Experience 2005: early April voicemails

Thanks, Dad: You know I recognize your voice, right?


As the 2005 season got underway, I started to keep things — ticket stubs, newspaper articles — and I began to jot thoughts down. I started an essay after the 2005 season that I never finished. All of those writings have never seen the light of day, but here we are, 15 years later, so maybe it’s a good time to drag them out. Some of these entries will be full-length, others shorter, like this one.

After the Opening Day victory, the Sox win Game 2 of the season in a thrilling, 9th-inning comeback. But they miss the chance to sweep Cleveland in the series finale to start the season 3-0, with the bullpen imploding in the 11th inning.

I get home from work, and there’s a message on my answering machine. “Uh, hi, Laura. This is your dad. (He always announces himself in this way. As if I don’t know.) Looks like the Sox aren’t going 162-0 after all.  Alright, bye.”

***

The Sox have a pattern going: they win the next three series by winning the first two games of each, then dropping the third. Minnesota, Cleveland again, Seattle. The pitching is so good, but I am irked at their inability to get a sweep. Bad sign for the future, I think. It’s all smoke and mirrors. No killer instinct. Blah blah, other cliches.

“Uh, yeah,  hi, Laura. This is your dad. You know, if the Sox win every series, then they’ll win the whole thing. OK, bye, talk to you later.”

[Note from the future: My answering machine – actual tape and all – got quite the workout in 2005.]


 

Today in White Sox History: April 4

caption


1982
One of the most highly-anticipated Opening Days in franchise history got snowed out. The White Sox were set to host Boston and the organization was expecting a crowd of around 50,000. That got torpedoed when a blizzard hammered the entire Midwest, cancelling games for days. In fact, the season didn’t open until April 11 in New York, with a doubleheader win over the Yankees.


1983
The same night North Carolina State upset Houston for the NCAA basketball title, the White Sox opened their division championship season dropping a 5-3 game at Texas. The Sox scored three times in the top of the first but were handcuffed after that. Errors by rookies Scott Fletcher and Greg Walker were costly to pitcher LaMarr Hoyt. The Sox would drop all three games to the Rangers, but rebounded to win 99 of the final 159 to take the division by a record 20 games.


1988
It was Ken Williams’ one moment in the sun as a player. On Opening Day, Williams belted a two-run homer in the fifth inning off of California’s Mike Witt to help the Sox to an 8-5 win. Williams would drive in three runs on the afternoon.


1994
The bittersweet shortened season started in Canada with a rematch of the 1993 ALCS. Toronto won this Opening Day 7-3 by blasting Jack McDowell (the reigning Cy Young Award winner) just as they did twice in the postseason the year before.


2005
The World Series season got off to a great start, as a packed house saw Mark Buehrle and Shingo Takatsu shut out Cleveland 1-0 in a game that took less than two hours! That season the White Sox would roar out of the gate at 26-9, the best 35-game start in franchise history.


 

Experiencing 2005: Opening Day, 4/4/05

Love at first sight: It’s possible Bitmoji has changed her mind about Scotty Pods already.


The day is beautiful, low 60s and sunny, as good as it gets in early April. I’m on the Red Line, rumbling toward the South Side to meet up with Wally. Wally is a Missouri native and a Cardinals fan first and foremost. But the White Sox are his 1(a) team, and he’s nearly as passionate as I am. I know this is for real, because his love for the Sox goes back to the days of Frank, Robin, and Jack McDowell. Wally and I have attended two Sox games together, and they lost both. Badly. This is our last chance, and we both know it. We’re superstitious enough to realize that there is no way we’ll ever attend another game together if we get our third strike today.

The train is screaming through the subway tunnel, and the couple behind me is debating the best way to Midway Airport. The woman says that she called CTA, and they told her to transfer to the Orange Line at Lake. I turn around. “That’s actually not the best way. There are lots of stairs involved, which is annoying with a suitcase, and it’s not that well marked. Transfer at Roosevelt Road. Lots of signs and an escalator. Much easier. In fact, I’m getting off there. You can follow me.”

The woman, Kathy, is grateful. She’s heading to Florida to visit her sister. Her husband, Roger, is wearing a Sox hat. He’s going to Opening Day, too. We trade fan stories for the rest of the trip: best games, favorite players, funniest ballpark memories.

At Roosevelt Road, I guide Kathy to her train. She is genuinely thankful and seemingly a little surprised to find such a friendly soul. It’s good karma, I tell myself. And you need all the good karma you can get on Opening Day.

