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?


 

Today in White Sox History: December 13

Not so bad: Ritchie was a monumental failure for the White Sox, but he was hurt — and the guys swapped out didn’t really sting too badly. (Upper Deck)


1969
The White Sox dealt their star left hander Gary Peters to the Red Sox for Syd O’Brien and Billy Farmer. Farmer retired instead of reporting, so as compensation the Sox received Jerry “Wheat Germ Kid” Janeski. Peters would win 33 games in the next three seasons. Janeski won 10 in 1970 then was shipped to Washington for outfielder Rick Reichardt.

Peters had spent seven full and four partial seasons with the team, with a 20-win season, two All- Star teams and a Rookie of the Year award.


1982
The White Sox outbid 16 other teams to sign free agent pitcher Floyd Bannister to a five year, $4.5 million deal. Bannister had led the American League in strikeouts in 1981. In his five seasons on the South Side, Bannister won in double figures every year, with a high of 16 wins in both 1983 and 1987.

His signing angered Yankee owner George Steinbrenner ,who wasn’t used to losing out on talent that he wanted. Steinbrenner was quoted as saying that he regretted voting against Edward DeBartolo in his bid to buy the Sox franchise from Bill Veeck back in 1980 and leveled verbal blasts at owners Jerry Reinsdorf and Eddie Einhorn.


2001
In his quest to find reliable starting pitching, White Sox GM Ken Williams traded youngsters Kip Wells and Josh Fogg and veteran Sean Lowe to the Pirates for Todd Ritchie. Ritchie would suffer a shoulder injury and have a disastrous 2002 season, going 5-15 with an ERA of 6.06 (4.84 FIP)! Ritchie’s -1.7 bWAR is tied for the 15th-worst pitching season in White Sox history. What made the trade worse is that Wells put up bWARs of 2.8, 4.9 and 1.7 for Pittsburgh the first three seasons after the trade.

But in fairness to Williams, over 20 combined seasons in the majors Fogg, Lowe and Wells compiled just 6.9 bWAR, so none of the pitchers dealt led to chest-clutching regret.

A free agent, the Sox let him Ritchie go after his one terrible South Side season, and he was out of baseball two years later.


2004
On the third anniversary of his ill-fated Ritchie deal, Williams continued his remake of the club. He sent power-hitting but defensively-challenged outfielder Carlos Lee to Milwaukee as part of a four-player deal.

The outfielder coming from the Brewers to replace him (Scott Podsednik) energized the lineup, stole more than 40 bases twice, made an All-Star team and hit a dramatic walk-off home run in Game 2 of the 2005 World Series.

 

 

Today in White Sox History: September 3

Ol’ Aches and Pains: Felt the twinge of a broken hitting streak in Boston. (Play Ball)

Sept. 3, 1936Luke Appling’s then-club record 27-game hitting streak ended in Boston, courtesy of Red Sox pitcher Wes Farrell. Appling’s record would stand until 2004, when Carlos Lee broke it by hitting in 28 straight games.


Sept. 3, 1990 — White Sox relief pitcher Bobby Thigpen set the major league mark when he earned his 47th save of the season in a win over the Kansas City Royals. He’d finish the year with 57 saves, which stood as the single-season mark until 2008. In 1990, Thigpen would also win four games and have an ERA of 1.83 … naturally he was named the Fireman of the Year.