The two best teams in baseball met in the 1983 ALCS, as the Baltimore Orioles and Chicago White Sox squared off. The Orioles had 98 wins and the White Sox had 99. The series was competitive throughout, the finale was outstanding and Baltimore prevailed to bring home a pennant.
You can read more about the regular season paths that Baltimore and Chicago took to the playoffs, and the years enjoyed by their key players, at the links below. This article focuses on the games of the 1983 ALCS.
Homefield advantage was determined on a rotation system, so the series that was then best-of-five would begin with two games in Baltimore on Wednesday and Thursday. It would end on the weekend in the South Side of Chicago.
LaMarr Hoyt had won 24 games for the White Sox and would win the Cy Young Award. He got the ball to face Baltimore’s 18-game winner Scott McGregor in Game 1. Unsurprisingly, the game was a pitcher’s duel throughout.
With two outs on the top of the third, Chicago got successive singles from Vance Law, Carlton Fisk and Tom Paciorek and took a 1-0 lead. In the sixth, Paciorek drew a walk and got to third on an error by first baseman Eddie Murray. McGregor induced a double-play ground ball from Ron Kittle, but Paciorek scored through the backdoor.
The White Sox missed golden opportunities to salt the game away in the seventh and eighth, as the Orioles cut down runners at the plate on infield grounders in both innings. That nearly proved costly in the bottom of the ninth. With two outs, Dan Ford doubled and scored on an RBI single by Cal Ripken. Murray had the chance to tie or win it, but Hoyt got him to ground out to short. The Chicago ace closed a five-hit complete game and a 2-1 win.
Another complete-game five-hitter followed in Game 2, as Baltimore’s Mike Boddicker delivered with the pressure on his team. And Oriole leftfielder Gary Roenicke had a huge night off Chicago’s Floyd Bannister to provide the offense.
Roenicke doubled in the second inning, and then scored on a Law error. In the fourth, Roenicke walked and scored on a double by Ken Singleton. In the sixth, after Ripken doubled, Roenicke blasted a two-run shot. Chicago never threatened Boddicker until the ninth when they loaded the bases and brought the tying run to the plate in the person of light-hitting Julio Cruz. Boddicker struck him out and the 4-0 win was in the books.
The White Sox were still in good position—the series was a reduced to a best-of-three in Comiskey Park, and they had 22-game winner Richard Dotson on the mound in Friday’s Game 3. And the specter of Hoyt in a potential Game 5 on Sunday loomed over the series.
No one was more aware of that than Baltimore, and they jumped on Dotson quickly. In the first inning, Jim Dwyer hit a one-out double, Ripken beat out an infield hit and Murray homered into the right-centerfield seats for a quick 3-0 lead. In the second, Rick Dempsey worked a one-out walk and scored on Al Bumbry’s double.
Mike Flanagan was on the mound for Baltimore and gave up a leadoff double to Ron Kittle in the second inning that resulted in a Chicago run. It set the stage for fireworks on Kittle’s next at-bat. In the fourth inning, on a 3-0 pitch, Flanagan hit Kittle in the kneecap. It knocked him out of the game and Chicago believed it was deliberate.
But the White Sox didn’t handle the situation smartly. Dotson defended his hitter by plunking Ripken, and then throwing at Murray before walking him. The situation on the field was combustible, and for Chicago it got worse when Dotson gave up a two-run double to John Lowenstein. Any hope of a comeback was all but gone because LaRussa and Dotson didn’t contain their desire for revenge. Baltimore blew the game open, winning 11-1.
Saturday afternoon’s Game 4 had the feel of a decisive game. If Chicago won, it would be a McGregor-Hoyt rematch on Sunday. McGregor had a more accomplished career, and had pitched extremely well in the opener himself, so it’s not as though Baltimore’s cause would have been hopeless in a Game 5. But Hoyt was having one of those magical years where no opponent wanted to get near him. The Orioles wanted to close this series out before they had to see him again. The White Sox just wanted to get their ace the ball.
Chicago lefty Britt Burns and Baltimore’s power righty Storm Davis put on a pitcher’s duel of their own in Game 4. The Orioles missed chances in the second and sixth when they put the first two runners on, but failed to score. The White Sox missed a golden chance in the seventh. They also put the first two runners on. But a failed sac bunt was followed by Roenicke fielding a base hit and throwing out Law at the plate. The game went to extra innings still scoreless.
Tito Landrum was a reserve outfielder getting a start today for Baltimore against the lefty Burns, who was still in the game. With one out in the tenth, Landrum stunned everyone with a home run to left. That was immediately followed by singles from Ripken, Murray and Roenicke, scoring one run and then a sac fly tacked on one more.
The 3-0 lead was more than enough insurance for Tippy Martinez, the Oriole closer who had come on in the seventh inning, and he closed the door. For the second time in five years, Baltimore was going to the World Series.
Boddicker was named 1983 ALCS MVP for his dominating performance in Game 2. I think there were better candidates. Roenicke only played in three of the games, getting nine plate appearances. But he drew five walks and had three hits, including singlehandedly lifting the offense in Game 2 and making the huge defensive play of Game 4 that saved his team from facing Hoyt.
You could also make a case for Ripken, who hit .400, or Murray, who went 4-for-15, drew walks and hit the big home run to start Game 3.
Baltimore went on to meet the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series and won the title using a similar route that they had in this ALCS—McGregor lost a pitcher’s duel at home to a Cy Young winner (John Denny), Boddicker won Game 2, and the Orioles then won the balance of games on the road.
The 1983 ALCS was the last hurrah for both of these teams, both laden with veterans. The Orioles didn’t return to contention until 1989 and didn’t make it back to the ALCS until 1996. The White Sox didn’t get back to this round until 1993. The Orioles have not made the World Series since, while the White Sox only did so once, winning it in 2005.