I meet Wally at a bar on South Michigan Avenue for a drink and remote broadcast by a sports radio team that I like. At the park, I walk to Parking Lot A to step on old home plate. As I do this, a man nearby asks, “Why are you doing that?”

“For luck. I do it every game.” I reply.

“Doesn’t seem to be working,” he grumbles.

“Maybe I just haven’t been doing it enough yet. Maybe luck is cumulative.”

I buy a scorecard outside Gate 4 at a kiosk manned by an older African-American. I decline the pencil, because of course I brought my own.

* * *

“What do you think the keys are to the season?” Wally asks in between handfuls of peanuts.

“Two things,” I say, popping a nut into my mouth, the spent shells falling to my feet. “One: Can Jermaine Dye even come close to replacing Mags in right field? And two: Is A.J. Pierzynski just a troublemaker or is he That Guy that we’ve been needing for so long?”

While nervous about offensive capabilities — new guy Tadahito Iguchi looked terrible in each of his three strikeouts — I’m thrilled with the show of pitching prowess. And other new guy Scott Podsednik does looks to be speedy. Wally and I decide to put a stamp on our euphoria and buy some Sox merchandise. When we get to Grandstand — if they don’t have it in Sox colors, you don’t need it — I can’t believe my eyes: there’s a line to get in. To a store. Selling Sox merchandise. There’s a bouncer at the door and everything. What is this, Studio 54? Wally and I wait in line for 10 minutes, and the bouncer says this is typical early in the season, and when the Sox win. “When they lose,” he says, “people walk by like they got blinders on, like we’re not even here.”

New purchases in hand, Wally and I wander the neighborhood a bit. We come across guys playing bags in the street and drinking Modelo Especial out of the back of their minivan. They invite us to join them, and how can we say no?

We then hit a couple of neighborhood bars, also packed. One bartender shrugs, “On Opening Day, everybody thinks they’re going to win the World Series.”

On our way out of one bar, I run into Roger, my friend from the morning’s El ride, on his way in.

“Must be destiny,” he says. “It’s going to be a good season.”

To top off the day, I win $265 in my NCAA office pool when North Carolina beats Illinois that evening. The only sour note is a local sports columnist’s take on the upcoming season: He writes that White Sox fans have no reason to think this team will be more than .500, they let their best player go, their pitchers are B+ at best, they will be offensively inept. Perhaps he is right, but that doesn’t matter right now.

Tomorrow, I will worry. Today is Opening Day. And anything is possible.

SSHP Podcast 22: Lurker Laura and the 2005 White Sox


Lurker Laura jumps on the podcast to talk about the changes proposed to the 2020 baseball season, including an abridged schedule and shortened draft. And of course, the delicious desert of the podcast is the unveiling of Laura’s diary entries from 2005, her “lost B-Sides” never before published that tell the saga of Carlos Lee, and the triumph of an Opening Day win, and more.

Uh-huh, we’re still on Apple Podcasts.


 

Experiencing 2005: The Offseason

Looking Back: LL Bitmoji didn’t exist in 2005, but man, she would have loved it.


As the 2005 season got underway, and the White Sox were regularly winning two of every three games they played, I started to keep things — ticket stubs, newspaper articles — and I began to jot thoughts down. (I also did this in 1983, at the age of 12, but that’s a retrospective series for another year.) I started an essay after the 2005 season that I never finished. All of those writings have never seen the light of day, but here we are, 15 years later, so maybe it’s a good time to drag them out. Some of these entries will be full-length, others only a paragraph or two. But they were my thoughts and feelings at the time, edited very little in present day. Expect a new post every seven-to-10 days.

I have, stored in a box under my bed, a scorecard from a baseball game. I have many such scorecards from many baseball games, but this one is special. This one told the future. White Sox vs. Twins, Sept. 22, 2004. The Sox won, 7-6, on a bottom-of-the-ninth double by Paul Konerko. Our beloved Mighty Whities, as my dad was fond of calling them, were long out of it by this point, having predictably swooned in September, once again outdone by the Twins. Still, a win is a win is a win, and they must be celebrated. Across the top of the scorecard, in my dad’s block-letter scrawl are the words, “Wait ‘till next year!”

* * *

The 2005 season begins during the Hot Stove league, December 2004. I wake one morning, turn on ESPN, and learn that the White Sox have traded left fielder Carlos Lee, he of lots and lots of home runs, to Milwaukee for some light-hitting guy I’ve never heard of. Scott Podswhositswhatsit?

