White Sox Get Their Fix

Times Staff Writer

In 1955, his team won the World Series. The Brooklyn Dodgers were champions, finally, and the kid rushed out the door of his fraternity house and handed out a cigar to anyone who wanted one.

On the 50th anniversary of that championship, his team won again. The kid grew up to be the owner of the Chicago White Sox, and his players handed him a cigar. As he stood on the infield at Minute Maid Park, Jerry Reinsdorf was in baseball heaven.

“To hear the players chanting my name,” Reinsdorf said, “that’s the biggest thrill I’ve ever had.”


This wasn’t about him, of course, and he didn’t claim otherwise. This was about the city of Chicago, about slaying the demons of the Black Sox and Disco Demolition Night and uniforms that featured shorts, about the White Sox casting off their stigma as a second-class team in their own town.

This was about a 1-0 victory over the Houston Astros on Wednesday, about a World Series sweep, about a city that could celebrate its first baseball championship in 88 years.

“I hope they live it up and party like it’s 1917,” catcher A.J. Pierzynski said.

That was the dead-ball era, and how fitting that the White Sox won in throwback fashion. The Sox held the Astros to five hits Wednesday, to one run and six hits over the final 19 innings of the Series.

The tension escalated through each scoreless inning, through the fifth and sixth and seventh, into a battle of the bullpens. In the eighth inning, with two out, Jermaine Dye singled home the last run of the season.

Dye hit .438 in the Series and won the most-valuable-player award, but he did not pretend to deflect the glory onto himself.

“Pitching and defense,” he said.

In the ninth inning, with one out and the tying run on second base, shortstop Juan Uribe dived into the stands to catch a foul pop. Then, pinch-hitter Orlando Palmeiro bounced a ball over the mound, with Uribe charging and making a strong throw for the final out.


Closer Bobby Jenks threw both arms high into the sky, visible for a couple of seconds before he was swallowed by a mass of teammates. Jenks, cast aside by the Angels last winter, became the first rookie to save a World Series clincher.

“This is what you dream about,” Jenks said. “This is your fantasy. But, no matter what you thought about as a kid, this is 10 times better.”

For the first time in four years, a wild-card team did not win the World Series. The White Sox nearly coughed up a 15-game lead during the regular season, then roared into the playoffs and through October by winning 16 of their final 17 games, including the last eight in an 11-1 postseason.

The Astros, with their season rapidly approaching expiration, called upon closer Brad Lidge in the eighth inning with the score tied. Pinch-hitter Willie Harris volleyed a 97-mph fastball into the opposite field for a single, took second on a sacrifice bunt and third on a groundout, then scored on Dye’s ground ball up the middle, a single not hit all that hard but placed just right.

Lidge lost Game 5 of the National League championship series on a home run by Albert Pujols. He lost Game 2 of the World Series on a home run by Scott Podsednik.

“I don’t really feel I ended on a bad note,” Lidge said. “They got a run, and that was the game.”


That was the run that would send the Astros home for the winter. They waited 44 seasons for their first World Series, and they went four and out.

With the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox vanquished, America met an engaging if anonymous champion. To the casual fan, the face of the White Sox was Frank Thomas, who couldn’t play in the series because of injury. He stood in the Chicago clubhouse, champagne bottle in hand, and said this night meant more to him than his two MVP awards.

And, amid the relatively unknown Podsedniks and Joe Credes and Pierzynskis spraying champagne and beer, a karaoke act broke out. The old Journey song “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” started blaring, and players started singing.

Steve Perry, the lead singer of Journey, looked on, a bit bemused. The Chicago players adopted the song as their unofficial theme last month, and now people wondered whether he somehow made a difference.

“They tell me I did,” Perry said. “All I did was sing a song in 1981.”

Reinsdorf also owns the Chicago Bulls, so he once employed Michael Jordan. The global phenomenon that was Jordan, with kids in Tibet and Mongolia wearing Bull caps, was a once-in-a-lifetime thing.

The Bulls won six NBA championships, and Reinsdorf once said he would trade all six for one World Series title. In this country, he said Wednesday, baseball rules.


“The Bulls with Jordan was as big as basketball can get,” he said. “But this is bigger. This has more attention, and excitement.

“This is baseball.”



Dry spells

Franchises that have gone the longest without winning the World Series, and the year of their last victory:

*--* Team Year Team Year Chicago Cubs 1908 Philadelphia 1980 Cleveland 1948 St. Louis 1982 San Francisco 1954 Baltimore 1983 Texas *1961 Detroit 1984 Houston *1962 Kansas City 1985 Milwaukee *1969 N.Y. Mets 1986 San Diego *1969 Dodgers 1988 Washington *1969 Oakland 1989 Seattle *1977 Cincinnati 1990 Pittsburgh 1979 Minnesota 1991


* Never won World Series; year indicates first season.