The unofficial start of summer on Monday became the official start of Sox-watching season on the South Side.
But in spite of a crowd of 43,781, the largest at Comiskey Park in almost a year, the New York Yankees dealt the White Sox a knockout blow before many fans made it off the exit ramp on the Dan Ryan.
Former Sox third baseman Robin Ventura didn't make a major impact in his Comiskey homecoming, but his teammates made that a moot point in a convincing 10-6 victory, knocking the Sox out of first place.
Bernie Williams homered and drove in four runs as the Yankees treated Dan Wright like a pinata in a six-run first.
"They took the crowd right out of the game early," manager Jerry Manuel said. "All we could do is scratch and fall and try to survive."
The Sox have been struggling at the box office all spring but looked to make some headway with Monday's big crowd, fueled by half-price tickets, the Memorial Day holiday, the return of Ventura and the presence of the Yankees. But another Sox starter began with a convincing thud, a recurring theme since this Good Sox/Bad Sox mini-drama began back in April.
Wright (5-5) came in with back-to-back victories in which he'd allowed only three runs on 10 hits in 15 1/3 innings, seeming to turn the corner after being roughed up in a 19-0 loss in Anaheim. But he reverted to his former self, serving up the six-run first, the third time in 11 starts he has allowed five or more runs in one of the first three innings.
"It was just a matter of making bad pitches," Wright said. "I put us in too big of a hole early."
The downfall began when Derek Jeter doubled on Wright's first pitch. Jason Giambi drew a one-out walk and Williams doubled home the first run. After Ventura fanned for the second out, Rondell White added a two-run single and rookie Nick Johnson cranked a three-run homer, making it 6-0.
"It's tough to overcome a six-run deficit against New York ... or any team," Manuel said.
Only after No. 9 hitter Alberto Castillo singled did the Sox finally get someone up in the bullpen. Wright threw 39 pitches in the first inning alone and wound up with 89 pitches in 4 1/3 innings, allowing eight runs on eight hits and three walks.
For all intents and purposes, the game was over. The Sox aren't known as a comeback team. The largest deficit they'd overcome all season was three runs, back on April 21 against Detroit. They're 1-21 when trailing after six innings.
Yankees right-hander Mike Thurman, called up from Triple-A Columbus four days earlier to take a spot in their injury-plagued rotation, had no problem putting the Sox in their place. Staked to a 7-0 lead in the second, Thurman (1-0) lasted seven innings, yielding two runs on seven hits.
Frank Thomas cranked a two-run homer off Sterling Hitchcock in the eighth, setting off fireworks on his 34th birthday, and the Sox added two more runs off Hitchcock in the ninth.
But it was too little and much too late to matter.