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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Finally Our Turn!
by Hal Vickery

I’ve put off writing this column as long as I possibly could. It’s not that I can’t think of anything to write. In fact it’s just the opposite. This is my fifty-first year as a White Sox fan, and finally, after I’ve lived probably three-fourths of my allotted lifespan, they have finally won the World Series.

What they couldn’t do with the likes of Aparicio and Fox; Horlen, Peters, and John; Allen and Melton; Zisk and Gamble; Kittle and Fisk; or Thomas and Ventura, they managed to do with an unlikely collection of players put together by GM Kenny Williams and manager Ozzie Guillen. The lineup of Podsednik, Iguchi, Dye, Konerko, Everett, Rowand, Pierzynski, Crede, and Uribe not only won the American League Central Division but ended up tying for second place for most wins in a season by a Sox team.

Of course it wasn’t really that batting order that brought Sox opponents to their knees. It was that pitching staff. The emergence of Jon Garland as an 18-game winner after years of struggling at the .500 level was a key. Mark Buehrle was, well, Mark Buehrle – the rock, the stopper, the ace (even when he didn’t have the best record on the staff).

For half a season Jose Contreras looked not like the anchor of the rotation, but the anchor who would drag the club down. Then suddenly, as Hawk Harrelson put it, something clicked. Suddenly he got it. Suddenly he was practically unbeatable. And his timing was perfect, just as Garland was coming down to earth from his amazing start, Contreras picked up the slack.

Freddy Garcia during this period probably went from second to fourth starter in effectiveness, but as his 14-8 record proved, that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. Orlando Hernandez, El Duque, struggled with a sore shoulder most of the season and finished at 9-9, but his problems were offset by the emergence of Brandon McCarthy as an effective major league starter after he struggled during some call-up starts early in the season.

Then there was the bullpen. Poor Jose Vizcaino’s ERA suffered for the entire year because of a shelling he took as the last man in the bullpen in the second game of the season. That game could have been an absolute disaster as Cleveland not only got to Vizcaino but to last 2004’s star closer Shingo Takatsu, who ended up being released before too long.

The search for a closer became something of a soap opera. Dustin Hermanson, brought in from San Francisco mainly for the purpose of serving as a backup closer in case Takatsu failed, was as effective as a pitcher could get, carrying a 0.00 ERA for weeks. However, not long after he gave up his first earned run, and first loss, he was found to have major problems with his back, a nagging problem that wasn’t about to go away.

Enter call-up Bobby Jenks, the tall, wide one, and his sometimes 100-mph fast ball and a hammer that was literally awesome, but only if he could put it in the strike zone. Jenks proved to be fallible if he couldn’t keep his fastball high. When he could, he was unhittable.

You can’t mention the bullpen without mentioning Cliff Politte and Neal Cotts, both of whom thrived in their roles. You can probably count on one hand the number of bad appearances by either of these guys. We’d like to say the same about Damaso Marte, but we can’t. Marte, whose role should have been getting left-handed batters out just couldn’t do it, one of the few negatives in a great season and post-season.

So many images to remember….

Podsednik running at will stealing second and third with abandon until a muscle pull put him on the DL…Pablo Ozuna stealing home…Aaron Rowand putting on a exhibition on how to play centerfield at Yankee Stadium…Frank Thomas making a brief return and knocking in homers at a rate just under one every two games until he broke the same bone in his ankle after only about a month back…the clincher in Detroit…taking it to the surging Cleveland Indians in the last week of the season and knocking them out of the wild card…El Duque mowing down the Red Sox with the bases loaded at Fenway….

Podsednik hitting not one, but two post-season homers in a year in which he didn’t hit any during the regular season…Paul Konerko’s first-inning blasts against the Angels, helping to demoralize them…Pierzynski running out strike three and the plate umpire agreeing with him…the celebration after beating the Angels in the ALCS in just five games….

Rowand’s expression when Podsednik hit the game winning homer against the Astros (“No way…No way…No way…”)…The Sox offense erupting for five runs against Roy Oswalt, pounding the Astros ace with the worst inning of his major league career…Both teams struggling against superb relief pitching until yet another unlikely hero, Geoff Blum, hit one out…and then in game four scratching out that one run win in classic small ball fashion: a leadoff single to Willie Harris, who was sacrificed to second by Podsednik, moved to third on a ground out by Everett, and then driven in on a single by Series MVP Jermain Dye…finally that last out, a ground ball by Orlando Palmeiro, an attempted leap by Jenks, and a great defensive play by Uribe to just beat Palmeiro at first base.

Then there were the celebrations, first in the locker room when Bud Selig handed the World Series trophy to Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf. Mr. Reinsdorf could barely contain his emotions, and he gave in to them completely when Paul Konerko presented him with the last-out ball.

Still, there is an air of unreality to all of this. Maybe it’s due to lack of sleep. After Wednesday’s marathon, I made it to work on barely two hours sleep. I did manage a nap of about ninety minutes before Game 7, and slept maybe four hours that night, but I still feel I’m walking in a daze.

Co-workers noted the grin on my face both Wednesday, when I knew the Sox were going to sweep, and Thursday, when they actually did sweep. I don’t think it has disappeared yet. I made it to Grandstand yesterday to pick up some World Champion paraphernalia and ran across former Sox pre- and post-game hose Dave Wills. He asked how I’m enjoying this.

I told him that it still seems unreal and that I feel like I need to be pinched to prove it’s real.

“It’s real,” was his response.

I guess it is. But after fifty-one years of disappointment, it’s going to take just a little while to sink in. Until then, I just keep reminding myself, “It’s finally our turn!”

Hey Sox Fans!

Who do YOU dedicate this Sox championship to?
Post your sentiments to this thread
and see them published in a book dedicated to Sox Fans for the holidays!

White Sox Interactive is cooperating with an independent publisher to make the posts in this thread available as a book to become a lasting and personal keepsake of what made the 2005 Sox world championship so special. You can have your dedication published by merely adding your sentiments to this thread to be published later this fall.

And here is the best part: 100 percent of the revenue generated by White Sox Interactive is being donated to charity. Furthermore the publisher has pledged a portion of his receipts to the same cause, Chicago Baseball Cancer Charities, in conjunction with Children's Memorial Foundation and the Northwestern Memorial Foundation.

WSI is staffed 100 percent by Sox Fan volunteers. Here is your chance to join us in dedicating this extraordinary Sox baseball season to those most important in your life -- along with hundreds of your fellow Sox Fans -- and see the results help the worthy cause of cancer research here in Chicago.

And yes, the book will be available for sale in time for the holidays. No Sox Fan's sock can truly be filled without this book containing your words of dedication inside.

God Bless our Chicago White Sox and Thank You for helping make this dedication an extra special one!

-- George Bova
on behalf of the the volunteer staff of Sox Fans at White Sox Interactive

Be sure to contact all of your Sox Fan friends and acquaintances and invite them to post their dedication too, while this thread is still open!

Editor's Note: Hal Vickery has been a White Sox fan since 1955 when he was five years old. For much of that time he also had a secondary rooting interest in the Cubs, which he has shown the good sense to abandon. When not cheering for or writing about the Sox, Hal teachers chemistry and physics at North Boone High School, in Poplar Grove, IL. Hal commutes there daily from Joliet, where he lives with his wife Lee, and their dog, Buster T. Beagle. Hal's opinions are not necessarily those of North Boone High School, his wife, or Buster T. Beagle. You can write Hal at hvickery@svs.com.

More features from Hal Vickery here!

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