Mike Rozovics' "White Sox Story"

Fifty-five years ago, I walked into Sox Park holding my Dadís hand.

My first memories of the White Sox were Billy Pierce, Nelly Fox, Minnie Minoso and Chico.† This is the team I grew up with and watched from the centerfield bleachers play the Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. Who could forget Walt Dropo getting into a fight when Enos Slaughter of the Yankees and Waltís hat on backwards?†† Louie Aparicio replaced Chico and Jim Landis took over in center.† We got Early Wynns, Bob Shaw, Tricky Dick Donovan and of course my childhood hero Sherm Lollar.† These are my memories as a kid.† That was the í59 team we all remember.

My quest for the World Series was for fifty-five years.† The White Sox had some great teams in the 1960ís but we always managed to finish second.†† We had Floyd Robinson, Smokey Burgis, Pete Ward and Ron Hansen.† I lost interest in the White Sox after college and it was renewed in 1976 when my two boys, Jeffery and Brian, were six and three respectively. We saw the Southside Hit Men in 1977 and from that point forward, I was once again reunited with the excitement of baseball.† It wasnít until 1983 when we had one of the best teams in baseball. The first round of playoffs was down to the fourth game. If we won that game then Lamar Hoyt would be the game five pitcher.† We would be the American League Champions.† Unfortunately, the White Sox lost a heartbreaker in ten innings and we had to wait ten more years to get back in the playoffs.†

I was at the final three games at Comiskey Park in 1990.† The highlight for me was when Bobby Thigpen broke the league record for saves.† I was there with my son, Brian.†† We sat out in the left center field bleachers and, up until this day, I will never forget Bobby Thigpen warming up.† It sounded like someone was cracking a bullwhip, and the sound was the ball hitting the catcherís glove.† When Thigpen walked out of the centerfield bullpen and took the long walk to the mound for his final save, everyone stood up and it was absolutely electric.† It was one of those feelings that you had to be there.† A feeling that you donít get too often at a baseball game and Bobby Thigpen gave me this wonderful memory.

In 1993, we had a great team with Frank Thomas, Jack McDowell, and Robin Ventura that was unfortunately demolished by the Toronto Blue Jays.† I remember Game Six at Comiskey Park.† It was a cold, cold night and we lost 6-3.†

The 2000 team was very solid with Magglio, Ray Durham, Mark Buehrle (a rookie) and a pitching staff that was full of sore arms.† We were swept by the Seattle Mariners with Freddy Garcia shutting us out in the first game.

I have been at every opening day since 1977, and in the 2005 opener, the White Sox won 1-0.† Paul Konerko scored on a fielderís choice by Aaron Rowand when the short stop bobbled Rowandís grounder and had to throw to first for the out.† And then they just won, and won and won.† The Sox were never out of first place.† I started thinking, ďIs this real?† Are these guys going to keep on winning? Of course not.Ē† This was the White Sox and they had never done this before.† Why should they do this now?† However, the more I watched this team, I began to realize that they had an outstanding pitching staff: Mark Buehrle, Jon Garland, Freddy Garcia, El Duque (Contreras hadnít come around yet).† They didnít know how to lose.† You couldnít turn a game off because if they were ever losing, most likely the White Sox would come back late in the game.† I remember one particular game.† It was Memorial Day weekend and the Sox played the Angels. The Sox blew a lead in the ninth inning and I was furious and turned my radio off.† I went to Las Vegas and two days later, I found out the Sox won that game.† From that point on, I swore I would never turn my radio off again.

Probably the most difficult time of the season was in September when the fifteen game lead dwindled to one and a half games.† All we saw was Cleveland getting closer in the rear view mirror.† I told anyone who would listen to me that the White Sox were still one and a half games up and two games up in the loss column.† I would rather be up two games then down two games.† All of a sudden, things began to change.† Cleveland wasnít winning and we were.† We won the last five games of the season, including a sweep of Cleveland.† I felt that sweeping Cleveland was our first playoff series.

I have been to every playoff game since 1983 and NEVER saw the Sox win.† My two sons and I went to the first Boston game and saw the White Sox jump on Matt Clemente (an ex-Cub) in the first inning for five runs.† When Pierzynski hit the three run home run, the park absolutely exploded.† It wasnít really until the sixth inning when the score was 12-2 that I really understood the Sox were going to win this game.

The next day, I came back to the park with my sons, Brian and Jeff, and my daughter, Jodi, and saw one of the greatest baseball games ever.† The White Sox were down 4-0 against David Wells.† In the fifth inning, we chipped away at the score and Juan Uribe, who had a twelve pitch at bat, finally hit the ball to the second baseman, Tony Graffino.† Tony was looking for a force out at second base but the ball went through his legs.† The rest is history.† Tadihito Iguchi hit a three run home run.† We were ahead 5-4 in the fifth inning.† It was an absolutely exciting game.† In the eighth inning, Bobby Jenks retired the side in order.† In the ninth inning, Jenks got Olerud out and Graffinino doubled.† Then Jenks had a 3-2 count on Johnny Damen, who hit a pop up to Pierzynski.† Now, there were two outs. †40,000 people were going absolutely crazy and then the strangest thing happened.† Jenks goes into his wind-up.† There was dead silence.†† We all knew that the game wasnít over.† Rentenea hit a ground ball to Uribe.† We expected the ball to either go through Uribeís legs, or for Uribe to throw the ball into the stands, or for Konerko to drop it.† When that throw hit Konerkoís glove, 40,000 people were standing and screaming.† We managed to win the game 5-4.

