Steve Trout (Trading Card DB)

September 5, 1978: Disco Dan’s blunder hands Steve Trout his first major-league win

This article was written by Paul Hofmann

Steve Trout (Trading Card DB)Despite a balmy 81-degree game-time temperature and a promotion in which the Twins gave away a car at the game, the Tuesday evening game between the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins drew a sparse turnout of 3,630. Those who decided not to come to the ballpark not only missed out on an opportunity to win a new car, they also missed one of the most bizarre plays in Metropolitan Stadium history that left members of both teams “saying they’d never seen a play like it.”1

The sixth-place White Sox were 57-80, 18 games behind the American League West-leading Kansas City Royals. After hovering around the .500 mark as late as mid-June, the team had fallen out of contention and was in the process of auditioning late-season call-ups with an eye on next season. The fifth-place Twins were 62-76, 13½ games off the pace. The team had fallen out of contention when it lost 11 of 13 to close out the month of April. 

Twenty-one-year-old rookie left-hander Steve Trout got the start for the White Sox. The son of right-hander Dizzy Trout, who won 170 games for the Tigers and Red Sox between 1939 and 1952, he was making his first major-league start.2 He was opposed by another rookie, Roger Erickson. The 22-year-old right-hander entered the game with a record of 13-9 and 4.15 earned-run average.

Trout and Erikson both tossed two hitless innings before the White Sox broke through in the top of the third. Catcher Bill Nahorodny led off with a single to center. After shortstop Don Kessinger flied out to center, Claudell Washington hit a two-run homer to deep right field. It was his fourth of the year. Erickson retired the next two hitters to retire the side and at the end of 2½ innings the White Sox led 2-0. 

The Twins threatened in their half of the third. Bombo Rivera reached on an infield single and went to third when first baseman Craig Kusick singled to center field. With runners at the corners and no one down, it appeared the Twins were on the verge of a big inning. But Trout struck out Butch Wynegar and got out of the inning when Roy Smalley hit a comebacker that the hurler turned into a 1-6-3 double play. 

The White Sox added a run in the fourth. Lamar Johnson grounded out to second to start the inning, then Chet Lemon tripled high off the left-center-field wall and scored on Eric Solderholm’s sacrifice fly to right. Greg Pryor doubled to left but was stranded when Nahorodny struck out to end the inning. 

Trout continued to stymie the Twins. Including the last batters of the third inning, he retired 13 of 14 hitters, giving up a lone leadoff single to José Morales in the bottom of the fifth. Left-handed rookie Darrell Jackson relieved Erickson to start the fifth for the Twins. Jackson entered the game with a record of 4-4 and 4.76 ERA.

Jackson held the White Sox scoreless for two innings before they extended their lead with another run in the seventh inning. With one out, Pryor doubled to left field. One out later, Kessinger singled to left to score Pryor.

Heading into the bottom of the seventh with a 4-0 lead, Trout and the White Sox seemed to be in control. After Willie Norwood struck out to start the inning, the Twins loaded the bases on back-to-back singles by Dan Ford and Morales and a walk to Larry Wolfe. White Sox manager Larry Doby, who had replaced Bob Lemon earlier in the season, called on left-hander Rich Hinton to relieve the tiring Trout. Rivera greeted Hinton with a single to center that should have scored two runs, but Ford, who could have scored easily from third, trotted down the line and turned backward to wave Morales home. The Minneapolis Star described what happened next:

“But (Ford) stopped in the right-handed batter’s box, signaled to Morales to score standing up and slapped his palm a few feet from home. Then after Morales scored, Ford flinched, as if realizing what had occurred and sheepishly touched the plate with his toe.

Umpire Joe Brinkman quickly called Morales out for passing Ford on the basepath. Instead of trailing 4-2 with one out and runners at first and third, the Twins were behind 4-1 with two on and two out.”3

After the play, Twins manager Gene Mauch came out of the dugout to ask Brinkman for an explanation of the play. Ford, who stood nearby listening, “looked at the ground and headed back to the dugout without protest.”4 After Kusick popped out to Mike Squires at first to end the inning, Mauch told Ford to “take a hike.”5

Mauch’s banishment of Ford required him to quickly rearrange the entire outfield. Rivera moved from right field to left, Norwood moved from left field to center, and Hosken Powell, who replaced Ford in the fourth spot of the batting order, came in to play right field.

After Jackson pitched a scoreless eighth, 25-year-old right-hander John Sutton came on in relief in the ninth. Sutton, enjoying his second and last cup of coffee in the majors, was making his 16th appearance of the season. He pitched a scoreless ninth to keep the score at 4-1. 

The Twins staged a last-gasp rally in the bottom of the ninth. With one out, pinch-hitter Glenn Borgmann doubled to center field and scored on Morales’ double to right field. Wolfe singled to right with Morales stopping at third. Left-hander Pablo Torrealba was brought on to relieve Hinton, and Rob Wilfong ran for Wolfe. Rivera greeted Torrealba with a single to center that scored Morales to cut the White Sox lead to 4-3. Wilfong and Rivera advanced a base when center fielder Thad Bosley bobbled the ball. Torrealba intentionally walked Kusick to load the bases before Doby called on right-hander Lerrin LaGrow to close the door.

Close the door he did. LaGrow struck out pinch-hitter Rod Carew, who was on his way to his seventh and final American League batting title, and retired Smalley on a fly ball to center field to leave the bases loaded and end the game.  

The victory, his first major-league decision, went to Trout. He won his final two starts of the season and finished the year with a record of 3-0 and a 4.03 ERA.6 The loss dropped Erickson to 13-10. He was 1-3 in four games against the White Sox and allowed 31 hits, including six home runs, with an earned run average of 9.35 in 17⅓ innings. LaGrow earned his 15th save of the season. The time of the game was 2 hours and 27 minutes.

After the game, an aggravated Mauch told reporters, “I don’t know what to say because I’ve never had this feeling before. All I know is that he will not be paid for today’s game.”7 This was the first time in Mauch’s tenure as Twins manager that he fined a player.8 The fine amounted to $370 of Ford’s estimated $60,000 salary that season.

Twins President Calvin Griffith echoed the skipper’s frustration in his postgame comments. “We’ve got 24 guys trying to catch Oakland and Texas in the standings, and he’s so nonchalant it’s unbelievable,” Griffith said.9

Griffith’s comments indicated that Ford’s time with the Twins might be coming to an end. During the offseason the Twins traded him to the California Angels for Danny Goodwin and Ron Jackson.

Mauch and Ford were briefly reunited when Mauch replaced Jim Fregosi as Angels manager in May 1981. In January 1982 Ford was traded to the Baltimore Orioles for Doug DeCinces and Jeff Schneider, dispelling the age-old adage that time heals all wounds. 



In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author also consulted and



1 Gary Libman, “Ford Recalled After Stopping on Freeway,” Minneapolis Tribune, September 6, 1978: C1.

2 Trout had made his major-league debut on July 1, when he worked the eighth inning of a 10-0 Twins victory at Metropolitan Stadium.

3 Bob Fowler, “Ford Falls Off the Tightrope,” Minneapolis Star, September 6, 1978: 1D.

4 Libman.

5 Fowler.

6 Trout finished his 12-year major-league career with a record of 88-92 and a 4.18 ERA.

7 Fowler.

8 Fowler.

9 Fowler: 4D.

Additional Stats

Chicago White Sox 4
Minnesota Twins 3

Metropolitan Stadium
Bloomington, MN


Box Score + PBP:

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