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A fond look back at the 2005 championship season @scottmerkin

On the night of October 26, 2005, history was made on the South Side of Chicago.

That history actually was being finished off at Minute Maid Park in Houston, with shortstop Juan Uribe slickly fielding pinch-hitter Orlando Palmeiro's grounder up the middle and throwing to Paul Konerko at first to complete a 1-0 victory and a four-game World Series sweep of the Astros. It was the first championship since 1917 for the White Sox, the first in the Jerry Reinsdorf ownership era and a moment that has been celebrated for weeks and years to follow.

On the night of October 26, 2005, history was made on the South Side of Chicago.

That history actually was being finished off at Minute Maid Park in Houston, with shortstop Juan Uribe slickly fielding pinch-hitter Orlando Palmeiro's grounder up the middle and throwing to Paul Konerko at first to complete a 1-0 victory and a four-game World Series sweep of the Astros. It was the first championship since 1917 for the White Sox, the first in the Jerry Reinsdorf ownership era and a moment that has been celebrated for weeks and years to follow.

The White Sox will be honoring the 10-year anniversary of the championship during the 2015 season. And this latest celebration presents a chance to look back at key moments from that postseason run, with a special focus on the World Series, with the words coming primarily from the participants themselves.

Game 2, ALCS: The Dropped Third Strike Or Was It?

Boston, the defending World Series champion, was dispatched in three games by the White Sox during the American League Division Series, and Ozzie Guillen's crew looked to be the favorites against the Angels in the AL Championship Series. The White Sox held home-field advantage at U.S. Cellular Field, the Halos were without staff ace Bartolo Colon and the Angels had just finished off a grueling five-game series win over the Yankees, making the trip from Anaheim to Chicago for Game 1.

Paul Byrd pitched the Angels to a surprising 3-2 victory in the opener, making Game 2 a must-win for the White Sox before going to the West Coast. The game was tied 1-1 in the ninth, with Mark Buehrle having gone the distance for the White Sox, when A.J. Pierzynski appeared to strike out against Kelvim Escobar for the third out and force extra innings.

Pierzynski ran to first on what he thought was a dropped third strike call against catcher Josh Paul and home-plate umpire Doug Eddings allowed him to stay there. Pinch-runner Pablo Ozuna swiped second and scored on Joe Crede's walk-off double, propelling the White Sox to their first of four straight victories over the American League West Champions.

Ken Williams, White Sox executive vice president and general manager of the '05 team: "It looked like he dropped it to me. He did."

Reinsdorf, the White Sox chairman: "I wasn't at that game because it was Kol Nidre (the start of the Jewish high holiday, Yom Kippur). But I was watching it at home. I thought he had struck out and that the inning was over. I was as confused as everybody else."

Konerko, the White Sox captain who retired after the 2014 season: "The only time in all the playoffs I had a shred of thought that we weren't going all the way was when we fell down one game to the Angels. The Angels were a very well-built team, and they still are. The way they run things with (manager Mike Scioscia), it's like they are not a team that's going to give you anything. They are a real tough team to play against.

"So when we fell down 1-0, it was definitely a thought after the game, 'OK, who knows how this is going to go. It has been a good run.' A little bit of hesitation."

Williams: "I get it. It's like watching the controversial play that the Cowboys' Dez Bryant made this year (in the NFL playoffs). If you are a Cowboys fan, that is a catch all day long. If you are a Packers fan, that is not a catch. The rule is the rule. So it depends on your vantage point."

Konerko: "I think the replay shows the guy caught the ball and it was strike three, but that's sports. You are always trying to angle and position your team and yourself to get a call. Sometimes you do things and force the umpire or the referee, whatever sport it is. You are always playing as hard as you can outside the play. That means sometimes it's outside the whistle and you force a guy to make a bad call. That's exactly what happened."

