. "They let me have a clean shot."
But he did say management had him dangling while Harrelson, and Chairman of the Board Jerry Reinsdorf and President Eddie Einhorn held discussions with Martin and his agent, Ed Sapir.
"I felt like I had to go through some embarrassment, but it wasn't as bad as it seemed because they kept me posted," LaRussa said. "I had a couple options . . . . I could leave and get paid. It told me their hearts were in the right place."
Chicago's Greg Walker, who is about ready to come off the disabled list with a fractured right wrist, said the announcement was welcomed by most of the team.
"It was a relief, no doubt about that," Walker said during batting practice. "It's just that a lot of people on this team have strong feelings for Tony."
But LaRussa's team faced a tough assignment in Niekro.
After Niekro set the White Sox down in order in the top of the first, the crowd gave him and the Indians the first of many standing ovations. In their half of the first, the Indians were almost handed a run by Joel Davis.
With two out, Davis walked Joe Carter, Andre Thornton and Brook Jacoby, all to the delight of the masses. Davis extricated himself in time, though, by getting Pat Tabler to ground out to shortstop.
With their vocal chords warmed up from the first, the Cleveland crowd really had something to yell about in the second.
Mel Hall led off and his drive to left became more evidence of why LaRussa didn't like the idea of Fisk playing left field. The ball beat Fisk to the wall by two steps with Hall going to second standing up. Former White Sox Tony Bernazard came through with a looping line drive that dropped in front of and then scooted past center fielder John Cangelosi.
Bernazard stopped at second on the single and the error, and then went to third on Chris Bando's sacrifice bunt. Davis walked Brett Butler, setting up a first-and-third situation with one out. The rally ended in an instant, though. Julio Franco smacked a line drive, but it was right at first baseman Bobby Bonilla. He stepped on the bag to double up Butler who had no chance to get back.
The White Sox tied the game, 1-1, in the fifth. Julio Cruz singled, went to second on a sacrifice by Joel Skiner, and scored on a single by Cangelosi.
In the bottom of the inning, Carter singled and moved to third on two infield outs. Tabler singled to center field to score Carter for a 2-1 lead.