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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Rooting Interest this October
by Hal Vickery

Maybe now that were past the four Division Series Ill be able to start watching some playoff games. The problem this year hasnt just been the daytime games that people who actually work for a living when the go to work are forced to miss. The problem has also been with the amount of time Ive had to devote this past week to things other than baseball.

A couple of years ago I volunteered to serve on the executive board of the Illinois Assocation of Chemistry Teachers. I started attending their annual meetings back in the 70s but got away from it for a few years. I think they lost my name or address from their mailing list. However, I finally got a mailing from them about ten years ago, and Ive been attending meetings ever since.

Well, after a whole year on the board, and missing one of two meetings that year because I was unable to drive down to Rend Lake during a school day because Id already used my quota of professional development days, at last Octobers meeting I was asked if Id run for president-elect. I was warned that this would put me in a three-year cycle, that I would serve as president for 2006-2007 and then as past-president for 2007-2008.

I was just dumb enough to agree, not thinking about what would result in October this year. As president-elect my job was to coordinate presenters for the breakout sessions that follow the keynote speaker. That was really no big deal except for the past week when a few of them still had not sent me biographies for the people to use who would introduce them.

This sent me scurrying to write emails the first part of the week, to transfer all of the bios that had been sent to a form we could use at the meeting, and to check and add new bios as they came in. Still that was the minor part of my time. The major portion was taken up in trying to figure out exactly where my classes would be on Friday, and what to have my substitute do that day.

Then there was the little matter of the labs that I decided were necessary this week, so a lot of extra time was spent after school setting those up.

As a result of all of this, my week turned out to be one of extra hours at work, extra computer time at home, and little time to watch baseball on TV. I had naively thought that I might actually be able to write some kind of commentary at least about the ALDS. After all there was some Sox-related interest in those two series with Frank Thomas playing for the As and Magglio Ordoez playing for the Tigers.

As it turned out, I missed both series, and as it turned out, both the As and Tigers advanced to the ALCS. As a result, I will at least have a chance to redeem myself and maybe watch some of that series.

I must say that my sentimental favorite here is Thomas rather than Ordoez. A lot of it has to do with my involvement with the Windy City Sox Fans. While the Chicago and national media have portrayed Thomas as a sullen, egotistical jerk, our experience has been just the opposite. Thomas knew our president, Mary Kay Weir, and he always gladly signed anything he was asked to autograph for our charitable endeavors.

Several years ago my son and some friends were in a local restaurant and a group including Thomas sat down at the next table. My sons group had been partying, and they were probably a bit under the weather so to speak, but my son asked Thomas to autograph his menu. He not only did that but he also posed for a couple of pictures. In other words, he was the diametric opposite of the Frank Thomas you read and heard about through the media.

As for Maggs, I cant say Ive personally had any bad experiences with him, except for that foul ball that deflected off somebodys hands and hit me in the chest. That bruise that lasted three weeks wasnt exactly pleasant, but I reserve my wrath for the person sitting next to me who grabbed the ball after it bounced off my body. It stuck between our seats and while I was clutching my chest, he was grabbing the ball.

My animosity for Ordoez is more about his decision to go to the Tigers after not letting the Sox actually examine his injured leg before they would make a commitment to sign him. As much as I hated to see him go, when he and his agent, Scott Boras, pulled that, my only thought was, Good riddance.

So I was happy to see Frank Thomas return to form the last half of this season, and despite my loathing for the iconic status that As general manager Billy Beane has achieved as the result of the book Money Ball, Im glad to see the As advance.

Yes, I would have done exactly the same as Kenny Williams as far as letting Frank go and picking up Jim Thome. I might have handled it a bit more tactfully, thanking Frank for his service and letting him know what my plans were, but it was still the right move for the Sox at the time.

Still, Frank Thomas is the greatest hitter Ive seen except for Ted Williams. He is probably my favorite White Sox player of all time, supplanting my childhood hero Nellie Fox. And although Frank did get his World Series ring, he didnt get to actually play in the Series. Id love to see him do that and then go on and earn a second ring by leading Oakland to the championship.

There are those around here at WSI who will probably get on my case for this, but right now if I could say I have a secondary team in baseball, it would have to be the As, and Frank Thomas isnt the only reason for this. Ive been a fan of the Kane County Cougars since their inaugural 1991 season, and Ive held various ticket packages with them for the past few years. For the past few seasons, they have been affiliated with the As.

Ive been able to see some of the players the As have drafted the past few years, and a few of them have impressed me. I like the As prospects, and it has nothing to do with Money Ball or Billy Beane. Well, if you like the prospects, you have to develop a liking for the club that put the farm system together.

So the As have become my secondary team in baseball. I still want the Sox to kick the bleep out of them whenever we play them, but if the Sox dont make it to the Series, and the As have a good program and one of my favorite all-time players, I cant help but root for them.

There is one other thing going for the As that Money Ball haters sometimes forget. The As situation in the San Francisco Bay area is not much different from ours in Chicago. The As play in Oakland which probably gets as much bad press as the South Side here. The As are (to use the phrase for a second consecutive week) the redheaded stepchild of the Bay Area.

The Giants are the team of the elitists. They are the darlings of the press. The As are the afterthought, not unlike the Sox in Chicago. That alone makes me want to root for them.

SoGo As! Go Big Hurt! As for Billy Beane, eh.

______________________________________________________________________

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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