Reinsdorf: "I asked A.J. what made him react like that? He said the year before when he was in San Francisco, he was on the other end of that. So he remembered it. I've seen the replay over and over again. There's certainly one angle where it looks like he caught the ball. There's another angle where it looks like the ball touched the ground. So, the play was what the umpire called."

"Obviously that was a key play because if we lose that game--keep in mind that we still might have won the game because it was tied--we are down 0-2 in a Best of Seven. It really would have put us in a hole."

Game 1, World Series: Clemens vs. Contreras, White Sox Win, 5-3

Because of an Albert Pujols' three-run homer off of Houston closer Brad Lidge in the ninth inning of Game 5 of the National League Championship Series, the Astros had to use ace hurler Roy Oswalt in Game 6 to close out the series. The NLCS Most Valuable Player was unavailable for Game 1 against the White Sox, putting Roger Clemens on the mound.

Clemens lasted only two innings before being replaced by Wandy Rodriguez, as the right-hander was hampered by a hamstring pull.

Reinsdorf: "I remember thinking how happy I was that the Astros had to use Oswalt against the Cardinals because of the Pujols home run. He couldn't start Game 1. I was pretty confident we would get to Clemens.

"I think he got hurt and had to leave before we really got enough runs against him. I don't even remember how we won the game. I don't have any great memory of that game other than Clemens. I was happy he started and I was sad he had to leave before we really beat him up."

It wasn't until the White Sox beat the Angels behind four straight complete games from Buehrle, Jon Garland, Freddy Garcia and Jose Contreras that Reinsdorf believed his team could win it all.

Reinsdorf: "Beating the Red Sox I think was important because we had, every other year that we'd been in the playoffs, gone out right away. Whatever the first round was, we went out. Beating the Red Sox, all of a sudden we advanced a round. I don't like to anticipate. It was only when we won the American League pennant that I realized we probably were going to play a team that wasn't as good as we were. We could win."

Game 2, World Series: Konerko's Grand Slam

Trailing by a 4-2 margin in the seventh inning, reliever Chad Qualls replaced Dan Wheeler, who had replaced starter Andy Pettitte to start the frame. The bases were loaded with two outs and Konerko was at the plate.

The captain launched the first offering from Qualls into the left field stands, raising his hands as he hit first base and the U.S. Cellular crowd reacted in a raucous frenzy never witnessed before.

Reinsdorf: "There wasn't even time to think. So years later, not years later, sometime later, somebody told me that we had Qualls' pitches and that Konerko knew he was getting a fastball. Makes for a good story."

Konerko: "I don't remember too much after hitting it and rounding the bases."

Carl Everett singled on the next pitch, but he was thrown out trying to steal second with Aaron Rowand at the plate. So before Konerko knew it, he was back out on the field rolling ground balls to infielders in between innings.

"I remember looking around. Obviously it was a cold night, drizzling, sleet, winter-like. Just looking around the stadium, and I had played a good amount of games in that stadium, maybe seven years worth. I just remember looking around, the place looked like a festival concert with people that are moving up and down.

"It was something I hadn't seen. I thought, 'The World Series was everything it's cracked up to be. This is pretty amazing.' Not from a standpoint of, 'Wow I hit the home run.' More just like, 'This is crazy. Just like absolute electric right now.'"

Scott Podsednik, White Sox left fielder and leadoff man: "That entire inning after, my eyes were locked in on Konerko. That's the loudest I've ever heard it in a ballpark, when he hit the grand slam in the World Series. He put the team ahead and I was thinking, 'What is that man feeling like now?' So I was watching his mannerisms and I could tell there was an electricity flowing through him. So I watched the pitch, then my eyes would go back to him, all the time thinking, 'What is that man feeling like?' It's as good as it gets."

It didn't take long for things to get even better for Podsednik.

Game 2, World Series: Podsednik's Walk-Off

Podsednik had a plethora of strong on-field attributes, playing an integral role in the White Sox 2005 run. A strong throwing arm was not one of them, by Podsednik's admission.