My first action upon hearing this news is to call my father. I do not make pleasantries, I don’t even say hello. “What do you think?” are the first words out of my mouth.

Dad sighs large, and I imagine him at the kitchen table, maybe just finishing breakfast, rubbing his hand across his forehead in the weary frustration that long-suffering Sox fans know all too well.

“Well, Laura,” he says with an edge of bitterness, “I can tell you this: I’m not real keen on spending $3,000 of my hard-earned money to go see that team.” He and Mom have been considering celebrating their 35th anniversary this summer with a large group gathering at the park; this is the $3,000 of which he speaks. I don’t blame him.

Then in February, Magglio Ordoñez, probably the Sox’s best all-around player, signs with the Tigers. I have been a White Sox fan as long as I can remember, from the moment I knew what a baseball was. I share my dad’s disappointment. I’m bitter, too.

* * *

Winter passes, and so does my bitterness, and even little of my skepticism. At least, I point out to Dad as spring training approaches, when they lose, we’ll see them lose in a different way. We’ve had many seasons of Sox teams that slugged eight, nine, 10 runs in a game and the next day are unable to scrape together a single measly run and lose 2-0. Maybe this year, they’ll lose 3-2. I am interested in seeing this new-look team play.

At a family gathering in mid-March, my parents and I engage in our annual prognosticating.

“I don’t know,” Dad says, sipping a beer in my parents’ basement, one corner of which has been dubbed The Shrine for its collection of Sox memorabilia. The collection is about quality, not quantity — a seat from Old Comiskey anchors the corner, and the only two autographs are from Bill Veeck and Harry Caray (when he was with the Sox, of course). “They’re going to have trouble scoring runs, and the pitching has lots of question marks. I think they’ll win 85 games.”

I shake my head. “I’m more confident. They’re going to be better than that. I say 88 games.” Dad laughs at what passes for confidence — a whopping three games difference.

“You’re both wrong,” my mother challenges. “They’re going to win 100 games.”

I look at her and ask her what the hell pipe she’s smoking.

My optimism eventually becomes strong enough that I decide to do something I’ve never done before: attend Opening Day. [Note from the future: Yes, my very first Opening Day happened to be in 2005. Was this unprecedented event solely responsible for the Sox’s success that year? Discuss in the comments.] I make plans with my friend Wally and consider myself slightly mad as I purchase the tickets. What am I so excited about?


 

Buehrle shines as White Sox win season opener, 1-0

Diamond in the rough: Offense was hard to come by, but Paul Konerko went 2-for-3 with a double, and he scored the only run in today’s victory. (@whitesox_fanly)


Note: With baseball paused for the 2020 season, we’re running some reimagined game recaps in conjunction with NBC Sports Chicago replaying key games of the 2005 White Sox World Series season.


It was a classic pitchers’ duel at US Cellular Field this afternoon, as the White Sox took down Cleveland by a score of 1-0.

White Sox starter Mark Buehrle was on top of his game. Though Cleveland’s hitters only struck out five times in eight innings against him, they struggled to make any kind of sharp contact. Unfortunately, the White Sox’s bats also had trouble, as solving Cleveland starter Jake Westbrook proved to be a difficult task.

The first baserunner of the game for either team was Jermaine Dye, who singled off Westbrook with one out in the second. Dye reached second base on a groundout by Aaron Rowand, but he was stranded at second after A.J. Pierzynski lined out to end the inning. Meanwhile, the first Cleveland baserunner was Victor Martinez, who led off the fifth with a single up the middle. However, that glimmer of hope for Cleveland was dashed on the very first pitch to the next batter, as Aaron Boone grounded into a double play.

The next scoring threat for either team was in the top of the seventh, when Cleveland put runners on first and second with one out. Buehrle fell behind Martinez 2-1, but he made a great pitch to force an easy double play ball to retire the side. As of the seventh-inning stretch, the game was still scoreless. Luckily, the White Sox finally broke through in the bottom half. Slugger Paul Konerko led off with a double into the left field corner for his second hit, becoming the only player with a multi-hit performance. Dye followed by flying out to right, but his fly ball was plenty deep enough to get Konerko to third. Rowand hit a soft grounder to shortstop, but Jhonny Peralta could not handle it, so Konerko scored, and Rowand reached first easily.

The White Sox had a chance to add to the lead, as Rowand stole second, and Pierzynski followed with an infield single (a good play by Cleveland second baseman Ronnie Belliard probably would have gotten A.J. at first, but who cares? A.J. got an infield single to second!) to put runners on the corners. However, Joe Crede grounded into a double play to end the inning.