Fridayís game was played in Boston.† I was playing golf with my son and a bunch of other guys.† When we got into the clubhouse, the score was tied 2-2.† We were fortunate enough to see Konerkoís two run homerun, which put us ahead 4-2.† The Red Sox had scored a run in the bottom of the sixth inning and everyoneís South Side hero, Damasto Marte, came in and loaded the bases with a single and two walks.† Enter El Duque.† Veritak popped up; Graffinino popped up and up came Johnny Damen.† The bases were loaded and the score was 4-3 with a 3-2 pitch.† El Duque threw a slider into the dirt.† Damen couldnít hold up his swing and checked his swing for strike three!† The clubhouse went crazy with screaming and yelling.† Itís nice to be surrounded with kids between the ages 40-60 years old.

After sweeping Boston, I was fortunate enough to get tickets for the Angelsí games.† Unfortunately, we lost the first game 3-2.† Itís a game we could have won but you could say that about a lot of the games we played.† Fortunately, we won more then we lost.

At the second game, we were sitting in the right field bleachers.† This was the game where Buehrleís pitching was spectacular.† With the scored tied 1-1, bottom of the ninth inning, two outs and no one on, Pierzynski strikes out and then, the strangest thing happened.† He ran to first base.† Because the umpire had ruled the third strike a dropped pitch, A.J. was awarded first base.† The interesting thing, being at the park, you had no idea what was going on.†† Pablo came in to run for A.J.† Joe Crede, who had struck out the night before to end the game, was up and swung and missed the pitch.† On the second pitch, Pablo stole second base.† On the next pitch, Crede hits a bullet down the left field line.† We had no idea if it was fair or foul. Sure enough, it was a fair ball and Pablo rounded third base to score. Crede was pumping his fists like a mad man in the air at first base.† I was with Brian and Jeff and, once again, we witnessed an unbelievable win in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Now, itís the World Series and I was fortunate enough to acquire two tickets to Game One.† I felt that Game One was one of the most exciting games I had ever seen.† Joe Crede, with runners at third base in consecutive innings, makes diving stops on two balls hit to third base.† In the top of the eighth inning, after the Sox went ahead 4-3, Houston had runners on first and third with no outs.† Neil Cotts strikes out the next two batters.†† Ozzie then comes out to the mound holding his arms out wide and tall.† Ozzie was motioning for the big, fat tall guy.† It was just like the movie Major League.† Here comes Bobby Jenks out of the bullpen.† The crowd was on their feet just cheering and screaming and yelling.† Jenks strikes out Bagwell on a high outside pitch.† The park absolutely exploded with pandemonium.

We scored a run in the bottom of the 8th inning.† With one more inning to play, Jenks struck out the first batter in the ninth; grounded out the second batter and struck out the last batter.† Jenks pumped his fist.† The crowd was screaming and yelling.† It was something I hadnít seen since the final game at the old Comiskey Park.† No one left.† Everyone was standing on their feet screaming and yelling.† It had to be 15-20 minutes before the first fans began filing out of the park.

Sundayís game was a very unusual game.† It was rainy, cold, and it just didnít feel right.† We knew something good would happen, but it took a while.† The Sox were losing 4-2 going into the bottom of the seventh inning.† Buehrle had pitched seven OK innings, but kept us in the game.† We had two men on base.† Dye was hit by a pitch and then the Astros changed pitchers.† I had remarked to my brother-in-law that it would be difficult to hit a home run that day because the air was so heavy.† No sooner that I finished saying that - Konerko hit a grand slam homerun into the left field bullpen.† We were up 6-4.† Unfortunately, the Astros tied the score in the ninth inning.† In the bottom of the ninth inning, we were prepared for a long, cold, wet extra inning game.† We then watched Podsednikís fly ball and figured Scottie would get at least a double because we didnít think the right fielder would catch the ball.† To our amazement, the ball just kept going and was out of the park.† Once again, no one left the park.† Everyone just stood there and cheered.

Now, we were one win away from winning the World Series.† I didnít know how to feel.† I guess I should have been happy.† I really expected the Sox to win.† Here they come, back and forth, zero to zero, zero to zero.† The zeros kept piling up.† Now, it was the eighth inning and Willie Harris, on a 1-2 pitch, blooped a single to left field.† Scotty bunted him to second.† With 2 outs, Jermaine Dye had the look of a winner and true determination on his face.† Jermaine hit the ball past the pitchers mound.† I knew the ball was going into centerfield.† The score was now 1-0.† Then came our bullpen.

Now, itís the bottom of the eighth inning.† The key play in this inning was when there were runners on first and third and two outs.† Viscianoís bat exploded as the ball headed toward Juan Uribe at shortstop.† Juan backhanded the ball and made a brilliant play.† One more inning and we will win the World Series.†

My wife, Angela, was sitting next to me with our two dogs because she couldnít sleep.† You know nothing is easy.† The first hit was a bloop single to centerfield, then a sacrifice to second. The next hit was a high pop up. Juan Uribe had his eye on the ball and went three rows back in the stands and made a spectacular catch.† With two outs, a runner on second base, a 1-2 count on the pinch hitter Palmeiro, Palmeiro bounced the ball over Jenksí head heading to centerfield.† Out of nowhere, Uribe came racing in, gloved the ball and threw the ball to first.† He got the runner out by an eyelash.† What a finish to a spectacular World Series.

It is now fifty-five years later.† My dad passed on in 1999 and I am leaving Sox Park holding his hand. (Go to the Photo Gallery for Mike's White Sox World Series Pix)