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FLASHBACK 1992: The Eric Fox Game: "God wants a pennant race"


Otto von Ballpark

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The Twins franchise has lost key games to many legends over time: Koufax, Yastrzemski, most of the 21st century Yankees, and... Eric Fox?

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That name may not be familiar, but if you followed the 1992 season with hopes of a repeat championship, Eric Fox played a large role in crushing those hopes.

As they did in 1991, the 1992 Twins started slow in April, but warmed up in May and June, and finally took sole possession of first place after a marathon 15-inning win vs. Baltimore on Independence Day, July 4th. Entering a 3-game showdown with the second-place Oakland Athletics from July 27-29, the Twins held first place by 3 games, as well as the best record in MLB.

The series should have favored the Twins: it was held in the Metrodome, packed with friendly fans off the excitement of 1991, and two of Oakland's stars, Rickey Henderson and Jose Canseco, were hobbled by injury. In their absence, the 28-year-old rookie non-prospect Fox was thrust into the A's outfield and leadoff spot, just 3 weeks after his major league debut. But Oakland won the first two games, prompting Twins GM Andy MacPhail to say "It looks like God wants a pennant race." Fox contributed 4 hits in 10 at-bats over those two games, which kept him in the leadoff spot for the third and final game of the series despite the returns of Canseco and Henderson.

In that third game, 30 years ago today (July 29, 1992), Bill Krueger out-dueled Dave Stewart for 8 innings before Rick Aguilera came on in the 9th to protect both a 4-2 lead in the game and a 1-game lead in the division. Back-to-back singles brought up the potential go-ahead in Henderson, who would have been a logical hero, but baseball heroes aren't always logical: Henderson flew out for the first out of the inning. The next batter was Eric Fox.

The switch-hitting Fox hit a 1-1 pitch off the facing of the Metrodome's upper deck in right field for a 3-run home run, giving the A's a 5-4 lead. After the game, Fox said, "Definitely the biggest hit in my life. Twenty-eight years worth. He came inside on me, and I just turned on it. The first thing I thought was that I might have turned on it too much. But I had that certain feeling."

Dennis Eckersley, on his way to a Cy Young Award, retired the Twins in order in the bottom of the 9th to secure the victory, the sweep, and his 33rd save in as many chances that season.

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The 1992 Twins quickly faded into second place, as God's interest in a pennant race must have waned.

But the hero Fox quickly faded too, finishing his major league career with a .198 batting average and 5 home runs in 290 plate appearances spread across four seasons. He'd show at least one more flair for the dramatic, though: on Opening Day in 1993, with Oakland clinging to a late 1-run lead against Detroit, Fox would hit a pinch-hit grand slam for insurance.

Does God want a pennant race in 2022? The Twins' most recent games against Chicago and Cleveland might suggest that, and the Twins are scheduled to play them a combined 17 times over their final 33 games. If there is a 2022 version of Eric Fox, we can only hope God places him on the Twins this time.

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Thanks for this! It was a fun read.

I had blotted Eric Fox from my mind, but just reading his name caused a flashback.

I feared the A's that year. I knew they were a much better team than the Twins, but that poke in the eye by Eric Fox was really the beginning of the end.

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I remember watching that game, and thinking that Aggie was going to carve him up. I couldn't believe it when Fox hit that ball that far. Absolutely a terrible, terrible turning point. The Twins weren't loaded, but that was a very good team.

Agreed on the huge underperformance by the A's of that era. I lived in the Bay Area from 1982-89 and watching that team develop was really impressive. They were loaded. Bill King and Lon Simmons were great broadcasters, too. As much as I hated the A's that was a really interesting team to follow.

Plus you could go to almost any game, pay a few bucks, and walk up to sit anywhere you wanted, generally in great weather.

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15 minutes ago, big dog said:

Plus you could go to almost any game, pay a few bucks, and walk up to sit anywhere you wanted, generally in great weather.

I suspect that may have been true of most MLB ballparks during that time (well, except for the weather :)) -- it was just at the very beginning of the modern stadium/attendance boom, so demand was still low enough to keep prices low and availability high.

Oakland actually did pretty well in attendance those years. The only AL teams that finished ahead of the A's attendance from 1989-1992 all had new ballparks (first Toronto, then Chicago and finally Baltimore). The A's averaged 33,256 fans per game during that stretch, with a seating capacity of ~48,000. The A's lowest season attendance over those 4 years was higher than the Twins' highest, and the Twins were still drawing respectably.

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2 hours ago, Otto von Ballpark said:

I suspect that may have been true of most MLB ballparks during that time (well, except for the weather :)) -- it was just at the very beginning of the modern stadium/attendance boom, so demand was still low enough to keep prices low and availability high.

Oakland actually did pretty well in attendance those years. The only AL teams that finished ahead of the A's attendance from 1989-1992 all had new ballparks (first Toronto, then Chicago and finally Baltimore). The A's averaged 33,256 fans per game during that stretch, with a seating capacity of ~48,000. The A's lowest season attendance over those 4 years was higher than the Twins' highest, and the Twins were still drawing respectably.

My last game was ‘88 so I don’t know about those years. It was a great place for a day game and the night games were usually nice. Coliseum night games were fun. You hoped Candlestick night games weee survivable. 

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