Fortunately, that run was all the White Sox needed, as Buehrle threw another shutout inning in the eighth, and Shingo Takatsu closed the door with a 1-2-3 ninth inning.

The White Sox open the season with a 1-0 record, while Cleveland drops to 0-1. Freddy García is the White Sox’s probable starter on Wednesday (April 6, 2005), and he is set to take on Kevin Millwood.

Anyway, before I sign off for the day, enjoy these trivia questions from the future:

  1. Which player got the last White Sox single in 2005?
  2. A variation of today’s Aflac Trivia Question: Which pitcher holds the White Sox record for most wins on Opening Day?

Answers

  1. Jermaine Dye, who also got the team’s first single today, as noted earlier.
  2. Mark Buehrle, with four (2002, 2005, 2010, and 2011). Jack McDowell, Billy Pierce, and Chris Sale each had three Opening Day victories with the team.

Five White Sox are elected to the South Side Hit Pen Hall of Fame!

Dynamic duo: Former teammates Harold Baines and Carlton Fisk led five players into our White Sox Hall of Fame. (Topps)


In a phenomenal show of support and cohesion, a record five players were elected to the South Side Hit Pen White Sox Hall of Fame for 2020.

With more than 1,000 votes cast Joe Jackson (81%), Paul Konerko (79%), Carlton Fisk (79%), Harold Baines (78%) and Ed Walsh (75%) all crossed the bar for induction. Walsh, almost unquestionably the greatest pitcher in White Sox history, gains entry thanks to a rounding up of his 74.528% earned in his third year on the ballot.

Player Position Percentage
Joe Jackson Left Fielder 81%
Carlton Fisk Catcher 79%
Paul Konerko First Baseman 79%
Harold Baines Right Fielder 78%
Ed Walsh Right-Handed Starting Pitcher 75%
Ted Lyons Right-Handed Starting Pitcher 62%
Wilbur Wood Right-Handed Pitcher 56%
Robin Ventura Third Baseman 51%
Red Faber Right-Handed Starting Pitcher 42%
Chris Sale Left-Handed Pitcher 39%
Eddie Cicotte Right-Handed Starting Pitcher 37%
Hoyt Wilhelm Right-Handed Relief Pitcher 34%
Ray Schalk Catcher 24%
Sherm Lollar Catcher 21%
Jack McDowell Right-Handed Starting Pitcher 21%
Magglio Ordoñez Right Fielder 20%
Gary Peters Left-Handed Starting Pitcher 18%
Fielder Jones Center Fielder 12%
Tommy John Left-Handed Starting Pitcher 12%
Chet Lemon Center Fielder 11%
Joe Horlen Right-Handed Starting Pitcher 9%
Doc White Left-Handed Starting Pitcher 7%
George Davis Shortstop 7%
Ray Durham Second Baseman 6%
Alexei Ramírez Shortstop 5%
Lance Johnson Center Fielder 4%
Johnny Mostil Center Fielder 3%
José Quintana Left-Handed Starting Pitcher 2%
Matt Thornton Left-Handed Relief Pitcher 1%
Terry Forster Left-Handed Pitcher 1%

By virtue of everyone on the ballot getting at least one vote, nobody drops off for that reason next season. In 2021, five new players will enter the ballot, including José Abreu.

Here are the results of the other elections within the third annual Hall of Fame vote:




Pat Seerey has done very poorly in his two stints in the “moment” vote — and is so disrespected that the amateur White Sox historian who compiles these Hall of Fame articles couldn’t even spell his name right on the ballot (OK, so it might have been like 4 a.m.) — so it might be time to remove him from future voting.







Next year, we’ll have another full slate of players eligible for enshrinement, plus these additional categories. Some of the above will sit a year out in an every-other frequency, and perhaps we’ll even invented a new category or two (suggestions are welcome in the comments, as always).

Thanks to all who participated — you’re the ones who make this all a lot of fun! And stay tuned, because at long last our first South Side Hit Pen White Sox Hall of Fame “plaque” will be published on these pages. We’ll continue to unveil our “plaques” to all winners, throughout the year.


