@SOXNERD 2005 FLASHBACK: TITLE RAMBLINGS!

On the 11th anniversary of the White Sox winning the World Series, here is a column I wrote shortly after the victory parade (“Fishing from my stream of consciousness” was a bit I had as a columnist):

Fishing from my World Series stream of consciousness:

Wow: World Champion Chicago White Sox.

Ticker tape parades.

Throngs of fans greeting the team at the airport.

Even a day later, it all seems so unbelievable. It will take some getting used to. …

(A few observations) …

He’s the man: As a player with the White Sox, Ozzie Guillen was the American League Rookie of the Year, a two-time All-Star, a Gold Glove winner and a major contributor on a division-winning team.

As a manager with the White Sox, Guillen completely changed the mindset of the franchise while guiding the club to only its third World Series championship and its first since 1917.

Through it all, despite some bizarre comments and a few verbal skirmishes with fans, Guillen has sustained his popularity.

Based on that, I deem Guillen the most significant figure in the 105-year history of the Chicago American League Ballclub.

Happy 76th! How fitting was it that Wednesday was Roland Hemond’s birthday?

Hemond spent his birthday soaking in the Sox’s clinching win in the World Series in Houston in his capacity as executive advisor to general manager Ken Williams.

Hemond, who served as White Sox general manager from 1971 to 1985, pulled off the trade that first brought Guillen to the White Sox.

On Dec. 6,1984, Hemond made the bold move of dealing former Cy Young winner LaMarr Hoyt and minor leaguers Todd Simmons and Kevin Kristan to the San Diego Padres for Guillen, an unknown with no big-league experience, and pitchers Tim Lollar and Bill Long.

So long: Sadly, Wednesday marked John Rooney’s final game as White Sox play-by-play man.

It was revealed late in the regular season that Rooney would not be returning to the booth for a 19th season calling White Sox games in 2006. Ed Farmer, Rooney’s partner for the last 14 years, will be back next year and beyond.

Rooney, who called White Sox games with so much class since 1988, went out describing a White Sox World Series winner.

FYI: Only the legendary Bob Elson, aka “The Commander,” announced White Sox games longer than Rooney.

A look back: Wednesday’s Kenosha News ran stories on the front page and on the sports front trumpeting the White Sox World Series victory.

The headline on the front page of the sports section was 150-points, a rarity in this business.

On Oct. 16,1917, the Kenosha News announced the White Sox’s World Series title to its readers with a page 13 story and a modest headline that read, “White Sox Win World Series.”

Oddities: First baseman Paul Konerko made the final putout in all four of the White Sox 2005 clinching victories. … The White Sox ended the season just as they started it on Opening Day with a 1-0 victory.

Memory: Aside from the obvious postseason moments, my favorite White Sox memory of 2005 occurred on a Sunday afternoon at U.S. Cellular Field.

On Aug. 21, the White Sox were in dire need of a victory. The team had lost seven in a row by a combined score of 42-20 and the seemingly insurmountable lead atop the American League Central appeared to be diminishing.

The fact that the White Sox were facing Randy Johnson and the Yankees on that 78-degree day compounded the feeling of doom.

The White Sox lineup card didn’t provide much solace either.

While the Yankees fielded a team that included Derek Jeter, Gary Sheffield, Alex Rodriguez, Hideki Matsui, Bernie Williams and Timo Martinez, Guillen’s lineup card had Pablo Ozuna at third, Chris Widger behind the plate, Brian Anderson in left and Geoff Blum at first.

No problem.

The Sox clubbed four home runs off the “Big Unit” in the fourth inning en route to a rousing 6-2 win.

When Widger capped the outburst with a three-run bomb off a pitch at his eyes, I knew 2005 was not going to be a typical Sox season.

Two months and five days later, I was proven right.

And I still can’t believe it.

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@SOXNERD 2005 FLASHBACK: FLY THE PENNANT!

Back in the day, everything I wrote exceeded 140 characters.

I had a column at my still-current employer where I could freestyle.

Those days are looooooooooooooooooong gone but the columns are embedded in the archives never to be forgotten.

Much like the White Sox 2005 season.

With the 10-year anniversary of the White Sox historic season, I thought I would share a few of the columns I penned then.

Here is my piece in the wake of the White Sox winning the American League pennant:

The Chicago White Sox are American League champions.

Blink twice. Rub your eyes. Read it again.

Much to the dismay of Fox and ESPN, it is not the Yankees or the Red Sox.

