A roster of good, hungry players added up to a classic team effort, with a touch of fortune.
By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer
Published October 28, 2005
HOUSTON - Contributions from several key players who made up the core of the White Sox's first World Series winner in 88 years were vital. But sitting in a gray championship T-shirt drenched with champagne, manager Ozzie Guillen said what was even more important to their success was the overall makeup of the team.
"Not only do we put the best players on the field, but we put the best team players on the field," Guillen said. "(General manager) Kenny Williams gave me the best guys to fight for me and this team. They stick together. The unity of this team was great. That's why we always feel we can win the game because we're all pulling at the same time."
Unlike teams such as the Yankees and Red Sox, the White Sox did not believe they needed a constellation of stars to win.
Their most productive hitter, Paul Konerko, probably will finish in the top five in the American League MVP voting and make $50-million as a potential free agent, but he isn't a headline name outside of Chicago. Their rotation had the most wins in the American League, but none of their front four - Jose Contreras, Mark Buehrle, Jon Garland and Freddy Garcia - are necessarily top-of-the-deck aces. Their rookie closer, Bobby Jenks, has had an expanding presence, but that's mainly because of his mountainous size and troubled background.
The reality is that their biggest-name player, Frank Thomas, has been injured most of the season. And the most recognizable face on the team is that of Guillen, who manages with the same spunk, passion and candor he showed as a player.
What set them apart is that they have good players who amounted to a great team.
Series MVP Jermaine Dye said he sensed good things were ahead when he met with Williams during the offseason before deciding to sign up.
"He showed me on paper what the makeup of this team would be like," Dye said. "And I know from being around this game long enough that pitching and defense wins. I just knew our starting pitching and our bullpen had the capability of going out there and shutting a lot of teams down.
"With our offense, I knew we were good, not an overpowering offense but an offense that is going to score at least four or five runs and let our pitchers go out there and keep us in the ballgame."
What looked good on paper, Dye said, was even better in person. "From the start of spring training, everybody was hungry," Dye said. "Everybody wanted to go out there and win together. Everybody was pulling on the same rope."
Working together, they won an American League-high 99 games during the regular season, swept the Red Sox out of the first round, lost the ALCS opener then beat the Angels four straight and completed a remarkable 11-1 postseason by sweeping the Astros.
It helped to be good.
And it didn't hurt to be lucky.
For the Sox, it also was a Series of fortunate events.
Houston ace Roger Clemens, counted on as a major factor, is limited to two innings in Game 1 due to injury. Umpire Jeff Nelson doesn't see what everyone else does and rules that Dye is hit by a pitch, leading to Konerko's Game 2 grand slam. Scott Podsednik doesn't have a homer during the entire regular season and hits a walkoff blast to end Game 2. Geoff Blum hasn't played in three weeks and hits a homer to win Game 3 after nearly six hours. Juan Uribe goes into the stands to catch a foul ball at a critical moment in Game 4 and not a single Houston fan - hello, Steve Bartman of Cubs playoff infamy - thinks to get in his way.
"Teams that win the World Series have to have improbable things happen," Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said amid the champagne celebration. "That's why it's so hard to win year after year no matter how good you are."