Twist and shout: Sox celebrate
Thousands flock to Chicago to revel in World Series title
CHICAGO -- This incredible journey taken by the White Sox during the 2005 season began a couple of days after Valentine's Day, at the Kino Sports Complex in Tucson, Ariz. Pitchers, catchers and coaches were pretty much the only ones on hand, joined by six or seven media members.
It ended Friday afternoon, a little more than eight months later, at LaSalle Street and Wacker Drive in Chicago. The whole team was in attendance, as was pretty much the entire front-office staff, not to mention thousands of fans from around the country who came to honor their team. Local and national media outlets were set up hours ahead of time to capture this special celebration.
Oh, yes. The trophy given to the Major League team winning the World Series also was present at Friday's victory parade.
The festivities began at U.S. Cellular Field, with certain players meeting the media one last time, and then loading into four double-decker busses to cruise around the city. Other non-playing members of the organization rode in covered trolleys leading the way.
Children screamed and held up signs such as "Grinder Rule No. 100: Know Your Own Ring Size." Adults snapped pictures and even shed a few tears of joy over an event many waited decades to witness.
Although they took great pride in their own accomplishments, namely an 11-1 record in the postseason and the franchise's first title since 1917, the White Sox players understood this victory and this team belongs to their fan base.
"You are fortunate as a player if you spend a long time on one team, maybe 10 years," said White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko, before embarking on Friday's parade route that went through local neighborhoods such as Pilsen and ended near the financial district. "But the fans, they are following this team since they have been alive. Some have followed their team for 80 or 90 years.
"There will be guys wearing different uniforms next year. This team will never be together again all the way full. A little piece here and there will be different. So, we all need to enjoy it because this really is something special."
After that poignant analysis delivered by Konerko to a group of seven or eight media members, he not only followed his own words but trumped himself at the victory rally near the Chicago River in front of fans as far as the eye could see. But Konerko's moving moment will have to wait temporarily, needing the build up it received in person.
Most players moved up to the microphone, said their excited piece and then stepped back into line on the dais. Thirteen people spoke, in total, if emcees Ed Farmer and Ken "Hawk" Harrelson are included, as well as Willie Harris yelling "Group Four," the nickname in honor of the reserves who played such a key part in the World Series sweep.
Even general manager Ken Williams and manager Ozzie Guillen, who would make the interview Hall of Fame on most occasions, were euphorically to the point. Williams told Mayor Richard M. Daley that he threw "one [heck] of a party," a celebration basically put together in the last 24 hours, and added that the team was "humbled, overwhelmed and grateful" for the fans' response.
Then, Guillen hit the White Sox fan base with one shocking piece of news and one that was certainly expected. Guillen told the crowd that he will definitely return as the manager for 2006, after winning the title in just his second year, a comment preceded by his startling admission that he had nothing to say for the first time in his life.
"I'm excited for the people here," Guillen said. "They wait so long for this to happen. It was a lot of work but a great thing to get it done."
Mark Buehrle, whose picture will adorn Wheaties boxes in honor of the victory, told the crowd that he had goose bumps from the very start of the parade route until he ended up on stage. A.J. Pierzynski thanked the fans, and then playfully thanked Williams for allowing him to be part of the White Sox and Guillen for putting up with him all year.
Williams also handed the World Series trophy on stage to Frank Thomas, the face of the team for the past 15 years. Thomas thanked his teammates "for dragging my [rear end] across the finish line" and then reminded the fans that "we are the champions, baby!"
And then there's Konerko, whose overall value so far exceeds his accomplishments on the field that he could hit .250 and knock out 15 home runs and still be worth every bit of $12 million or $13 million per year on a multi-year deal. Konerko stepped to the microphone with chants of "Paulie" ringing out from White Sox nation.
He remarked how all the previous players were quick to the microphone, but he wasn't about to pass up this chance to deliver a stirring tribute. Konerko pointed out how some pundits and experts outside of Chicago didn't believe the White Sox could win it all, right up until Juan Uribe threw out pinch-hitter Orlando Palmeiro for the final out of Game 4 of the World Series.
Yet, all the White Sox did was win. And with that assessment, Konerko put the cherry on top of this rather large baseball sundae. Konerko called chairman Jerry Reinsdorf to the microphone and pointed out how numerous people had asked him what he was going to do with the baseball from the last out.
It was a source of controversy in Boston last year, when Doug Mientkiewicz kept the baseball, and gave it on loan to the Red Sox this past season. That case would not play out with Konerko.
"Everyone asked me what I did with the last out," said Konerko, who told the media that he would soon reveal his plan before walking on the bus with his wife and son.
"Well, it's going to this man right here because he earned it," added Konerko, handing the baseball to Reinsdorf.
Reinsdorf, the consummate businessman and leader of this franchise, immediately was moved to tears.
"Getting this ball from Paul Konerko is the most emotional moment of my life," Reinsdorf said. "Twenty-five years ago, when Eddie Einhorn and our partners bought this team, we had a dream to win the World Series.
"We didn't think it would take 25 years, but it was worth waiting for because I never thought it could be this great. The love in your faces, this team of wonderful teammates. I never imagined it could be so good. Absolutely, it's the most fantastic day of my life."
With a fitting reference to one of Harrelson's signature calls, Reinsdorf added, "Boston, Anaheim, Houston: They gone!"
Twenty-five years ago, Reinsdorf probably didn't picture former Journey lead singer Steve Perry closing the ceremony with an acoustic rendition of "Don't Stop Believin." He was backed up by a group of players, including Pierzynski, Aaron Rowand and Joe Crede, who shouldn't give up their day jobs.
But it was the perfect theme for a grandiose celebration that started eight months ago in Arizona with a simple belief. The White Sox could be World Series champions.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.