The Chicago White Sox are American League champions.

Saturday, the White Sox will be playing in the World Series.

To Ozzie and the boys, this long-time Sox fan says thank you.

A few more thank yous:

… from those of us who stood on the 35th Street “L” platform on a cold spring night or an out-of-contention fall evening watching the traffic on the Dan Ryan Expressway whiz by just feet away

… from those who suffered through Terry Bevington, Harry Chappas, Royce Clayton, Cory Snyder, Juan Agosto, Steve Sax, Claudell Washington, Rick Seilheimer and all the other busts and disappointments

… from those of us who have frozen, baked and battled the many posts and narrow aisles at the old park

… from those of us who had our own section at the new park

… from those who hate the Cubs

… from those of us who cringe at the name Lee Stevens

… from those of us who are sick and tired of hearing about curses, shoeless legends and Black Sox

… from Ray Schalk, Eddie Collins, Dickie Kerr and those of that era who were just Sox and not Black Sox

… from those who suffered through the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s (five first-division finishes)

… from those who “go-go-ed” with Billy, Chico, Looie, Nellie and Minnie

… from those of us who have sat … and sat … and sat in traffic en route to the Southside

… from those of us who recall the helplessness and heartbreak of 1994

… from those of us who remember how to get to the park before the Red Line

… from those of us who have sang (and do sing) along with Nancy Faust

… from those of us who suffered through the playoff frustrations of 1983, 1993 and
2000

… from those of us who remember the “Hooter,” Andy The Clown, Sox-O-Grams, “Lighter Man” and White Owl wallops

… from those who remember the artificial turf infield at the old park

… from those who heard the sirens in 1959

… from those of us who chanted “Har-old! Har-old!”

… from those of us who remember “SoxFest” as the 1985 team slogan and not a winter get-together

… from those of us who battled their rabbit-ears to watch Sox games on TV

… from those of us who hoisted a few at McCuddy’s

… from those of us who have exclaimed “YES!” “Put it on the board” and “He gone!”

… from those of us who have come full circle on elder statesman Frank Thomas

… from those of us who have cursed the White Sox one minute and then embraced them the next

… from those of us who love the bunt, the stolen base, going the other way, taking a strike, hitting the cutoff man, giving yourself up to advance a runner

… from those who have been reveling in White Sox winners…

THANK YOU!

I have been around long enough to know that championships aren’t the reason you invest emotionally in a team.

I consider this pennant -— just the fifth in 105-year history of the franchise -— a thank you card from the White Sox. I received a similar greeting
when Marquette -— my alma mater -— advanced to the Final Four in 2003.

Marquette, though, wasn’t able to do the thing I am hoping the White Sox can do:

GO THE DISTANCE.

And, of course, they did!

2005 GAME 3 RECALL: @SOXNERD STYLE

 A few of the many things I love about Game 3 of the 2005 World Series, which the White Sox won in Houston 11 years ago today … tomorrow!
*Geoff Blum fronted the White Sox for good with a laser beam of a home run in the 14th inning. The at bat was Blum’s first and only one in the Fall Classic.
*Blum entered the game at second base as part of a double switch in the bottom of the 13th. Blum is the only Sox second baseman to homer in the World Series.
*Mark Buehrle got the final out on sheer guts for the save. It was Buehrle’s first and only Major League save and his first save since his first year of pro ball at Class-A Burlington in 1999.
*Buehrle’s relief appearance was his first since the 2000 regular season finale. He hasn’t made a relief outing since then.
*Joe West was the left field umpire. He did refrain from calling a balk on Buehrle in the 14th.
*Damaso Marte was the winning pitcher in his last appearance in a White Sox uniform.
*Chris Widger ended the game behind the plate for the Sox. It was “the Widge’s” only postseason game in 2005.
*Roland Hemond watched the epic from the stands in his role as an advisor to Sox general manager Ken Williams.
Because of the length of Game 3, that contest and clinching Game 4 fell on his birthday.
“It was hard to describe,” said Hemond, a baseball lifer who was the Sox GM from 1970 to 1985.
“It was very emotional for me. That’s the ultimate of my career.”
*The only Sox who did not play in Game 3 were Jose Contreras, Freddy Garcia and Pablo Ozuna.

The Sox “Fat Signal:” Jenks, Ozzie and … Max Surkont?

Eleven years ago today, manager Ozzie Guillen summoned closer Bobby Jenks from the White Sox bullpen using the “fat signal.”

