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Column: Wilbur Wood’s Amazing Memorial Day

Beware the Splinters

Beware the Splinters is Salute Magazine’s weekly sports column, authored by Sports Editor Dustin Brown. The column will be a weekly look at something that has ruffled the feathers of Mr. Brown or is just a topic he feels he needs to rant about or discuss. This week’s column focuses on a memorable Memorial Day performance from White Sox pitcher, Wilbur Wood.

As sports fans, many performances stand out more than others. Especially when these performances take place on holidays that many people have off from work. One of the greatest performances on Memorial Day is that of Chicago White Sox starting pitcher, Wilbur Wood.

Memorial Day in 1973 took place years before I was born, but Wilbur Wood’s performance is something that I love as a fan. The casual baseball fan probably is not aware of what took place that day. But it is something that we are likely never to see again, as times have changed and so have athletes.

During that time, baseball had a curfew rule in place that prevented the game from going past a certain time.

In fact, Major League Baseball has the following rule in section 4.12 of the official rule book:

“4.12 SUSPENDED GAMES.

(a) A game shall become a suspended game that must be completed at a future date if the game is terminated for any of the following reasons:

  1. (1)  A curfew imposed by law;
  2. (2)  A time limit permissible under league rules;
  3. (3)  Light failure or malfunction of a mechanical field device under control of the home club. (Mechanical field device shall include automatic tarpaulin or water removal equipment);
  4. (4)  Darkness, when a law prevents the lights from being turned on;
  5. (5)  Weather, if a regulation game is called while an inning is in progress and before the inning is completed, and the visiting team has scored one or more runs to take the lead, and the home team has not retaken the lead; or
  6. (6)  It is a regulation game that is called with the score tied.”

Oddly enough, the curfew rule was used on May 6 of a minor league game–this year.

But I digress back to Wood’s performance from 44 years ago. The Indians and White Sox were tied 2-2 in the top of the 17th inning when Wood took the mound as a relief pitcher. He was supposed to be the starter that day anyways, so manager Chuck Tanner gave him the (relief) start. And what an appearance it was.

According to The Hardball Times, Wood would put down 14 of 15 batters before giving up an unearned run. But he picked up the win following a walk-off three-run home run by Dick Allen. Five innings of extra inning ball from Wood, and he picked up the win.

And that was just the beginning of what would become a great day for the pitcher.

Not only did Wood pitch five innings in relief on May 28, 1973, but he would also start the regularly scheduled game after that. It was a non-traditional doubleheader, but Wood would become one of only a few pitchers to ever accomplish what happened next.

In the second game that day, Wood would throw a complete game. His totals from the suspended game and complete game pitched that day: 14 innings, six hits allowed, three walks and zero earned runs. And two wins to go along with that stat line, but it was something he expected himself to do.

“Back then you went out and you went out to pitch a complete game,” said Wood, who went the distance in 114 of his 297 career starts. “That was your goal, to finish what you started,” via FOX Sports.

Wood’s performance on that day was a feat that will probably never happen again, but he provided plenty more during the 1973 season. He would finish with a 24-20 record and become only the second pitcher to have 20 wins and 20 losses in a season in the modern baseball era, according to FOX Sports.

He also ended the season with 359 innings pitched and had over 300 innings pitched several times between 1971-75 for the White Sox.

Wilbur Wood 1971-75 (Chicago White Sox)
Year Age Tm Lg W L W-L% ERA G GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1971 29 CHW AL 22 13 .629 1.91 44 42 22 7 334.0 272 95 71 21 62 210 1.000
1972 30 CHW AL 24 17 .585 2.51 49 49 20 8 376.2 325 119 105 28 74 193 1.059
1973 31 CHW AL 24 20 .545 3.46 49 48 21 4 359.1 381 166 138 25 91 199 1.314
1974 32 CHW AL 20 19 .513 3.60 42 42 22 1 320.1 305 143 128 27 80 169 1.202
1975 33 CHW AL 16 20 .444 4.11 43 43 14 2 291.1 309 148 133 26 92 140 1.376
17 Y 17 Y 17 Y 17 Y 164 156 .513 3.24 651 297 114 24 2684.0 2582 1130 965 209 724 1411 1.232
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/28/2017.

Wilbur Wood dazzled in his Memorial Day appearances and should be remembered for how much his accomplishment means.

As you all enjoy your Memorial Day, please remember those that have made it so that we can enjoy our freedom and our sports.

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