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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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2005 World Series
Ex-Ray Blum's reality exceeds his dreams
By MARC TOPKIN
Published October 27, 2005
HOUSTON - Geoff Blum admits there have been times, such as the April 2004 day he had a heated dugout confrontation with then-Rays manager Lou Piniella, when he didn't know where his baseball career was headed.
But early Wednesday morning, after ending the longest game in World Series history with the biggest hit of his life, he knew he'd likely end up among baseball's postseason legends, with his bat headed to Cooperstown.
"It's incredibly surreal," Blum said before Wednesday's game, still in disbelief despite watching numerous replays and getting dozens of congratulatory calls. "You try to imagine these situations and how you'd do. My imagination didn't live up to the reality."
It would have been hard for anyone to imagine this:
A guy who'd gone 21 days without playing, 24 days without a hit and 56 days without driving in a run hitting a home run against his former Astros teammates in the 14th inning of the longest World Series game to put the White Sox on the brink of their first championship in 88 years.
Blum's blast that gave the Sox a 7-5 win was only part of the seemingly neverending story:
At 5 hours and 41 minutes it was the longest game in Series history by a numbing 50 minutes, surpassing the 4:51 opener of the 2000 Mets-Yankees matchup.
At 14 innings, it matched the longest as Boston beat Brooklyn in Game 2 of the 1916 Series - with winner Babe Ruth and loser Sherry Smith both pitching complete games.
After Jason Lane's homer to lead off the fourth, the Astros sent 47 men to the plate and got exactly one hit, going 1-for-34 with 11 walks, a hit batter and an error.
The 17 pitchers combined to throw 482 pitches, including 194 balls.
Chicago's Mark Buehrle became the first pitcher in Series history to have a start and a save in consecutive games.
Records set include pitchers (17) and players (43) used, men left on base (30) and walks (21 total, 12 issued by the Sox).
The Astros lifted off to a good start in Game 3, taking a 4-0 lead with ace Roy Oswalt on the mound. The Sox rallied for five runs in the fifth. The Astros tied it in the eighth. And neither team could get a runner home until Blum, who hadn't played since Oct. 4, knocked a 2-and-0 pitch from Ezequiel Astacio on a line drive just over the rightfield fence.
"The first pitch I was definitely taking because I hadn't seen a pitch in three or four weeks," he said. "I wanted to gauge the velocity a little bit, see if I was seeing one ball or three."
The season has already been a blur for Blum. After being let go by the Rays, he signed with the Padres to be near his Southern California home. His wife had triplets, who required extended hospitalization. He was shocked, and saddened, to be traded in July to the White Sox. He adapted to a limited role in good but dark humor, joking often that he was only there for the champagne celebrations.
But when it mattered most, he came through.
"I've had about a hundred of these at-bats in my back yard with my brother and a couple of Wiffle balls," Blum said. "It means the world right now. It's the stuff dreams are made of."
Blum entered the game in the bottom of the 13th as part of a double switch, but he almost didn't get the chance. Sox manager Ozzie Guillen admitted Wednesday that he'd actually written Pablo Ozuna's name on his lineup card and decided at the last minute to use Blum because he was a switch-hitter and a better defensive second baseman.
Blum just appreciated the opportunity.
"It's pretty unbelievable how things worked out," he said. "It came down to the last man standing. We were running out of bodies on the bench and some of guys were getting tired and hungry. It worked out well."
Blum's time with the Rays didn't go well. Acquired for Brandon Backe and expected to compete for the starting third-base job, he had problems on the field (hitting .215) and issues with the staff, especially hitting coach Lee Elia and Piniella, and it became public during their pregame dugout confrontation in Boston.
"That was probably the beginning of the end that day," Blum said. "I always had faith in myself that things would work out, but at that given moment I was definitely questioning where things were going."
But early Wednesday, his biggest questions were whether he could get past first-base coach Tim Raines and make it all the way home.
"The first thing I'm thinking is how am I going to hit Tim Raines' hand and give him a high five and make it around the bases," Blum said. "I don't think I blinked or looked at anybody until I made it to home plate and knew it was for real."