The Forgotten World Series
With the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians currently in the midst of probably one of the most exciting World Series’ in recent history, many people have been throwing around the numbers 71 and 108. To an average sports fan, you may think they have no meaning. However, the two are synonymous with the city of Chicago and the World Series. The excitement of the Chicago Cubs being in a World Series for the first time since 1945 and the possibility of being world champions for the first time since 1908 is a thought that gives Chicago residents and die hard fans goosebumps just thinking about it. A city that has seen numerous championships in the last few decades, many forget the other baseball team in Chicago.
For those of who don’t know, here’s a little history lesson. Once upon a time there was a second professional baseball team located in the city of Chicago, known to the locals as the “White Sox.” A long time ago, way back in 2005—before the boom of social media, and before the execution of Saddam Hussein,—the Chicago White Sox also won a World Series. It was their first championship in 88 years, in their first appearance in 46 years. And over the last decade, the historic run, the trophies, and the rings, have all been swept under the rug to be forgotten.
This World Series was won prior to the collective memory of the sports community, back before the dynasties of the Blackhawks and the Cubs were built and long after the Bulls and Bears had relevance. Their run and eventual win has been so forgotten and overlooked that even ESPN does not recognize it:[Sean Bilodeau on Twitter]
Those White Sox were helmed by the charming but occasionally homophobic Ozzie Guillén. They were an okay offensive team, led by Paul Konerko’s 40 home runs, Jermaine Dye’s 31, and ran the bases well with Scott Podsednik’s 59 stolen bases. However, similar to their cross town rivals 11 years later, they dominated the mound. A pitching staff that was their bread and butter, the Sox had the fifth best ERA—and best ERA+—in the league. Mark Buehrle was nominally the ace of the staff, and was one of four White Sox starters with at least 14 wins, and an ERA of less than 4.00. Jon Garland joined him in the All-Star Game, and Freddy Garcia and Jose Contreras had good seasons, too. Dustin Hermanson was the closer, but saw his job taken by a mid-season call-up, the flame-throwing Bobby Jenks. Neal Cotts and Cliff Politte were effective middle relievers, and held the fort in middle innings.
Once the postseason came, the Sox were a dominant force. The White Sox swept the defending champion Boston Red Sox 3-0 in the ALDS and then beat the Los Angeles Angels 4-1 in the ALCS. With all the wind in momentum shifting in their direction, they were prime to face the Houston Astros. A team that had been waiting for the moment for years as well, the Astros were the heavy favorites going into the World Series.
In Game 1, Astros first baseman Jeff Bagwell came to the plate in the eighth inning with two men on and two out, facing a two run deficit. Guillén brought in Jenks for the four-out save, and the rookie proceeded to strike out Bagwell on a 100 mph fastball, before retiring the side in the ninth. The White Sox came out with the win 5-3, with Roger Clemens getting pulled in the second inning for the Astros, they went into game two looking to capitalize on a tired bullpen.
In Game 2, the White Sox were let down by their best pitchers. Starter Mark Buehrle gave up four runs, only to be let off the hook by Paul Konerko’s grand slam. Jenks ended up blowing the save in the ninth, but the highlight of the night was a walkoff home run by Scott Podsednik to send the Astros home down 2-0 in the series. From there, the tables turned to put the Sox in the driver's seat of the series.
Game 3 was one of the more exciting World Series games in history, even though nobody remembers it. In a five-hour, 41-minute dramatic contest that lasted through 14 innings, a man named Geoff Blum (yeah, that guy) hit a homer in the top of the 14th. From there, Mark Buehrle entered the game to close it out for the save and the win.
The final game, Game 4, Freddy Garcia and Brandon Backe each went seven innings without giving up a run. In the top of the eighth, little-used White Sox pinch hitter Willie Harris singled, and was eventually driven home by Jermaine Dye. Juan Uribe, who is not the ideal image of a defensive superstar, made an incredible catch in the bottom of the ninth, before fielding a grounder for the final out and the World Series sweep. John Rooney, then White Sox broadcaster, gave the call as “A White Sox winner, and a World Championship!”.
In the end, it was a World Series for the ages, and one for scrapbooks. The White Sox presented Chicago with a championship that eventually became forgotten under the struggles in the following years, and the crowd quickly moved on from the men in black in white after consecutive poor seasons. In a somewhat of reversal of roles, the Cubs have flown into the spotlight and have shifted the tides in the Windy City. And now, knocking on the door of history and looking at Steve Bartman and the Curse of The Billy Goat in the rear view mirror the Cubs are so close to that unforgettable season that the White Sox went on to have.
I am sure that there will be fans that held their breath in U.S. Cellular Field on those cold October nights in 2005 doing the same as the Cubs come into Wrigley Field to break the longest drought in sports history.
And this time, I don’t think a championship will be forgotten.