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Kansas City Blues

Fond Memories, New Challenges

Guy Bacci

Love at first sight. That’s the only way to describe how the torrid affair began between Chicago White Sox fans and the World Series trophy. They fell hard for each other, like two lovers who had waited their whole lives to finally meet. They ran off together on an extended honeymoon, traveling the world—okay, at least the greater Chicagoland area—snapping thousands of once-in-a-lifetime photos with grins of ever-lasting joy stretched across their faces.

And all too quickly, the honeymoon is over. Oh sure, the first few months of marriage will be blissful, starting with a banner-raising ceremony and the distribution of rings, followed closely by the creation of 20,000 little baby trophies, which Brooks Boyer called the coolest promotion he’s ever seen. But soon after, the hard work begins. It’ll be a long, tough road to keep the fans and the trophy together for another year.

Kenny Williams knows this better than anyone, which is why he dug deep into his bag of tricks this spring and pulled one rabbit after another out of his hat. With a wave of the magical wand, Jim Thome, Rob Mackowiak, Javier Vazquez, Alex Cintron and Matt Thornton suddenly appeared—all with the potential to make major contributions in 2006. Just as magical, Williams managed to lock up Paul Konerko, Jon Garland and—as recently as Saturday—Jose Contreras, securing the Sox future for the next several years.

But baseball being the game that it is, even the best intentions can come crumbling down in a heartbeat. Chicago fans are intimately familiar with the letdowns that seemingly always follow a post-season appearance. The Sox of ’84 were primed to build upon the success of ’83, only to suffer injury woes and finish 14 games under .500. After a division title in the strike-shortened 1994 season, the ’95 Sox came stumbling out of the lockout and finished 12 games under. The 2001 club was supposed to be destined for greatness behind the large gut of David Wells, only to finish in third place. The North Siders, of course, have their own stories. The Cubs followed each of their recent playoff appearances with miserable seasons.

Of course, there’s something entirely different about this year. Even if Scott Podsednik’s iffy hamstring and Thome’s lousy back and Contreras’ sore arm contribute to a 75-win season, Sox fans will be able to put a smile on their faces by popping in a 2005 World Series DVD and reliving the moment that many of them doubted they’d ever see. Konerko’s grand-slam or Podsednik’s walk-off or Blum’s early-morning heroics—they’ll never get old.

Which is partly why this particular Sox fan failed to do something this spring for the first time in his baseball life: He didn’t read a single box score. That’s right, even with the Internet just a PC away. Sure, I heard about the disastrous left-handed tryouts, the nagging injury concerns and Thome’s late-spring surge, but I got all that from limited visits to WSI and stayed away from newspaper reports and box scores. It may seem foolish, but I can still feel the glow from October, which renders spring training utterly meaningless. I wonder if the start of a new baseball season will ever invoke that giddy, nervous, desperate anticipation ever again. Maybe some day, but certainly not this year.

Needless to say, with last season having been extended an extra month, the off-season was shockingly fast. It’s hard to believe Opening Day is already here—a day that’s usually a national holiday in the mind of many baseball fans has become more about raising a banner than playing a game. In a strange way, some Sox fans must be sorry to see the 2006 season arrive, because it signals the beginning of the end of holding onto 2005.

Opening Day will always have its charms, because it marks the start of a long journey, the end of a cold winter, and the hope of a glorious summer. And even though saying goodbye to 2005 will be bitter-sweet, the future for Sox fans has never looked better. Jerry’s club is suddenly spending like a big-city team, and if the Sox manage to stay in contention year after year, maybe they’ll keep spending like a big-city team—and if that happens, 2005 may become the first chapter in an epic tale rather than the entire tale itself.

Once the new season gets rolling, all those familiar, day-to-day baseball emotions will undoubtedly reappear. The 2006 campaign should be a wild, entertaining ride, and Sox fans are looking forward to boarding the train. But when that banner goes up and those rings get distributed, there will be a mixture of joy and sorrow. Because the honeymoon is over, and nobody knows how this marriage will end.

Guy Bacci is from the north suburbs of Chicago, where he couldn't avoid growing up as a pampered and snotty Cubs fan. Luckily, he saw the light in 1985 and never looked back. He loved the hard-working, old-school tactics of Carlton Fisk, who would become his all-time favorite player. His most memorable moment was going to a Sox double-header with his grandfather, who insisted on staying all nine hours (including a long rain delay). Guy is a journalism grad from Northwestern, currently residing in Seattle, where he works as a computer programmer and freelance writer. He can be reached at

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