Last night, the White Sox won the 2005 World Serries with a 4-0 sweep!!!
I'm one of those people who really doesn't care for sports and doesn't keep up with them, unless I'm actively involved in them. Out of all the sports, though, baseball has had a certain grab on me since as far back as I can remember. It's not something I think of very often, though, especially since the last time I even threw a baseball was my sophomore year in high school (1985) when I quit the team, rejoined, and then was kicked off because of different views that the coach and I had on the sport. Anyway, how does this relate to baseball, the Chicago White Sox in particular, and me?
I grew up in the small town of Cedar Lake, Indiana during the '70's. I was born in October of 1968 and only remember ever living in one house until the time we moved in June of 1981 (we actually didn't move into the Indiana home until 1970, but I don't remember the other house in Cedar Lake). Being so close to Chicago, and its professional sports, I always pulled for the Chicago teams, such as the Bulls, Bears, Cubs, and the White Sox. It wasn't until about 1977, when I was in third grade, that I attended my first professional game. Through my school, and for getting good grades, we were able to get some tickets to a White Sox game. If memory serves me correctly, it was to a White Sox/Cleveland Indians game at Comiskey Park, and my father and I sat behind home plate. I want to say I even took a glove, just in case I had a foul ball come in my direction, but that sure wasn't going to happen behind the net. So much for a little boy's thoughts. As a souvenir, I got a White Sox pennant. I was hooked on the White Sox from that point on. Also this same year, I started playing Little League. I was on the "Braves" in the "minor league" and played outfield. We took first place that year, but I didn't contribute much. It was playing baseball, and trying to bat, when we discovered I needed glasses.
As I got older, I started to see the polarity between Chicago's two baseball teams and their fans. It appeared that very few people seemed to pull for the White Sox, but EVERYONE pulled for the Cubs. At times, it was almost an embarrassment to admit to being a White Sox fan, but I stuck to my guns. Strangely, I had never heard of the 1919 "Black Sox", nor Shoeless Joe Jackson, until the 1989 movie "Field of Dreams" was released (one of my favorite movies). I remember watching many home games on Channel 44 out of Chicago and listening to Harry Caray as the commentator. Over the next few years, I'd gone to three more White Sox games and two Cubs games, but I always preferred my White Sox. During this time, I also started pitching in 1978 while playing for the "Braves", and I was "drafted" into the "majors" after my try-outs in 1979.
Speaking of the years 1977-1979, I guess I should also mention another way that the White Sox had influenced me. Unknown to anyone but me (until now), a particular White Sox player influenced how I sign my name. It must have been in 1978, as I was pitching in Little League, so, I was watching professional pitchers with interest. At the time, I had an 8"x10" glossy of White Sox pitcher, Steve Stone taped to the back of my bedroom door with a few other players, who I don't recall. On this glossy, Steve had signed his name where he went from the last letter of his names, continued the line in a loop, and crossed his "T's". I started doing the same thing. I take the "y" in "Terry" and cross my "T" with a large loop. To this day, despite even my father mentioning about the way it looked and I should change it a few years later, I am still signing my name with this looped-cross, 27 years later. As a side note, Steve Stone pitched for the White Sox in 1977 and 1978 and then signed on with the Baltimore Orioles to win the Cy Young award in 1980.
We moved to Sumter, SC in the summer of 1981, but I didn't follow my family down here until a couple of weeks later, as I had to stay in Cedar Lake and play the All-Star game against neighboring town, Crown Point. As a side note, I was batting "clean-up", as during the 1981 season, I was the only one to hit a home run....and I hit THREE of them. I still have all three baseballs that I dated, and I still have the Louisville Slugger that I used to hit all three of them.
I continued to play league baseball until 1984 when I started playing in high-school. Up until high school, I'd played every position on the team, except for shortstop. I was a pretty good catcher, with the exception of my glasses getting caught in the mask, so I rarely pulled the mask off. The coaches loved how I could stay squatting behind the plate and rifle the ball to second to counter a potentially stolen base. My two favorite, and best played positions, were pitcher and center fielder, though.
As a Freshman, I was the third-string pitcher, after two Seniors, on the Varsity team. They were used for every game, and I was designated as the pitcher for practices. I played in one non-conference game, for two innings, during my Freshman year, and didn't get another opportunity during the regular season or the play-offs, as the coach even told me that the Seniors were being favored as it was their "Senior Year". I did have an opportunity to play in one more game, at the end of the season, though.
Looking back on it, now, I will never know if I did the right thing or not, but, as a 15 year old kid, I just didn't feel like it was "right". Our team had won the play-offs and had a 1-1 record for a best of three in the State Championships (or was it a 2-2 record for a best of 5? I forget). Thing is, my coach had scheduled the State Championship games and our Senior pitchers so that I was to start the final game of the State Championships....yeah, he was relying on me, the guy he had pitch for practices the whole season. All I could think of was how can he expect ME to win the State Championship for him? My Uncle and his family were in town during this time, so.....I stayed home.
