Successor in spirit to Carl Sandburg, Ring Lardner and Studs Terkel, a baseball team on the South Side of Chicago spun a tale last weekend that will outlive this generation of fans. The sons and daughters of the Windy City, the newest of whom began life last week swaddled in White Sox blankets provided by local hospitals, have lived to see a World Series in their town, something no one born since 1959 could have claimed. Not only that, but with two breathtaking wins, the White Sox were halfway to giving Chicagoans under the ripe age of 88 their first look at a world championship. � "Nothing happens," Sandburg wrote, in what could pass for the credo of a Sox fan, "unless first a dream."
Nicholas Konerko did not need to wait long for the dream of a World Series in Chicago to come true. Four days, to be exact. Born Oct. 18 in Scottsdale, Ariz., 10 days before his due date, as if to be sure not to miss the historic event, Nicholas is the firstborn of White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko and his wife, Jennifer. And since he entered the world, the Sox have won more World Series games in Chicago than they had in the 86 years since they infamously threw the 1919 Series.
"He told me," the proud father said with a wink on Sunday, "that I better not come home without the trophy."
Konerko is one of the many proud fathers in Chicago who finally have World Series stories to tell, though his is uniquely personal. He can tell Nicholas about the seventh-inning grand slam he hit on Sunday in Game 2 against the Houston Astros, the first one in Series history to come after the sixth inning and turn a deficit into a lead.
"How lucky am I," Konerko said, "that I hit a grand slam in the World Series and it's still the second-best thing to happen to me this week?"
Houston did recover, scoring two runs in the ninth to tie the game at six, though the rally served only to set up another addition to Chicago's new oral history. White Sox fans will always remember where they were when Scott Podsednik ended the game with a bottom-of-the-ninth home run off closer Brad Lidge, becoming the first player to hit a walkoff Series homer after hitting no home runs in the regular season.
Indeed, this is a whole new world, not just for little Nicholas but for the rest of White Sox Nation and even for major league baseball. That the Sox, largely unloved and unremarkable for 88 years, would play in the World Series against the similarly vanilla Astros, who had never been to the Series in their previous 43 seasons of existence, signaled the death of baseball's October elitism. The Fall Classic has become a model of democracy.
It's not just that baseball will crown as champion its sixth different franchise in six years, something the sport hasn't done since 1982-90 (when nine different teams won), the NBA hasn't done since 1975-80 and the NFL hasn't done since 1968-73. It's not just that the past 10 World Series berths have been filled by nine different teams, including six that had combined for zero championships since 1954 ( Diamondbacks, Angels, Giants, Red Sox, White Sox and Astros).
A beaming commissioner Bud Selig, who helped create the six-division, wild-card format in 1994 and increased revenue sharing among clubs in 2002, said on the field before Game 1 about such democracy, "This wouldn't have been possible eight or nine years ago. You bet it's encouraging."
More than that, though, this matchup proved that World Series Version 2.0 does not require great teams with great players.
The 101st Fall Classic featured:
? the first matchup between teams that ranked no higher than ninth in their respective leagues in runs;
? the longest combined championship 0-fer (0 for 131 seasons, or 0 for 228 if you include the Cubs' contribution to Chicago's drought);
? no .300 hitter for the first time since 1973;
? the fifth team in the last four Series that finished the regular season in second place. Houston won a wild-card spot without ever seriously contending for its division title. It fell eight games out of first place only 30 games into the season and never drew closer, finishing 11 games in arrears of the National League Central champion Cardinals.