Thursday, October 27, 2005

My Chicago White Sox

The Chicago White Sox won the World Series.

After being up and out late last night and getting up early this morning to get to work there hasn't been a lot of time to stop and let this soak in. Now it's quiet, and there is time to relax a bit.

In one of the top three most dominate single season performances ever, the White Sox have captured their first championship in 88 years. I've spent the better part of this evening reading the thoughts of Chicago's columnists and watching various news clips covering the celebrations. This column stood out to me over all the others and actually put tears in my eyes.

Ironically it's written by the Tribune's Pulitzer Prize winning cultural critic.

Baseball, in its glory
Savoring summer's game on a cool autumn evening

By Julia Keller
Tribune staff reporter
Published October 27, 2005

It rose in the autumn sky like a South Side Stonehenge, looking ancient and gray and invincible against the late-afternoon twilight.

This was not where the action was. The action was 1,180 miles away in Houston, where a few hours later the Chicago White Sox would finish off the Houston Astros with a 1-0 victory.

But to drive past U.S. Cellular Field on the same day the Sox won the World Series--to see the ballpark squaring itself pugnaciously against a mud-colored and cloud-clotted horizon, to see it proud and lonely--was to get a sharp chill of insight:

It's over now.

Because even before the game was played, you knew. Your friends knew, too.

The whole city knew. The Sox had it in the bag. They were too good, too poised, too lucky. They were too good to disappoint the city whose name they wear across the fronts of their jerseys, the city that's now second to nobody, thanks to these first-class athletes.

You knew they were going to sweep. You knew Juan Uribe would somehow have that foul ball when he surfaced from the sea of Houston fans in the seats during the climactic ninth inning.

And while knowing it didn't take the edge off--heavens, nothing could do that--you also realized the astonishing, unbelievable 2005 season is history.

History. As in something you study, something preserved under glass.

You're happy--who wouldn't be?--but maybe a little sad, too, ever so slightly. "Aye, in the very temple of Delight/Veiled Melancholy has her sovereign shrine," wrote John Keats in his poem "Ode on Melancholy."

He never saw the Sox play, but he wrote as if he did.

Baseball ends in autumn. The World Series is played on days when the sun slips away earlier and earlier, when by 5 p.m. the sky in places such as Chicago is the color of iron filings, when the air is getting cold enough to pinch.

The World Series wraps up, that is, at a time of year when endings are what we're thinking about. Endings, not beginnings. And what gives the Sox victory Wednesday night itspoignant perfection is the fact it won't ever happen again.

Oh, yes, the team might win again next year. But it won't be the same team.

It won't be the same way. It won't be these guys and those games and this vivid assemblage of plays.

Those pure moments: Joe Crede's fielding, in which the glove interrupts the ball's trajectory like a new law of physics, one that insists that balls can't cross a plane inhabited by the leather on Crede's left wrist. Bobby Jenks' sizzling set-down of Astros batters in Games 1 and 4, when the sight of the pitcher's broad back as he fell forward to throw was as reassuring as watching the bodaciously thick door of a bank vault swing shut. And the home runs, of course, such as Geoff Blum's blistering blast in the 14th inning of Game 3, as most of the nation slept.

Baseball is played in the summer but ends in the autumn, when the light starts to fail and kids are called inside early, taken reluctantly from their games in vacant lots and dead-end streets. The moments are precious because they perish. The joy is special because it's temporary. "Death is the mother of beauty," wrote Wallace Stevens. What makes today so amazing--the first full day after the Sox victory--is that it is unique in the history of the world. And will remain so. Cherish it, because it is moving steadily out of your reach.

Does that mean we shouldn't celebrate, shouldn't revel? Of course not. A South Sider who also happened to be one of the greatest of 20th Century poets--the late Gwendolyn Brooks--had some advice on that point. "Exhaust the little moment./Soon it dies./And be it gash or gold/It will not come again/In this identical disguise." That would be Brooks' eloquent way of saying: Party, people. But know that the sun goes down and the day ends, all the same.

Brendan Boyd's novel "Blue Ruin" (1991), a tragi-comical tale about the 1919 Series, has been mentioned before in these pages during this great Sox run, but it's good enough for another go-round. When Arnold Rothstein, the gambler who bankrolled the sorry deal, runs into the kid who dreamed up the fix, Rothstein is rueful. "If you pull this off," Rothstein says, "your life will be over. You'll have gotten exactly what you wanted."

A city that can never quite figure out where it belongs in the world is now sitting on top of it. A city that gets tired of apologizing for not being New York or Los Angeles suddenly doesn't have to apologize for anything. It's a great and glorious moment, and yes, it will pass, superseded by other moments.

Like U.S. Cellular Field, that even now is hunkering down like a big iron barrel stave, waiting for the return of spring, it's enough that this day is what it is. We know what we have. We know who we are: Winners, for the blink of an eye, for the length of a lifetime.

Tonight it hit me what happened. My team won the World Series. Something that, at times, I never thought would happen. Hope? Hope is for Red Sox fans and Cubs fans. This is the second team in the Second City. A team picked to finish third or even fourth in their own division at the beginning of this year. A team that was featured in the lowest rated World Series ever.

Nobody watched, and I couldn’t care less. My team won the World Series.

Baseball truly is the greatest game ever played; and for this year at least, the Chicago White Sox played it better than anyone else in the world.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

I was wrong

The World Series is coming to Chicago.

I can't believe I just typed that. It's even harder to fathom that it's actually true. I know they have to win one more game, but this series is as good as over. No curses. No goats. No Bartman.

The White Sox flat out own the Angels.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

We All Know What's Coming

This is so weird.

I've been a Sox fan since the 6th grade. I was there in '93 for the now forgotten 4-2 loss to the Blue Jays in the ALCS. I stood by in disbelief and watched Kelly Wunsh give up a game tying single to the Mariners late in the first game of the 2000 Divisional Series. An event that seemed set the tone for the rest of that short lived series.

And so, as Sox fans, we've learned are place in baseball. We're here for the rest of the American League to beat up on.

Unlike Cubs fans, we've grown rather accustomed to this position. And so, every spring when the Cubs fans are chirping how this is "their year," we Sox fans sit by silently and wait for the inevitable. Defeat. Oh sure, we'll make the playoffs every 5 or 6 years, whether we need it or not. But early exits and, well, not so much as a single home victory since 1959 has taught us well to reserve our hopes. After all better to downplay any success than to get your hopes up only to have them crushed by reality. See 2000. See 1993. See 1994 for that matter. See 1983. The list goes on.

But then there is this. And this is bizarre.

This is two overly impressive wins against the World Series champs. This is a game one slaughter matched only three times in play off history. This is a game two come back when their "big game" pitcher was practically perfect through 5. Easily the most exciting home run in my life as a White Sox fan. This is looking at the face of the other teams big sticks and striking them out in key situations. This is capitalizing on other teams mistakes. This is clutch hitting when we need it, and shut down pitching and defense against the most potent offense in the AL.

This is gut wrenching. This is tense. This is thrilling. This is exciting. This is fun.

This is not White Sox baseball.

And so, I will continue to not believe. I will continue to expect defeat. After all, this is the White Sox, the doormat of the American League. And they're the Red Sox. Proven champions. Manny Ramirez. Big Poppy. All Stars. Cy Young winners. There's just no way to beat them, and even if they do, what's next? The Yankees? The Angels? Both World Series champs in the last 5 years.

Winners, as in the opposite of the White Sox.