The suspense was really killing me, so I drove to the ballfield (not in uniform) to see how things were going. I was pulling up as the game had ended and another player informed me that they'd lost. Since the two Seniors had pitched their maximum number of innings for the week, the coach literally had EVERY player on the team pitch. Some of these guys had never thrown a ball over the plate in their lives. Did I do the right thing? Should I have tried to win the State Championship for a coach that didn't have any faith in me during the whole season? You never know, maybe I'd had pitched the best game of my life, we'd won the State Championship, I'd gotten into the newspapers, and it would have fueled me to become a better player, and I may had been playing for the White Sox last night......Probably not. This coach took the "fun" out of playing for me.
The following year, I had a coach that was even worse. He'd missed the final cuts to be a pitcher for the Atlanta Braves, and he had a different idea of practices for pitchers than I was used to. I was a sophomore, and either first or second-string pitcher, but I was also one of our better outfielders and batters. The coach, though, with his screwed-up ideals for a high-school pitcher, only had me throw the ball and do laps around the track for practice. I told several fellow players that I could do that crap at home. Our season started off so-so, but I was playing. That is if you like the idea of never getting to bat because the coach had a pinch-hitter for every at-bat for you. He didn't know how well I could hit the ball until he screwed up with the line-up and I had to bat at a game. I remember almost smacking the ball out of the park, only to have it get caught at the warning track of right field (I'm a "righty"). As I rounded first base, the coach said he didn't know I could hit like that. I told him, in a pissed-off voice, "You never let me show you".
I ran into some problems with teenage stupidity by "mudding" in the school's unfinished parking lot with my car and got into trouble. The coach was really upset with me and suggested a form of punishment, in addition to me losing school parking priviledges for a month. I told him not to bother, as I was quitting the team. When all my teammates found out I'd quit, they started begging me to rejoin. They'd lost, badly, in the next 2-3 games, and I really liked to play baseball, so I struck a deal with the coach to rejoin the team. I apologized to everyone on the team and promised not to quit again. It wasn't a month later that the coach had me so pissed off, that I did everything I could to get kicked off the team.....and I accomplished it. The coach gave me the boot, and I didn't break my promise to the team. That was the spring of 1988. I haven't so much as thrown a baseball since.
After that terrible season, I still would watch baseball games, or at least portions of them, from time to time, especially if it was the White Sox. Living in South Carolina, and not having cable or satellite, I rarely saw the White Sox on TV, and no other team really sparked my interest. When the Sox were doing fairly well in the mid-90s, I would keep up with their season record and read the game write-ups in our local newspaper. I was sad to hear that Harry Caray left us in 1998, and I HAD to watch the very last game played at Comiskey Park in 1990 before they tore it down in 1991. After moving to Easley, having a family, band interests, and motorcycling, baseball just kinda fell off the Earth for me. Interestingly, Shoeless Joe Jackson died in Greenville, SC and was born in Brandon Mills....wherever that is/was. I can't find his birth town on any South Carolina map. Also, I go to a restaurant in Clemson called "Columbos", and they have lot of photographs on the wall from Chicago, and a few of Comiskey Park. I had often pointed to the pictures and told my wife that Comiskey is where I'd seen my very first professional baseball game. This year's play-offs resparked a little flame inside of me, though.
I was not aware that the White Sox had been doing so well this season. With my daughter being born just ten months ago, I never seem to be able to keep up with anything, but I caught the first play-off game between the White Sox and A's. It struck my interest, so I watched some of that game, then some of the second game.....and some of the third game.....most of the fourth game, and they were going to the World Championship! I really couldn't believe it, but I knew that, someday, they'd do it. I told Vicki that I just HAD to watch the World Series, something I don't think I've ever done in my life.
For the World Series, I watched the majority of the first three games. I caught myself expressing, out loud, my joy as the White Sox got a hit, scored a run, or won the game. THIS is very unlike me. I practically never would get vocal or gesture when watching a sport. The games, the series, were bringing the little kid back out of me. It was bringing back these memories that I haven't thought of in many, many years. The last game, game #4, I felt they were going to take it. I felt that the White Sox would do a sweep of the World Series. I turned on the TV and watched the pre-game show. I NEVER watch pre-game shows. I saw the game, every last inning, close to every pitch......I watched the White Sox win their World Series.
As the post-game show came on, tonight's win started playing on my emotions a little. It was a strange feeling for me. I remembered my 1977 pennant hanging inside the spare closet for the last nine years (since I moved into this house) as to not wrinkle or damage it. I took it out of the closet and, kinda jokingly, stuck it on the bedroom wall on my side of the bed. I crawled back into bed, and while still watching the post-game show, remembered my old souvenir batter's helmet. I went downstairs and grabbed that and put it on the shelves next to my bed. A few minutes later, I crawled back out of bed and went downstairs, again, and smiled while I dug out my souvenir baseball cap. I placed that on the book shelf next to the bed, next to the batter's helmet, and crawled back into bed. With another old memory, I was tempted on running downstairs to another box, the one that holds my White Sox logo baseball from the late '70's, but I stopped myself. I figured my wife would start to tease me. As I laid next to her, I couldn't fall to sleep very easily. My head was full of old memories of the days when baseball and the White Sox meant a lot to me.....the days of youth, of fun, of summer-time pleasures....a time nearly 30 years ago.
From all of this, and because of this, I congratulate the Chicago White Sox on their 2005 World Series win.....and thank them for the memories.