Just before game one, which ended in a rousing 5-3 win for the White Sox over the Astros, I was reminded, for some peculiar reason, of a Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon.
You know the one -- it's one of a series where Bullwinkle is a magician on stage, saying to Rocky, "Hey Rocky! Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat?"
Rocky, skeptical, says, "Again?"
To which Bullwinkle responds, "Nothing up my sleeve, presto!"
This is the one where he pulls Rocky out of his hat and says, "Well, I'm getting close."
And that's how I felt about the first World Series game in my hometown in 46 years (I can't say "in my lifetime", as some of you can, because "my lifetime" stretches just a bit farther than that -- not long enough to have a conscious memory of the 1959 World Series).
Close. Eight miles from where we all wish it would be, and after my friend Mike from California (a Sox fan who came in for the series, and paid an ungodly sum for tickets to games one and two) dropped Mike off, we drove right by Wrigley Field on our way back to my house and I said, "Next year on this date -- we'll be right here!"
Mike said to me, and I agree, that if the White Sox win this series -- and I think they will, incidentally, more on this in a bit -- that it will be good for the Cubs. Goosing them a little bit, putting a burr under them to win just as their South Side cousins have done, etc.
More on this later too, including some Cub rumors I heard last night.
We arrived several hours early, to avoid traffic, and succeeded in that -- driving and parking were easy, and no, I'm not going to reveal my how-to-get-to-the-Cell-with-no-hassles secrets here! The "security bubble" that Chicago police supposedly had around the ballpark was nonexistent -- yes, they were preventing cars from driving into about a square-half-mile radius, but no one was checking pedestrians, as we were, walking into the area to make sure they had tickets to the game. So we walked over to Grandstand, the large souvenir shop about three blocks west of the Cell -- there was a line about 1/2 a block long, shorter than earlier in the week but still too long to wait, especially since it had started raining lightly.
Mike, who knows the city very well, then toured us down some Bridgeport-area streets; we walked by the home at 3536 S. Lowe which was the longtime home of Mayor Richard J. Daley (father of the current mayor) and his family, and then we entered the ballpark, thronged full of crowds entering nearly three hours before the first pitch.
It was still drizzling lightly so, with not too large a crowd on the concourse (later on, it would become almost un-navigable as we tried to wander to soak up the atmosphere), so I waited in a short line at the gift shop, where I spent way too much on souvenirs.
Hey, it's the WORLD SERIES in my town! Got a couple of souvenir baseballs, programs, a cap, and some stuff for Mark.
On one of the advertising boards in the outfield, there was a huge "Watch The World Series On Fox" billboard.
This is strange on two levels. First, if you're at the game, you're not watching on TV. OK, you're saying, it's for the TV audience. But if you see it on TV -- you're already watching Fox. So what's the point?
We scratched our heads for a while trying to remember what this was covering up -- finally realizing it was the out-of-town scoreboard, which, of course, isn't needed during this series.
Before I talk about the game itself, let me stay a bit on-topic here by telling you about some good Cub trade/free agent rumors I heard last night:
- The Cubs have been offered Juan Pierre in trade from the Marlins. Florida wants Corey Patterson and Rich Hill in return, and the Cubs are hesitating because they don't want to give up Hill.
This is wrong thinking, in my mind. The Cubs need a leadoff man. Pierre fits the bill. Hill may become a decent major league pitcher, but in 2005 he looked overmatched. I'd do this deal.
- The #1 position player free agent on whom Jim Hendry has his sights set is... and I know this will please many of you... Brian Giles.
Hummina hummina. Giles' power numbers were way down in 2005 (only 15 HR), but he did draw a huge number of walks (119) and hit 38 doubles. He'd hit way better away from Petco Park as his home field, and one thing he'd bring to the Cubs would be a hard-nosed attitude and some leadership, which the club sorely needs.
Pierre in CF, Giles in RF, Matt Murton in LF? Sounds pretty good to me.
