10/22/05 8:04 PM ET
Notes: Finally, it's game time
Players at last able to put the hype behind them
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
They had enough of the five-day stretch of inactivity since winning the American League Championship Series last Sunday night in Anaheim. They had enough of the probing media sessions, with questions ranging from hitting against Houston Game 1 starter Roger Clemens to the team's relationship with the band Journey.
The reality of the World Series and the franchise's quest for its first title since 1917 finally had set in.
"I'm ready to start it," said White Sox third baseman Joe Crede, who has two home runs and eight RBIs during the postseason. "I'm getting the itch. I'm ready to get going and start playing baseball again."
Both Crede and manager Ozzie Guillen reported no difference in the home clubhouse, heading into the latest biggest game of their respective careers. The players were loose as usual, joking around and watching college football. Guillen even mentioned in his pregame press conference that Saturday was his team's best day since starting the postseason because "we are where we want to be."
But once the first pitch is thrown, the White Sox will be trying to avoid the rust that set in during Game 1 of the ALCS in the team's only loss to the Angels and of the entire playoffs. The White Sox had three days off between the Division Series and the ALCS and have added on two more before the World Series.
This task becomes even tougher with basically an ace hurler on the mound in every contest at this point of the season.
"It's hard to simulate game-time situations in batting practice, with the fans and your own nerves," Crede said. "And I'm sure there will be some nerves. It's just a matter of how we can control that issue, settle down and get back to playing our game."
The teams receive a little extra time to focus prior to postseason contests, as no media access to the clubhouse exists until after the game. Although the White Sox understand the hype surrounding the World Series and the press crunch coming with it, they weren't exactly saddened to have a little time to focus on Saturday.
"These games are all so important," White Sox left fielder Scott Podsednik said. "Each guy has his own routine of what he likes to do.
"I start thinking about it the minute I wake up. Any time you have alone time and do what you do to get prepared, that's going to suit you I guess."
Jim Landis, "Jungle Jim" Rivera, J.C. Martin, Billy Pierce, Bob Shaw and Luis Aparicio, who threw out the first pitch to Guillen, all represented the organization's past proudly in the present.
"It's a pleasure to be here," Pierce said with a smile. "It's absolutely wonderful."
While Landis has a direct connection to the current team, with his son, Craig, representing Paul Konerko, Jon Garland, Aaron Rowand and Brandon McCarthy, Pierce has been a Chicago-area resident for more than five decades. Pierce pointed out how the times have changed in the game, mainly economically, where players don't really live where they play anymore.
The current players have homes in multiple cities and just move from place to place depending on the season. Pierce spoke of how he lived in a rented apartment in Chicago, albeit a furnished apartment, even when he was at the top of his game.
"When the season was done, you went back home and got a job," said Pierce, who helped out in his father's drugstore.
Pierce planned to be at all the White Sox home World Series contests but is not traveling to Houston.
Surprise visitor: Steve Perry, Journey's former lead singer, made a surprise visit to the White Sox clubhouse Saturday afternoon. Journey's anthem, "Don't Stop Believin," has transformed from an inside joke in the White Sox clubhouse to a tune that has defined the team's success. It all began with A.J. Pierzynski, Rowand and Crede being at a bar featuring a lounge singer on the road in Baltimore, and Crede calling for some Journey songs.
"It was fun to see him," Crede said. "For the White Sox to have him come in, I thought it was neat. I think he enjoyed being part of this atmosphere."
A family affair: One of the more moving pregame sights came when Guillen and his three sons joined together for an interview with a Venezuelan television crew. Guillen has spoken all season of how nothing would mean more to him than winning a World Series title with the White Sox.
Nothing, that is, except for his family. But Guillen pointed to sons Ozzie Jr., Ozney and Oney as the biggest second-guessers of his managerial moves, more so than any sports radio station or even the staunchest supporters in the stands.
"You know why? Because they don't have to make the decisions, and it's easy to second guess when you don't have to make the decision," said Guillen with a laugh in regard to his sons. "I always told my sons that I hope they would be half as smart as I am.
"But learning from me and learning the right way and the tough way, I think it will make it easier for them to ask me about a lot of questions. Growing up with me every day in the summer and have them have the opportunity to see me managing in the World Series, I think it's a great feeling."
Guillen drew even greater laughter when talking about the age of his eldest son, Ozzie Jr., saying that he was 20 or 21.
"I know he's old enough to go to the bars," Guillen said.
Around the horn: Only the starting lineups for both teams were announced before the start of Game 1. A special announcement also was made for Frank Thomas, who walked slowly on to the field in uniform, and received a standing ovation. ... Jeff Torborg, the former White Sox manager and the man who gave Guillen his first coaching job in Montreal, was in attendance Saturday. Torborg was joined by his son, Dale, the organization's Minor League conditioning coordinator, who also worked with the White Sox in 2005. ... The White Sox entered Saturday with the third highest postseason winning percentage in a single playoff year since 1969, for teams with at least eight games played. At .875, the White Sox trail the 1998 Yankees (11-1) and the 1989 A's (8-1).
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.