Jose Vizcaino's two-out, two-run, game-tying single off of closer Bobby Jenks in the top of the ninth allowed Podsednik to become a hero with his walkoff homer against Lidge. If Podsednik had a stronger throwing arm, he still would have been a hero by nailing Chris Burke at the plate for the game's final out.

Podsednik: "Well, I went and watched that play over and over. It was a decent throw. It was up the first base line just slightly. I watched it in slow motion over and over. If my throw would have been a foot or two feet more to the right or up the third base line, we win the game. I was kind of fortunate to even get that last at-bat."

Reinsdorf: "I don't know how he didn't throw the guy out. It wasn't just that it was off-target. There was no zip behind it. I don't know how that ball got there it was so slow coming in. I cannot tell you the words that I was using at that point. And then he comes up and hits the home run."

This momentous connection to right-center came on a 2-1 pitch from Lidge with one out.

Podsednik: "Walking up to home plate, I'm thinking, 'Look you have to reach base.' Lidge at that time was relatively slow to the plate, so I knew if I could get to first I was taking off on the first or second pitch to get into scoring position. My mindset was to reach first base. So, we go to two balls, no strikes, and I remember stepping out and looking over at Ozzie because I wanted to hack at 2-0.

"I take a strike, which was right down the middle of the plate. I step out, and then I tell myself, 'I don't think he's going to throw me the slider 2-1. He doesn't want to walk me, look for the exact same pitch.' I step in and as soon as it left his hand, my eyes just lit up. It was right down the middle of the plate.

"Those pitches had to be within six inches. I put a swing on it and just didn't miss it. I hit it as good as I could get it. It was still cold and rainy that night. I didn't know if it was going to leave the park. I knew I got all of it, but I didn't know if it had enough to carry."

As Podsednik reached first base, he saw first-base coach Tim Raines throw his arm up in celebration.

"I look out to right-center and see it leave. From that point forward … . I cannot describe to you the feeling of what it was like. It was mayhem.

"Boston broke their curse the year before. At the time it was us and the Cubs with the two longest droughts going. The setting and to do it for that organization in that city, it was as good as it can get."

Reinsdorf: "I didn't say anything. I was sitting with Kenny and when he hit the ball, I turned to him and he said to me, 'You gotta be (bleeping) me.'"

Konerko: "That feeling when Pods hit that home run was like all the rest of the (memorable) moments. It felt like all the guys were just as excited as the guy who did it. Pulling in the same direction. Who cares who wins the MVP? Who cares who got the hit? It's the fact that we got the hit. It was very much like that. I'm glad I got to experience all that. It was great. It was definitely the highlight of my career, no doubt about it. It was the best."

Game 3, World Series: Blum Becomes Unlikely Hero

All of the momentum stood on the White Sox side with the 2-0 series lead, but the Astros weren't about to give up on their home field. Even with Oswalt on the mound, the visitors held a 5-4 advantage in the eighth inning thanks to a five-run fifth. Houston scored one in the eighth, setting up Blum's heroics in the wee hours of the morning and the 14th inning of the contest.

Williams: "He has a statue for one World Series at-bat."

Blum: "Timing is everything."

Jermaine Dye opened the 13th with a single off of Ezequiel Astacio, the seventh of eight Astros pitchers, but Dye was quickly erased on a Konerko double play grounder. So Blum was able to swing away instead of being called upon to bunt, and he drove out a 2-0 pitch for the game-deciding homer.

As Williams pointed out, that drive became Blum's only career World Series at-bat.

Reinsdorf: "I had a suite all the way down the left field line, but in Houston the seats are outside the suite, so I was sitting outside watching the game and the leadoff guy got on and then Konerko hit into a double play. I got so pissed off. I get pissed off easily. So I got up from my seat and I walked back into the suite and I looked up at the monitor and I saw the ball going over the fence."