- Finally, the Cubs are looking seriously at the Orioles' B. J. Ryan as a setup man. This is a move I'd make, in a heartbeat. Ryan throws heat, strikes out a ton of people, doesn't give up walks or homers (only four in 2005 in 70 IP), and best of all for a guy who throws like this, isn't a headcase. Do it!
One of the first things I said to Mike and Mike during BP, due to the drizzle and cold air and the fact that the balls didn't seem to be carrying, and that Jose Contreras and Roger Clemens were pitching, was: "Nobody's going to hit any homers tonight."
Oh, well. I've been wrong before. Three solo homers left the yard, with Joe Crede's fourth-inning shot off Wandy Rodriguez, which just made it past the outstretched glove of Willy Taveras, being the difference in the game.
Wandy Rodriguez? He came in when Roger Clemens left; Clemens has been having hamstring problems and in the cold weather, it must have been terribly painful. You could tell Clemens was laboring through his fifty-four pitch, two-inning outing. Rodriguez, who I saw pitch against the Cubs several times this year (and not very well: a 6.08 ERA and 1-3 record), kept the Astros in the game, at least till the Crede homer.
The real difference in the game, though, was a bizarre play in which the Astros appeared on their way to a 3-6-1 double play in the second inning, courtesy of A. J. Pierzynski. But SS Adam Everett just stood there. The whole Astros team just stood there, in fact, while Carl Everett casually crossed the plate with a run which at the time made the score 2-1 White Sox, and it didn't seem that important, especially when Juan Uribe doubled in Pierzynski.
But if this run doesn't score, then the score in the eighth inning is tied, and Russ Springer probably isn't in the game, Dan Wheeler is -- or maybe even Brad Lidge, since Phil Garner, like Ozzie Guillen, isn't afraid to use his closer in the eighth inning. And that extra run that gave the White Sox a 5-3 lead doesn't score.
But that's how the White Sox have been winning games all year -- EVERY time they get an opportunity which calls for a certain thing to happen, it happens. They hit-and-ran with Everett; it worked perfectly. Pierzynski should have been picked off in that 8th inning, but the Astros froze yet again. It's uncanny, almost -- I've never seen a team play this way, where absolutely everything goes right for an entire season (save the few weeks in August and September when the White Sox' lead dwindled to nearly nothing). Two more perfect examples of this were Crede's two defensive gems, each saving an Astros run, and thus the game, and there you have the early favorite for Series MVP.
Bobby Jenks was sent in during the eighth inning, after Neal Cotts had gotten a couple of key strikeouts, and this is more of Guillen's unconventional thinking. Guillen is managing much like a manager would have 25 years ago -- trusting his starters deeper into games, and not hesitating to use his closer before the ninth inning. It's working, so he looks like a genius.
It gets to the point, as Mike mentioned to me as we were walking out of the park, where the other team starts looking around saying to themselves (and this being a family blog, I'll censor a bit), "What the f***?"
And once you've done that, you are done.
I've been wrong before (as recently as last night -- way wrong about "no home runs"), but this feels like a World Series that could be a White Sox sweep. The only thing that might derail that would be Roy Oswalt, a pitcher as hot as the Sox pitchers are, in game three. Clemens may not start again if he's hurt -- and who knows, that might have been his last major league start. But the fans in Florida two years ago thought that too. (Footnote: in that 2003 World Series game, thought at the time to be Clemens' last, one of the Yankee pitchers who relieved him was... Contreras.)
Impressions: at times, it felt like just any other game. I found myself wondering why Rodriguez was staying in so long, since he's usually a starting pitcher, and then I'd remember that this is the World Series! That's why you save a pitcher like that, for exactly that situation. But by the time the seventh inning hit, we were on our feet most of the time, and you could feel the tension in the crowd -- NONE of whom left before the last out was registered by Jenks -- who could become a dominant closer in short order, if he can do two things:
- harness his curveball;
- not eat himself out of the game; he's put on considerable weight even since the highlights they show on the video board were shot, only a month or so.
Hey, it's the WORLD SERIES, in my town. You can't not be excited if you are a baseball fan, at the chance to attend.
Finally, sign seen, though I couldn't see who was holding this up:
I Sold My Sister For This Ticket