White Sox advance to World Series
Emotions high as club clinches first AL pennant in 46 years
ANAHEIM -- If the White Sox were looking for one moment from the past few weeks to capture the feelings from this amazing 2005 season, one instance that could be immortalized on everything from T-shirts to highway billboards to even cocktail napkins in the Bard's Room at U.S. Cellular Field, look no further than a scene taking place minutes after Sunday's 6-3 victory over the Angels at Angel Stadium.
Sure, the celebration shot of White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko embracing winning pitcher Jose Contreras in a bear hug, after Konerko retired Casey Kotchman on a grounder to first to lock up the team's first American League pennant in 46 years, would be a good choice.
And don't forget the ensuing chaotic celebration on the field, the third of its kind for the White Sox, growing in intensity from the American League Central clincher to the Division Series to the American League Championship Series.
But the perfect metaphor for this current campaign came from reliever Dustin Hermanson, a hurler who has not tossed a single inning during the club's dominant 7-1 postseason run. As the position players hugged and screamed together between the mound and first base, Hermanson took a full-out leap into the pile off a dead sprint.
Remember, this is the same Hermanson who has battled back problems for most of the second half of the season. Much like the White Sox and their euphoric fan base, Hermanson has never flown further.
"That was one of the greatest leaps I ever had," said Hermanson, drenched in champagne, but otherwise none the worse for wear. "My back hasn't felt that good this whole season as it did at that point.
"You have to give Kenny [Williams, GM] and Ozzie [Guillen, manager] credit for what's going on in here," added Hermanson, pointing to the on-going celebration. "Kenny brought the people in, and Ozzie did a [heck] of a job. They put the team together and we did it."
What the White Sox did exactly is make baseball history. They ended years of frustration and even misery for their supporters, past players and even the ownership group, led by Jerry Reinsdorf and Eddie Einhorn, by reaching the World Series for the first time since 1959.
And they did it in impressive fashion.
Forget about the breaks the White Sox received, and there were more than a few along the way. Their in-your-face style of baseball, coupled with the best starting quartet in franchise history, created their own brand of luck.
No wonder one fan sitting behind the White Sox dugout, one of 2,000 to 3,000 who stayed to help the South Siders celebrate, held up a sign reading, "Cooper for MVP."
"That's my uncle," said pitching coach Don Cooper with a smile, when asked by Reinsdorf about the support. "It's the best feeling I've ever had in baseball, and I'm sure it's the same for most everyone in here.
"We've waited a long time as an organization, and it's certainly more than worth the wait. The people in Chicago, I'm sure they are going crazy right now."
A brief moment existed Sunday where those fans probably watched their party atmosphere grow a bit sullen, as the Angels grabbed a 3-2 lead heading into the seventh. But Joe Crede tied the game with a homer off reliever Kelvim Escobar, his third straight extra-base hit against the right-hander with nasty stuff, and then delivered the game-winning infield hit off closer Francisco Rodriguez in the eighth.
Crede's two-out grounder up the middle, coming two pitches after Rodriguez appeared to nail Crede with a sweeping curve on a 1-2 offering, scored a hard-charging Aaron Rowand all the way from second. The inning stayed alive moments earlier when a call ruling A.J. Pierzynski out at first was overturned, as it was decided Escobar missed the tag on a ground ball that he picked up after it bounced off of his back side. Konerko, the ALCS Most Valuable Player, doubled home a run in the ninth, followed by a Rowand sacrifice fly.
Working with the three-run lead, Contreras cruised through the final frame to seal the Angels' fate. The big right-hander retired the final 15 hitters.
"I think the biggest reason we are where we are is because of Jose," Guillen said. "Every time we need a big game, he got it for us."
"It never crossed my mind once to throw a complete game," added Contreras through translator Ozzie Guillen Jr. "I was just thinking, 'Get the W.' After the fifth inning, I started concentrating on the batters and that's where my strength came."
The White Sox strength this season has come from so many areas. Williams was the architect, Guillen was the conductor and the players made the plans come to fruition.
Now, they wait to see if Houston can finish off St. Louis and complete the All-Central Division World Series, after the White Sox became the third World Series entrant to come from the AL Central since realignment before the 1995 postseason. The excitement was palpable in the clubhouse. The emotions were overwhelming at times.
In order to soar as high as Hermanson did on Sunday, though, the White Sox still need four more wins.
"We haven't won the World Series title and that's where we are at," Williams said. "Without that, this celebration will turn south very quickly. Right now, let's party on."
"It's incredible," Pierzynski added. "But the fans have been waiting since 1917 for a World Series title, so hopefully, we get that too."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.