Blum: "My kids now appreciate me a little bit more. It actually gave me an extra two or three years in the big leagues. Call it clutch, but winning the World Series with the White Sox and contributing gives a little boost in your career."

Blum was acquired from the Padres for Minor Leaguer Ryan Meaux at the non-waiver deadline that season as another small, but crucial part of this amazing group.

Guillen: "Kenny asked me about what we need. Kenny, he was awesome about that: 'What do you guys need? I think we can do this or do that.' It was hard for me to say what we need when we are in first place. I needed somebody to play the infield and can help Uribe and (Joe) Crede. Kenny said, 'We have this guy available, Blum,' That's the guy. I coached him with the Montreal Expos. And look at how big he came up in the World Series."

For the record, Buehrle, who started Game 2, earned the one-out save as the team's ninth hurler of the night. Damaso Marte also became the answer to a trivia question by joining Babe Ruth as the only pitchers to pick up victories in 14-inning World Series games.

Game 4, World Series: Completing the Sweep

A pitchers' battle between Garcia and Brandon Backe came to a close when Dye singled home pinch-hitter Willie Harris, who singled off of Lidge to start the eighth, moved to second on Podsednik's sacrifice bunt and took third on Everett's ground out. Cliff Politte, Neal Cotts and Jenks closed out the championship drought-ending win. That ninth inning included an amazing catch by Uribe, who jumped into the stands on the run to grab Burke's foul pop up for the second out.

Reinsdorf: "The Uribe catch, because of where I was sitting, was right in front of me. The last out, of course, was really a great play and it was so bang-bang that you don't even know if he's safe or out until you see the umpire call the out."

When the game was complete, Reinsdorf quipped that his first thought was "We have to get downstairs."

Reinsdorf: "It didn't really hit me until the parade. It was sort of surreal. When I realized the impact that we had on the city, on the community and then finding out that if you had gone to any cemetery the next day, the graves were already decorated with White Sox stuff. (Mayor) Richard J. Daley's grave was decorated. And then the parade, two-million people, no arrests."

Guillen: "A lot of people say when you win, it's fun. No, winning is hard. A lot of people misunderstand. Yes, it's fun, but when you win, and get closer and closer to the World Series, it's getting harder and harder. It depends how you control it. How you go about it. How you take care of that situation. I think those guys, they did it with heart."

Dye, the World Series MVP: "Just being able to go 11-1 in the playoffs and put together a great team over the course of the whole season, it's something I'll never forget. Guys joined together and worked hard and just the attitude that we brought to the ballpark every day. We didn't let all the distractions come in our clubhouse and I think that was a special team that year."

Williams: "Here's what I say. If there's a better team performance in the playoffs, the baseball playoffs, I'm not aware of it."

The World Series Celebration

Trips to the Oprah Winfrey Show and Saturday Night Live for Podsednik followed. But nothing could compare to the victory parade mentioned by Reinsdorf. The White Sox won on a Wednesday and had little time to prepare for the outpouring of love and genuine euphoria coming two days later throughout the streets of Chicago.

Konerko: "As a Major League baseball player, you are like, 'What does the All-Star Game look like? What does the World Series look like?' If you've never been to one, you can kind of imagine close to what it's like before you go. If you go, it's kind of in the ballpark of what you thought.

"You spend your whole life thinking about getting to the World Series and the big leagues. We thought about the parade for a day. Nobody thinks about the parade well in advance. No team is out there going, 'I wonder what the 2016 parade is like?'

"There's no lead time to think about it, so when you are hit in the face with it, it makes you feel small. It was like if we would have known something like that was on the end if we win this thing, we would have been nervous. You don't realize how many people cared about it, how many people you touch with something like that. But you just played the game. Now that it's over, you realize."