In the eighth inning of Game 1 of the World Series, Guillen put Jenks on the bump after demonstratively holding his arms out by his side on his trip to the mound.

Guillen made this motion because there had been some confusion earlier over which pitcher he wanted from the pen.

When Guillen flashed that indicator, there was no doubt it was Jenks he wanted. At 6-foot-4 and 275 pounds, “Big Bad Bobby” was the only Sox reliever who could be summoned to the rubber by that call.

Jenks, a 24-year-old rookie in his 35th big league appearance, ambled into duty with two on, two out and the Sox clinging to a one-run lead with the Astros’ imposing Jeff Bagwell ready to hit.

With Guillen’s antics not even an afterthought, Jenks blew away Bagwell and then breezed through the ninth to save the Sox 5-3 win and send the franchise on its way to its first title in 88 years.

In the wake of the win and Jenks’ electrifying performance, Guillen’s signaling antics were met with much affection.

Ozzie was not the first Sox manager to flash the “fat signal” to call a hurler into action.

Portly (by standards of the day) pitcher Max Surkont, who – like Jenks — was once summoned from the bullpen by a Sox manager using the “fat signal.”

Surkont, listed by baseballreference.com at 6-foot-1, 195-pounds, led the 1949 White Sox with 49 appearances while going 3-5 with four saves and a 4.78 ERA.

The yuks that accompained Guillen’s schtick were not presence when Surkont was singled out because of his weight.

When the Sox trimmed Surkont Feb. 5, 1950, the Chicago Tribune headline blared: “Sox release Surkont and his appetite.” The Tribune reported Surkont’s “tendency toward heft not only handicapped the righthander, but sometimes was a source of family embarrassment, according to accounts.”

One such source was manager Jack Onslow’s using the “fat signal” to bring in Surkont from the pen. Surkont asked for a halt to the practice because it offended his wife.

Said the Tribune, “The situation, however, did not cause Max to stay away from the chuckwagon and that’s the main reason he’s departed.”

The 27-year old Surkont was 3-5 with a 4.78 ERA for the 1949 Sox wearing No. 16, the number Ted Lyons made famous.

When he was shipped to Sacramento after that season, he was never seen by the Sox again.

Happily, the same can’t be said for the “fat signal.”

XMAS IN SEPTEMBER: @SOXNERD STYLE


I have tweaked this post on various sites around Christmas but with today’s anniversary, July,” I’d thought I’d reprise it …

The only player in Major League history with the last name Christmas played 12 of his 24 big league games with the 1986 White Sox.

Catcher Steve Christmas hit .364 with a double, a clutch home run and four RBIs in his time with the White Sox.

The Sox “Christmas Story” began on Nov. 21, 1983 when the left-handed hitter was acquired from the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for infield prospect Fran Mullins.

Christmas, who hit .059 in nine games with 1983 Reds, was a non-roster invitee to spring training in Sarasota, Fla., but began 1984 at the White Sox Triple-A affiliate at Denver where his teammates included Jerry Manuel, Ron Karkovice, Tim Hulett, Daryl Boston, Joel Skinner and Larry Rothschild.

Christmas’ first stint with the Sox came from June 12 to June 22. The native of Orlando, Fla., was brought to Chicago when Carlton Fisk went on the disabled list.

Christmas didn’t see any time behind the plate as the Sox went with the highly-touted Skinner in Fisk’s absence. Christmas’ first action with the Sox finally came on June 14 when he grounded out as a pinch-hitter for Jerry Dybzinski.

Two days later, Christmas delivered a pinch-RBI single in the ninth inning of a 6-4 loss at Oakland. Christmas was hitting for Scott Fletcher and got his hit off of Oakland closer Bill Caudill.

In his next appearance, Christmas came through again, this time notching a one-out pinch-double off future Sox “gas can” Mike Stanton in the ninth inning of an 8-2 loss at Seattle June 19.

Christmas was returned to Denver after the White Sox 8-6 win over the Twins June 22 in Minnesota. Christmas finished the season at Denver where he helped the Bears earn a spot in the American Association playoffs. Denver upset the Cubs’ Iowa affiliate in five games in the semifinal round before bowing to Louisville in five games in the championship series.

Christmas, who shared time behind the plate with Skinner, Karkovice and Jamie Quirk, hit .278 with four homers and 29 RBIs during the regular season for Denver.

He returned to the White Sox for the rest of the season in early September.

