A champagne celebration to savour

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:32 AM ET

HOUSTON -- From the champagne flying around it sure looked like the Chicago White Sox drought was over.

In the wet Chicago clubhouse at Minute Maid Park, Barefoot Bubbly, fine California champagne, was flowing like Niagara Falls in the spring.

The 88-year famine was over. The White Sox edged the Houston Astros 1-0 to sweep the best-of-seven World Series in four games.

"At times I've felt all 88 years of losing, and some nights, some of the Cubs' years too," White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who bought the South Siders from Bill Veeck in 1981, said. The Cubs have not won a Series since 1908.

"Tony La Russa taught me years ago, you want to leave spring training thinking you can win your division. We thought that. I never thought we'd ever have a 15-game lead and I never thought we'd blow 13 games of it.

"So once we got into the post-season it was kind of a relief. But this ... this is improbable."

September woes behind them, the White Sox almost ran the table in October. They won 11 of 12 post-season games, and their run differential was 35 (67 runs scored, while allowing 32). The best previous post-season run differential was recorded by the 1970 champion Baltimore Orioles, who were a plus-30.

"I'm really happy for our scouts, our players, the whole organization," Reinsdorf said. "Especially Roland Hemond. I learned the game from Roland."

Hemond was the general manager of Reinsdorf's White Sox for 14 years, beginning in 1971, and then was GM of the Baltimore Orioles from 1988 to 1995. Not once did Hemond's teams win a Series game.

Then yesterday, on his 76th birthday, Hemond's team won two games, including the clincher, in one day: The Sox won Game 3, the longest World Series game ever played by time at five hours and 41 minutes, which ended at 1:20 a.m. Houston time yesterday morning, and Game 4 at 11:01 p.m., when shortstop Juan Uribe fielded Orlando Palmeiro's grounder and threw him out at first on a bang-bang play.

The final out was Uribe's second outstanding play of the inning. He made a Derek Jeter-like dive into the seats to retire Chris Burke for the second out of the ninth.

Hemond, senior advisor to Sox GM Kenny Williams, had a birthday party like none other.

"Usually I cry when I'm excited," Hemond said, "but not yet ... maybe in a couple of hours when it sinks in."

On the 74th anniversary of the death of Charlie Comiskey, who owned the Sox when they threw the 1919 World Series to the Cincinnati Reds, the Sox won their first Series since 1917 with a 1-0 gem.

"If this is the anniversary of the death of the old Roman, all the better," Reinsdorf said.

The National League hasn't won a Series game since Florida Marlins pitcher Josh Beckett shut out the New York Yankees in Game 6 of the 2003 Series at Yankee Stadium.

Chicago -- which has slugger Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski and household names such as Scott Podsednik, Geoff Blum and Damaso Marte (all big names in the Podsednik, Blum and Marte households) --trotted out another unsung hero of a scoreless game last night.

Willie Harris, No. 1 in your program and No. 1 in the hearts of Sox fans, led off the eighth inning with a pinch-hit bloop single to left against Houston reliever Brad Lidge.

Three batters later, he scored when Jermaine Dye singled through the box on a 1-1 pitch.

White Sox starter Freddie Garcia pitched seven runless innings, striking out seven. Cliff Politte made things interesting, but Neal Cotts got out of the jam.

How even were these teams? The Astros tied it in the eighth inning of Game 3 before the Sox won it in the 14th. And there wasn't a run last night until the eighth, so for 13 out of 14 innings the two teams were dead even, a span of 105 hitters in which a home run would have broken the tie.

Houston starter Brandon Backe also pitched seven runless innings.

Sox fans, from Rush Street to the south side and the Hancock Tower, were, as Martha and the Vandellas used to sing, "Dancing in the streets."

What did chairman Reinsdorf think was happening last night back in his kind of town, Chicago?

"They'll be celebrating and not just on the south side," Reinsdorf said. "We have fans in the suburbs on the north side.

"I hope everyone is behaving. Especially on my street."


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