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The Long Wait Seems More Than Worth It

WORLD SERIES | Tim Brown / ON BASEBALL

October 27, 2005|Tim Brown

HOUSTON — On a cool, breezy night, when the rest of America hardly watched, 1917 didn't seem so long ago. Or so meaningful.

It's just a year, 1917. Some numbers on a lucky half-dollar in Jerry Reinsdorf's pocket. Another time, another place, somebody else's dark history.

In an 11-1 postseason, the Chicago White Sox turned a franchise, and maybe the undeclared neighborhoods of a staunchly National League city, into something fresh and good.

The White Sox, second city's second team, won the World Series on Wednesday night for the first time in 88 years, bringing them in behind the Boston Red Sox, who an October ago won their first World Series in 86 seasons.

Curses -- the Bambino followed by the Black Sox -- are falling like TV ratings. On the 74th anniversary of the death of Charles Comiskey, the longtime owner of the franchise, the White Sox stood for the Midwestern, mid-payroll team, built by an African American general manager, run by a Venezuelan manager, played by a rainbow roster.

They have neither the pedigree of the New York Yankees nor the following of the Red Sox. They're just a few guys who could pitch and defend and move a runner, a small-ball team that hit 200 home runs, with no nicknames, no categories, no profiling.

They won memorably on a home run by Scott Podsednik, another by Geoff Blum and, finally, on a stay-alive grounder through the middle by Jermaine Dye. They won on the backs of a sturdy rotation, a puffy closer, a few guys in between, and then they were in each other's arms as if they'd rehearsed it, catcher A.J. Pierzynski landing perfectly into the arms of Bobby Jenks on the infield of Minute Maid Park. They won, 1-0, in Game 4, a sweep, an eight-game winning streak, playing so hard tears all but streamed from their eyes.

"There's nothing better than this," said Carl Everett, another Chicago misfit. "There's nothing better than this."

Postgame, they doused gray T-shirts that read "05WorldSeries." Taken at a glance, they might have trumpeted, "OZWorldSeries."

Their manager, Ozzie Guillen, might have been their only star, talking his way through the Cleveland Indians, then the Red Sox, the Angels and the Astros.

He was outrageous. He was sentimental. He pushed and challenged and dared them to do what he had grown too old to do, and he hugged his children, who'd tagged along all year.

It was damp and late when the hundreds of White Sox fans still in the stands sang, "Ole! Ole! Ole! Oo-le! Oo-le!" The players sang along and waved and could hardly let each other go, celebration mixing with exhaustion.

"I think it's good for baseball when other teams outside the biggest Eastern teams win it," owner Jerry Reinsdorf said. "You don't have to be from New York or Boston to win. It gives them hope."

It began again with a long pull on the train whistle from atop the left-field wall, visible from the street below, where Texas flags hung from light posts.

On the video board, two astronauts encouraged the Astros to win. And win. And win. And win.

It's what the Astros had to do: A four-game winning streak, beginning Wednesday night here, ending Sunday night on Chicago's South Side.

The crowd, under starless skies, lacked the energy of the previous night, before Blum put the Astros' first World Series title seemingly out of reach.

In the visiting dugout before the whistle would blow, White Sox General Manager Kenny Williams had pushed aside the expectations running downhill from Chicago. He had remade his team, pushed new parts around old parts, listened to Guillen's complaints about players who didn't play his way, and seven months later had himself one win away.

"I haven't answered any e-mails, I haven't returned any phone calls," Williams had said. "People who want to start talking about winning the World Series, I don't want to hear it. Well, I did take one from Charles Barkley. He wasn't talking about the games. He was talking about making sure you enjoy it, a different kind of conversation.

"The only thing I want to be congratulated for is, 'You've assured yourself a Game 7.' "

The Astros could only dream of a Game 7. What they had was Wednesday, their fourth-best starter, no inclination to hit in the clutch, a chair-throwing manager who slowly was losing his patience, Roger Clemens maybe waiting on the other side of Game 4 and a cabby named Oscar outside the ballpark saying, "I know baseball, been playin' it all my life. I know baseball, and I know when a team's throwin' a series."

There being a proper distinction between dark suspicions and making a buck, his cab was plastered with Astros placards.

So, with the city growing disappointed, the Astros came to work with a few more innings left, and were done in nine.

Outside their clubhouse, an attendant knocked the dirt from a pair of spikes.

Inside, there was mostly quiet. Jeff Bagwell was one for eight in the series. Craig Biggio was four for 18. They were undone by an inability to hit in the clutch, by a few breaks, a new champion.

"I think," Mike Lamb said, "they earned it."

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