Christmas made his Comiskey Park debut in a 5-4 loss to Oakland on Sept. 5, 1984 when he was retired for the second out pinch-hitting for Vance Law in the ninth.

After another unsuccessful pinch-hitting appearance Sept. 8, 1984 against the Angels at Comiskey Park, Christmas made his lone defensive appearance with the Sox. On Sept. 16, 1984 in Anaheim, Christmas entered the game in the eighth inning at catcher. He played one inning in the 4-2 setback, catching Richard Dotson and could not throw out Gary Pettis trying to steal.

The next time Christmas took the field he made things merry for the Sox.

31 years ago today, on Sept. 19, 1984, Christmas, pinch-hitting for Marc “The Booter” Hill, launched a three-run pinch-homer in the seventh inning to break a 3-3 tie in a 7-3 win at Minnesota.

The blast, which victimized the team that drafted and signed Christmas, came off Mike Smithson with Greg Walker and Dybzinski on base as the defending American League West champs barely stayed alive in the division race (nine games back with 11 to play).

The next day, Christmas posted what turned out to be his final hit with the Sox.

He led off the 13th with a single off Ron Davis batting for Hill and was then lifted for pinch-runner Rudy Law. The Sox couldn’t parlay Christmas’ last gift to the Sox into a run and wound up losing 5-4 to the Twins in the next inning.

That hit peaked Christmas’ average and on-base percentage at a whopping .571 and placed his slugging percentage at a more-than-robust 1.143.

From there, Christmas went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts to close out his Sox career.

Christmas first time ended for the Sox on Dec. 10 when they released him. A little more than a month later, it was Christmastime again for the Sox as they signed him with a free agent.

Christmas received another non-roster invitee to spring training but he did not make the club nor did he appear with the Sox during the 1985 season. Christmas spent 1985 at the Sox Triple-A affiliate in Buffalo where he manned third base and appeared some at designated hitter.

Playing for John Boles, who would later manage the Flordia Marlins, Christmas finished fourth in the American Association with a .298 average while finishing second on the Bisons to Joe DeSa (17) with 16 home runs.

Following the season, Christmas was granted free agency and signed with the Cubs thus closing the book on the Sox “Christmas Story.”

AN UNDERRATED ’05 MEMORY: WIDGE TO THE RESCUE!

Aside from the obvious postseason moments, my favorite White Sox memory of 2005 occurred on a Sunday afternoon at U. S. Cellular Field by a little-known contributor acquired on this date in 2005.

Eleven years ago today, the White Sox were in dire need of a victory. The team had lost seven in a row by a combined score of 42-20 and the seemingly insurmountable lead atop the American League Central was evaporating.

The fact that the White Sox were facing Randy Johnson and the Yankees on that 78-degree day compounded the feeling of doom.

The White Sox lineup card didn’t provide much solace either.

While the Yankees fielded a team that included Derek Jeter, Gary Sheffield, Alex Rodriguez, Hideki Matsui, Bernie Williams and Tino Martinez, Ozzie Guillen’s lineup card had Pablo Ozuna at third, Chris Widger behind the plate, Brian Anderson in left and Geoff Blum at first.

No problem.

The Sox clubbed four home runs off the “Big Unit” in the fourth inning en route to a rousing 6-2 win.

When Widger capped the outburst with a three-run bomb off a pitch at his eyes, I knew 2005 was not going to be a typical Sox season.

Two months and five days later, I was proven right.

And I still can’t believe it.

96 YEARS AGO TODAY: LOOK AT THESE NAMES!

In one of the more eventful days in the early history of the franchise, the White Sox used the contributions of Red Faber, Joe Jackson, who was born on this date in 1887, and Ed Cicotte in sweeping a doubleheader from the Senators in Washington DC 95 years ago today.

In the opener, Faber bested the great Walter Johnson in a 4-1 triumph. Faber and the Sox handed “The Big Train” his 10th loss of the season. The mound appearance turned out to be the last of the season for Johnson, who was suffering from a sore arm.

In allowing just five hits, Faber, like Johnson bound for the Hall of Fame, halted Sam Rice’s hitting streak at 28 games.

In the nightcap, Jackson celebrated his birthday by hitting an in-the-park grand slam in an 8-5 victory. Jackson’s “inside slam” was just the third in team annals.

Cicotte was the winning pitcher as the third-place Sox closed to within 3.5-games of the A.L. lead.

White Sox nuggets