2018 White Sox Hall of Fame winners
Frank Thomas (Hall of Fame Player)
Minnie Miñoso (Hall of Fame Player)
Luis Aparicio (Hall of Fame Player)
Nellie Fox (Hall of Fame Player)
Luke Appling (Hall of Fame Player)
2005 (Season)
Bill Veeck (Contributor)
Exploding Scoreboard (Gimmick)
Disco Demolition (Promotion)
1991 (Uniform)
Ozzie Guillén (Manager)
2005 World Series Sweep (Moment)

2019 White Sox Hall of Fame winners
Mark Buehrle (Hall of Fame Player)
Billy Pierce (Hall of Fame Player)
Eddie Collins (Hall of Fame Player)
1917 (Season)
Nancy Faust (Contributor)
Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye) (Gimmick/Promotion)
Four Straight ALCS Complete Games (2005 Moment)
Mark Buehrle Between-the-Legs (Defensive Play)
Dick Allen (Meteoric Player)
Ozzie Guillén (Character)
Jim Margalus (South Side Sox Member)

 

Today in White Sox History: February 7

Man of action: Ordoñez’s stellar White Sox career came to a crashing end after mystery medical procedures and a war of words. (McFarlane)


2005
After one of the more acrimonious disputes in team history, four-time All-Star Magglio Ordoñez signed a free agent deal with Detroit. Ordoñez engaged Sox management in a war of words over how he was treated, the contract offered to him and his health status. Magglio’s agent, Scott Boras, refused to turn over medical information, which infuriated GM Ken Williams and basically sealed Ordoñez’s fate. Considering the severity of his knee injury, which required a secret trip to Austria for experimental surgery, it was hard to blame the White Sox for their stance. Ordoñez played with the team for six full seasons and parts of two others, with 187 home runs and 702 RBIs.

 

Today in White Sox History: January 27

Defensive all-timer: Few defensive plays have ever been better than Iguchi’s acrobatic assist in 2006. (@WhiteSox)


2005
So who needs scouts? (just joking …) White Sox GM Ken Williams signed Japanese second baseman Tadahito Iguchi after … watching videotape on him. Iguchi turned into a very solid second baseman and second hitter in the lineup, delivering defense, home runs and RBIs to a team that would go on to take the World Series.

Iguchi’s three-run home run in Game 2 of the 2005 ALDS turned the game around against Boston. The following year, Iguchi’s single in the 19th inning on July 9 beat the Red Sox 6-5 — that game was tied for the fifth-longest in franchise history.

On April 15, 2006 Iguchi turned in one of the most incredible defensive plays in MLB history by throwing out Toronto’s Bengie Molina in the ninth inning of a 4-2 White Sox win. Iguchi threw the ball to first base sailing horizontally off the ground and from a most usual throwing angle.

“Coming off the bat, I know it was going to be a tough play but I knew I still had the time to get him out at first base,” Iguchi told reporters after the game. “I knew it wasn’t an impossible position to still make a throw. But I knew if I was going down I might not be coming back up again. Right now, I feel it in my lower back.”

 

Today in White Sox History: January 6

The one and only: A.J., playoff hero, rapscallion, Campbell Soup Kid. (YouTube)


2005
Needing catching help, White Sox GM Ken Williams took a gamble and inked catcher A.J. Pierzynski to a free agent contract. A.J., who had a reputation as a “clubhouse cancer,” turned out to be a model teammate and his contributions to the 2005 World Series champs would be incalculable. Sox announcer Hawk Harrelson pitched A.J. to the front office since he had known the catcher for a number of years.

Two of the most memorable A.J. moments took place in 2005. The first came on June 18, when he hit an opposite-field home run to cap a four-run ninth inning, as the Sox beat the Dodgers, 5-3. The Sox were wearing 1959 replica uniforms for the game.

The second and far more important moment came on October 12, the second game of the ALCS. With the Sox down a game to the Angels and tied in the ninth, Pierzynski struck out then started running to first base as former White Sox player Josh Paul, the Angels catcher, rolled the ball back towards the mound thinking the inning was over. A.J. thought the ball hit the dirt and was trapped, which qualified as a dropped third strike and required a putout at first base. Umpire Doug Eddings agreed, and Pierzynski got the base. The play led to the eventual winning run, evening a best-of-seven series that the Sox went on to win in five games to get to their first World Series since 1959.

Another classic A.J. moment came on May 20, 2006 during a crosstown game at U.S. Cellular Field. Scoring the first run by plowing over catcher Michael Barrett on a sacrifice fly in an eventual 7-0 Sox win, A.J. got tangled up with Barrett while moving back to touch home plate. As he was doing so, he bumped Barrett, which resulted in the Cubs hothead losing it and sucker-punching him. Four players wound up being ejected in the ensuing fight.