I used to be a sportswriter. So please indulge me. There is another distinction in my personal portfolio. I’ve been a Chicago White Sox fan all my life. My family, with Northwest Indiana origins, has been attending baseball games at 35th and Shields since the 1920s.

I saw my first big league game there in the early 1960s with the White Sox playing the New York Yankees. Standing there in the outfield were Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris that day, a sight I’ll never forget. There was that day 30 years later when I took my daughter Renee to her first game. We sat in the last row on the rim of the new Sox stadium. There’s a picture of Renee in our family’s curio, with the tiny diamond far below, and Carlton Fisk taking an extended swing at the plate with bases loaded.

Being Sox fans, my family has endured one of our most trying elements for almost nine decades. The Sox had won the 1917 World Series, but in 1919 were accused to throwing the classic to the Cincinnati Reds, and the curse was on. Eight me out. The Sox, poised to become the dominant team in the Roaring 20’s, ceded that distinction to Babe Ruth’s Yankees.

When the White Sox made the playoffs in 2000, I observed that, perhaps, the coming new 21st Century would be the “Chicago baseball century,” because the last one sure wouldn’t. New York teams would make the series more than 50 times since Shoeless Joe Jackson was banned from the game. The Sox and Cubs could only muster three.

On Wednesday, Oct. 12, I made a stunning prediction: The Chicago White Sox would win the World Series. I reached this epiphany about 9:45 p.m. At 9:30 p.m., I was convinced they were going to lose the American League Championship Series 4-0 to the Los Angeles Angels.

But, as most of you have heard, Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski struck out on what would have been the third out in the ninth inning. The score was tied 1-1.

The Fox announcers noted that with no one warming up in the Sox bullpen, ace pitcher Mark Buerhle would be the first pitcher since ... Britt Burns in 1983 ... to pitch 10 innings in a playoff game.

This factoid sent a shudder down the spine of every long-suffering White Sox fan. I was in the stands at Old Comiskey Park to watch the Burns pitching masterpiece go into the 10th inning with the score 0-0 against the Baltimore Orioles. It was then that a reserve Oriole player — Tito Landrum — homered, ruining a chance for the Sox to make their first World Series since 1959. Sox fans knew if Burns had won the game, the virtually unstoppable LaMarr Hoyt would have been pitching the clincher the next day.

The other cursed event that occurred in that 1983 game was reserve infielder Jerry Dybzinski killing the Sox’s best scoring chance in the sixth inning. “The Dibber” rounded second base with his head down and steamed towards Vance Law who had been held up at third by coach Jim Leyland — a force out that killed the Chicago rally.

Roll forward to Oct. 12, 2005, when, in the the seventh inning, third baseman Joe Crede doubled and then ruined the inning when he was picked off second base. That, along with a base running error that allowed Aaron Rowand to be thrown out at home plate in the second, and, as I explained to my sons, “Oh my God, the Dibber Effect has returned. We’re doomed!”

I buried my head in the pillow and sobbed.

By the ninth inning, it appeared clear that that White Sox could no longer hit. When Pierzynski swung at a low ball for the final strikeout, the Dibber Effect might as well been the headless horseman from the apocalypse. But out of that strikeout came the slaying of the curse. Catcher Josh Paul scooped the ball up and tossed it to the mound, but Pierzynski ran to first and was declared safe. A steal and then a long hit to left by Crede produced the 2-1 victory. Instead of heading to California down 2-0, the Sox and Angels were tied 1-1. The Sox would take the American League pennant 4-1.

Chicago, described by Carl Sandburg as “stormy, husky, brawling City of Big Shoulders,” has carried the weight of two of the biggest loser franchises in professional sports history. There have been curses brought on by Billy Goats and Bartmen, Disco Demolitions, Sox playing in shorts, and where the TV announcers were drunk by the sixth inning.

I once referred to Gov. Joe Kernan as “a Sox fan.” Kernan called me up and left me a message: “Brian, you can call me a lot of things, but don’t you ever call me a Sox fan.”

The culture of defeat was so pervasive. I was watching that Cubs playoff game a few years ago when that kid Bartman deflected a foul ball with the Cubs just two innings away from a World Series. My friend, Kevin McShane, was watching the game with me at the Chatterbox Tavern. “They’re going to lose,” McShane said.

And they did!

I had the pleasure of buying a round of drinks for all the forlorn Cub fans in the gloomy bar.

Cub fans had to be gloating when Pierzynski struck out in the ninth. But, instead ... a miracle!

The strikeout became a baserunner at first and a second chance. Followed by an adroit steal of second by Pablo Ozuna ... and then Crede’s Dibber redemption.

When the World Series reached Houston and the sweep was on with a final 1-0 win, the bit players — the Dibbers of the 21st Century named Geoff Blum, Willie Harris and Damaseo Marte — finished off any notion of the curse standing up, dusting itself off and denying the Sox the title “Champions.”



Brian Howey is publisher of The Howey Political Report, the weekly briefing on Indiana politics. See www.howeypolitics.com.







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