The highlight of the parade festivities came when Konerko reached into his jacket pocket during the speech portion of the rally and gave Reinsdorf the ball from the last out of the Game 4 clincher. Konerko said that Reinsdorf had earned it and deserved it. An emotional Reinsdorf said it was the greatest moment of his life, a comment which he admitted in humorous fashion at this year's SoxFest that he heard about from his wife.

Reinsdorf: "That was incredible, especially when you think about what had happened the year before, when (Doug) Mientkiewicz and the Red Sox got in a big dispute about it. I never really thought about where the last ball was. If someone had said, 'Where is the last ball,' I would have assumed Paulie has got it because he caught it. I never would have made an issue about it. As far as I was concerned, if he caught the ball, it was his ball."

At Konerko's retirement ceremony on the final Saturday night of the 2014 season, Reinsdorf joked that he wasn't giving back the ball from the last out. The White Sox did track down the ball from Konerko's grand slam in Game 2.

Memories of the Team

Six NBA seasons ended with the Chicago Bulls, also owned by Reinsdorf, claiming championships. In fact, they put together two threepeats. Reinsdorf still claims the White Sox World Series title as the highlight of his career.

Reinsdorf: "No question. Baseball is so much bigger than any other sport. I remember when the Bears won the Super Bowl, that was great. It didn't have the same impact. None of the Bulls championships had the same impact. It's not a matter of which sport do I like better. It's a matter of baseball clearly had a bigger impact."

There's little doubt that the 2005 White Sox are one of the most underrated champions in sports history, let alone baseball history. They never spent a single day out of first place, won 110 games overall and finished the season with 16 wins in their last 17 games, including the 11-1 playoff run.

It was a heightened celebration because the wait was so long for the White Sox to get to the promised land.

Konerko: All World Series are great. To have one that erased the drought like that, there's so much more that comes with it for that city and town. You have conversations and interactions, but you just didn't realize as you were doing it that it was this important to people. You feel like you've given a gift to the best sports town in the country."

Winning wasn't easy, as Guillen pointed out. The White Sox watched a 15-game lead over the Indians in the AL Central on August 1 drop to 1½ games on September 24. This team bent, but it never broke. It stuck together and grinded out a season to remember in franchise history.

Konerko: "Once we got cranking there and certainly right after Game 1 of the Anaheim series, I just think there was no team we played that could have matched us because of how long it had been since the White Sox had won the World Series. Every team in the playoffs is playing with urgency, but the amount of urgency we had to win couldn't be matched by any organization.You never can assume you will get back there. It's the only crack for a lot of guys to win. Once we got past that first round we had to win. We can't go to the World Series and play well and lose."

Williams: "They wanted to be together. They took care of the guy on the right and the left and they understood each other's style of play. That's what sticks with me the most, the camaraderie, on and off the field as well."

Aaron Rowand, the team's center fielder and the "poster boy" behind the iconic Sox Grinder Rules: Whether you win a World Series or not, every team has its own heartbeat and its own personality. It's all those moments that kind of mold that and I think the team we had in '05 was a special group of guys--and especially when you win, it brings you even closer. It's funny how when you come back out here and you haven't seen each other for a long time, it's funny how that personality hasn't changed. It's pretty neat.

"It was a diverse team, whether it's language, countries or whatever. Everybody still hung out together. It didn't matter whether you were Dominican, Cuban, Japanese, American, Venezuelan: everybody hung out together and enjoyed being around each other. That's what was so neat about that team."

Crede, the third baseman and quite possibly the most valuable player of the entire playoffs: "With everybody getting along so well, it was like you almost knew what they were going to say before they said it. Kind of like a brother. You didn't really have to speak the language.

Guillen: "We don't have superstars. But I don't see any team getting along so good and caring about winning more than them. A bunch of crazy, great teammates. That's the only thing I can say about that team, and not because we win the World Series. Even if we don't make the playoffs, this bunch of kids they play together from the first day. They love each other when they have the uniform on. They respect each other."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and listen to his podcast.

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