"ARE YOU A BORGER?"
The child stares up at White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, perhaps too scared to answer him after nearly being trampled when Guillen came barreling out of the home clubhouse at U.S. Cellular Field recently. Sensing the child's fright, Guillen stoops, smiles and repeats his question. But the child continues to stare. The Venezuelan-born Guillen figures that Daishi Takatsu, the long-haired five-year-old son of Japanese righthander Shingo Takatsu, is having trouble understanding his heavily accented English.
"Is this a borger?" Guillen asks the group of players' wives nearby, including Daishi's mother, Maki. Like the child, the women stare blankly at Guillen. Finally, a team employee with an ear for the rookie manager's speech patterns, translates: "Is this a boy or a girl?"
Over spasms of laughter, one of the wives gives Guillen his answer: "It's a boy, Ozzie."
"Go find Daddy then," Guillen says to Daishi, who squirts through the open clubhouse door.
"I got enough problems with this team," he kiddingly explains later. "If a girl get in there, she's scarred for life. And then I kill myself."
And then where would the White Sox be? Instead of leading the American League Central by one game over the Twins, as they did at week's end, they'd probably be playing uninspired baseball in front of lukewarm crowds as they did last season. Thanks largely to the arrival of Guillen, attendance was up 4,061 per game over last season through 25 home dates, and the fans—like the Chicago players—are more spirited and into the game.
With one division title in the last nine years—and a clubhouse that was growing increasingly stagnant—the White Sox were looking for a spark last November when they hired the effervescent Guillen, 40, to replace the reserved Jerry Manuel as manager. Only three seasons removed from the end of his 16-year playing career, including 13 as Chicago's charismatic shortstop (1985 through '97), and fresh from a victorious World Series as the Marlins' third base coach, Guillen had no managing experience when White Sox general manager Ken Williams "gave me my dream," as Guillen says, and made him a major league skipper.
"No one else has Ozzie's passion and commitment," Williams says. "We've got fans who've waited generations for a World Series championship. They are extremely frustrated. Ozzie'll change that."
After dropping two of three from the Mariners last weekend, Chicago (30-24) had a .281 team batting average (up from .263 last year), a 4.02 ERA (down from 4-17), was ranked third in the American League in slugging percentage (.460) and was tied with the Rangers for second in the AL with 72 home runs.