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October 27 2005: Passed Ball (World Series wrap)

Well, it’s over. Really over. Last night, the White Sox poured champagne over one another’s heads, in the time-honored ritual that crowns a champion and ends the baseball season.

It makes me sad.

Not the White Sox, who played inspired baseball, who did it with pitching and magical, timely home runs. I’m happy for them. Well, most of them. Who would have thought that a team harboring both Carl Everett and A.J. Pierzynski, two of baseball’s more well-known malcontents, could play so well as a team? Whatever their individual personality flaws, the team as whole came together and did what they had to do, not only winning 11 of 12 postseason games, but 15 of their last 16 overall, as remember they swept Cleveland on the season’s final weekend as well.

I am happy for Jermaine Dye, who got close to a ring with the Braves in 1996, and who broke his leg fouling a ball off in the 2001 playoffs against the Yankees. I am happy for Jose Contreras and Orlando Hernandez, Cuban countrymen who showed true mound grit in October. I am happy for Ozzie Guillen, who had said he was going to retire, but I hear that Bobby Cox, who has taken his team into October what, fifteen straight times now? He called and told him to stick with it. Make ’em rip the uniform off your back.

I’m still amused by the fact that this World Series was yet more proof that the Baseball Gods are capricious. Last year the Curse of the Bambino went by the wayside. This year, an even longer drought comes to an end with the White Sox win. The “Black Sox” curse is finally laid to rest. In back to back years? Who writes this stuff? Not only that, but how about Fate’s backlash against “moneyball?” You had four teams fighting for the pennants, the Angels, White Sox, Cardinals, and Houston. That list could also probably comprise the roster of the four teams in the majors most likely to lay down a sacrifice bunt or a suicide squeeze.

And let’s not forget to measure the ex-Yankee factor. Which team had the most former Yankees? Houston had Clemens, Pettitte, and even Jose Vizcaino. I think Ausmus might have once been in the Yankee farm system, but never at the major league level. The White Sox, on the other hand, had Contreras, El Duque, and Chris Widger. They also had Carl Everett, who had been in the Yankee farm until the Marlins took him in the expansion draft, and Damaso Marte, who never made it to the big club but who pitched in many spring training games for the bombers. I suppose that means the White Sox had the edge.

It is probably good for baseball that the White Sox finally won it, even if ratings for this year’s Series were down 30% from last year. In Game Three, as the tie game went into the 9th inning, there were 20 million people watching. By the eleventh inning, it was down to ten million, and only about 8 million watched to the bitter end in the 14th, when Chicago won it, 7-5. I was one of those people who wasn’t watching because the local watering hole where I went to see it had to close at 1 a.m. or risk losing their liquor license. I listened to the rest on the radio at home. Gee, maybe Fox ought to take that into consideration when they make the &^%$#* games start so late . . .

But now winter is really here. I got a little choked up on the way home from the bar last night after the final out. The air is cold, the days are short, another season is gone. Oh, sure, there is good news: Brian Cashman will be back with the Yankees, so will Joe Torre, but the sadness is not about the Yankees. I don’t have any reasonable comparisons to make for this feeling. Is it like when a friend goes away every year to school? That feels like a stretch, but I suppose it is true–baseball as daily companion, now gone for the winter. I feel melancholy.

The feeling will not last. It never does, because spring always, eventually, comes. Give or take a few for individual team schedules, and Pitchers and Catchers is a mere 111 days away.

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