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Strange is the baseball world we live in to have the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago White Sox charmed by world championships 365 days apart after waiting a combined 63,554 days (174 years) to win one. If this is what history-be-damned, postmodern baseball looks like--every team has a ghost of a chance (and any team with the power pitching to survive three rounds of playoffs has much more than that)--then no one has played it better than the White Sox.
"Other [Series winners] have more Hall of Fame players," said Chicago first baseman Paul Konerko, the cornerstone of the club, cigar in hand and dripping with champagne after the Sox completed their sweep of the Astros in Houston on Oct. 26, "but as a team I'll put us up there with anybody."
Unlike their Bostonian cousins in futility and footwear, these Sox did not provide much inspiration for poets, novelists, folklorists, essayists or, to judge by the worst ratings in Fall Classic history, television viewers. They were too cursed to even have a curse. Since they last won a championship in 1917, the White Sox had thrown as many World Series (1919) as they had legitimately lost (1959). It was a most unremarkable 88-year drought, producing little angst but frequent switches in the Sox' logos, colors and uniforms, as if they were hiding in baseball's witness-protection program.
The 2005 White Sox raised the profile of the franchise, attaining not just a championship but a level of historical greatness that seemed unlikely even to the players themselves. Greatness? The White Sox? This team, which joined the 1997 Florida Marlins, a one-hit, wild-card wonder, as the only world champions without a .300 hitter or a 20-game winner? Yes, the Sox' greatness was derived from how well they played the game together rather than from their individual talent. The record shows it.
Only two teams in baseball history have won wire to wire, had the most victories in their league and also swept the World Series: the 1927 Yankees and the 2005 White Sox. Those were the Murderers' Row Yanks, one of the iconic teams in sports. The '05 Sox bludgeoned no one. They did not commit murder; misdemeanors were more like it. They did whatever it took to beat you and no more than that. They took the game from you, but let you keep your dignity.
Fittingly, the White Sox pulled off the most underwhelming sweep in World Series history. They became the first team to sweep the Series while winning every game by one or two runs, and their cumulative six-run advantage tied the 1950 Yankees for thinnest margin in a Series sweep. They never beat a Houston starting pitcher; they scored the tie-breaking runs in the fourth, ninth, 14th and eighth innings; and they became the first team to twice hit a game-deciding home run in the ninth inning or later of a postseason series. What's more, the two guys who belted them, Scott Podsednik in Game 2 and Geoff Blum in Game 3, had combined to hit one homer for the Sox in the regular season.
Game 4 was the perfect finale for the team that, as Astros outfielder Orlando Palmeiro said after making the last out, "played a little better than us every time." Chicago joined the '62 Yankees as the only teams to clinch the World Series by winning a 1--0 game on the road. The run they scratched out was classic White Sox baseball, executed with the subtle precision of a pickpocket.
Willie Harris, a bench player who hadn't scored a run for 40 days and 40 nights, smacked a 97-mph fastball from Houston closer Brad Lidge for a pinch-hit single. Harris moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by leadoff hitter Podsednik, reached third on a groundout by Carl Everett and scored on a ground ball single up the middle by Series MVP Jermaine Dye.
It was the 20th time, including the postseason, that the Sox cut the heart out of their opponent by one run on the road. Only the 1970 Orioles, a ball club that rolled to 108 wins, had more such victories (22). The 2005 White Sox also matched that mighty Orioles team with one of the greatest finishing kicks ever. The Sox ended their championship run on a 16--1 tear, including 11--1 in games decided by one or two runs, 11--0 on the road and 11--1 in the postseason. They lost only one game over the final 29 days, the American League Championship Series opener to the Los Angeles Angels 3--2. No other team except those '70 Orioles, who finished 18--1, earned a world championship by winning 16 of its last 17 games.
"We played our best all-around baseball in the postseason," Konerko says. "We swung the bats better in October than we did in May. That doesn't make sense. It shouldn't be like that when you're facing the pitching you see in the playoffs.