A Journey to the Top
November 2, 2005 by Danny Sternfield • Print Story •
Just a city boy, born and raised in south Detroit
With all due respect to Journey and former frontman Steve Perry, the story of the 2005 White Sox and their special season had absolutely nothing to do with the Motor City, and everything to do with the city of Chicago.
The world champion White Sox — Chicagoans still pinch themselves when they hear those words uttered — used a combination of grit and guile to take the title. During the postseason, the team adopted Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" as their unofficial theme song. While few actually credited any of the Sox' success to the song, the lyrics proved prophetic.
For a smile, they can share the night
It goes on and on and on and on
Just like the instant classic that was Game 3 of the World Series, the White Sox kept going — all year long.
When Juan Uribe misplayed a ball at short in the bottom of the 14th, visions of former Cubs shortstop Alex Gonzalez emerged. Gonzalez' error in the 2003 NLCS opened the door for the Marlins, who like the Sox, took advantage of every break presented to them.
But as the Sox drove toward history, fate clearly rode shotgun.
The Sox shared a collective smile with long-suffering fans on several nights, like when third baseman Joe Crede hit his second home run of the game into the Chicago night to win a crucial late-season contest against the charging Indians.
Or the damp night in October when slugger Paul Konerko turned around the first pitch from Astros reliever Chad Qualls for a grand slam. If the smiles were big after that shot, the grins were no doubt ear-to-ear when Great Scott Podsednik ended Game 2 of the World Series in the ninth with a solo smash, sending Sox fans home very wet and very happy.
Boston has Carlton Fisk waving the ball fair. Los Angeles has Kirk Gibson pumping his arms around the bases. And now Chicago has Pods Almighty shaking his fist.
Strangers waiting, up and down the boulevard
Not much is stranger than 30-year-old rookie second baseman Tadahito Iguchi, who manager Ozzie Guillen called the team's MVP, coming straight from Japan to contribute with a .278 average and 15 home runs during the regular season.
Or a starting staff that hurled four consecutive complete games in the postseason for the first time since the 1956 World Series, when the Yankees accomplished the feat against Brooklyn.
Working hard to get my fill, everybody wants a thrill
Hard work epitomized the 2005 White Sox, from GM Kenny Williams' vigilant retooling of the team prior to the season, to their league-best 52-29 regular-season road record, to Sox legend Frank Thomas' pursuit to get back on the field and make an impact, which he did in midseason, hitting home runs at a Ruthian pace (12 in 34 games).
Guillen led this group to the ultimate prize, but it was his selflessness that really rubbed off on the team. The former White Sox shortstop and 1985 AL Rookie of the Year routinely deflected praise in the direction of his players, even letting them celebrate on the field after clinchings without him.
A 41-year-old manager in only his second year on the job, Guillen already knew the golden rule: a manager is only as good as his players.
Some will win, some will lose
Some were born to sing the blues
The Sox didn't stop believing, even in a city filled predominantly with Cubby blue. The local and national media insisted on using the other side of town's reaction as a hook, but the Sox turned the Black Sox inside out and won their first pennant since 1959 and captured their first World Series since 1917.
What once was solely a South Side team had morphed into a city team, as the Art Institute of Chicago's bronze lions donned White Sox caps (the first time that had happened since the 1985 Bears ruled the Windy City), as did the Picasso sculpture downtown.
A blues town embraced a white-hot team. Even the lovable losers less than 10 miles north of U.S. Cellular Field sang the Sox' praises. In a sign that the apocalypse may have appeared in Chicago, the electronic sign outside Wrigley Field read, "Congratulations Chicago White Sox."
Don't stop believin'
Hold on to the feelin'
While backup Angels catcher Josh Paul may or may not have held on to the dropped third strike in the ALCS, the Sox definitely held on to the momentum, and never let go.
When a 15-game division lead slipped to one-and-a-half, the Sox in effect began playing playoff baseball games. Williams and others around the team pointed to that late-season pressure as a key to the Sox' mental toughness and success in the postseason.
While the city and the pundits prepared for a historic collapse, the Sox steadied themselves and refused to veer from what got them there, which was strong starting pitching, solid defense and timely hitting.
Almost every World Series champion in history believed they could win, but it was rare to find a team that stood alone in that belief.
It was almost laughable to suggest at the beginning of the playoffs that the Sox would win the World Series. Not only did they have history working against them, they had been pegged 2005's version of the Mariners team that won 116 regular-season games in 2001, only to lose in the ALCS to the Yankees.
As the postseason began, the media argued that playoff-tested teams like the Red Sox, Yankees, and Angels would show the Sox a thing or two. Everything would change.
But the more things change, the more they stay the same.
The San Diego Padres limped into the 2005 playoffs looking more like a third-place team than division champs. Meanwhile, the world champion White Sox — it starts to roll off the tongue after a while — entered the postseason on a five-game winning streak, looking very much like a team that won 99 games during the regular season.
The Padres got less than no respect and played true to form, getting swept by the Cardinals while never even holding a lead in the series.
The Sox played true to form as well, thoroughly dominating the postseason and giving the world no choice but to believe in them.
A singer in a smokey room
A smell of wine and cheap perfume
The Sox sang and celebrated throughout the season, first in Detroit, then again in Boston, then a bit rowdier in Anaheim, and finally like little leaguers in Houston when they won it all. And the smell of cigar smoke — created in part by much-maligned Sox Owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who added a World Series trophy to his six NBA titles with the Bulls — was ubiquitous.
Perry was in attendance for every game of the World Series, and said before Game 2 of suddenly finding a place in baseball lore, "You could hope maybe things would happen like this, but you can hope, and it never happens."
But it did happen. And as Reinsdorf celebrated with his African American GM and Latin American manager, both of whom he has said he considered sons, the group of three reflected on what they had accomplished.
And also on the journey.