14 years ago today the White Sox hosted the Astros in Game 1 of the 2005 World Series.
Watching it was a surreal experience. When the game happened, there was no Baseball Reference Play Index, no Twitter and I don’t even think I had any idea who Chuck Garfien was. I was a 25-year-old figuring out what I wanted to do with my life. I was on a path to become a pharmacist, working 40-hour weeks at Walgreens while going to school for pre-pharmacy courses. But I was a lifelong White Sox fan. Maybe 20 times a year, I’d take the train to the ballpark, usually just me with a backpack. I’d take a program, media guide, a note pad to scribble down notes, and a plastic snap case full of White Sox baseball cards, in case a player popped up in the dugout before the game for an autograph opportunity.
I remember watching Game 1 with my dad, who got me hooked on this game and this team. My heart was pounding throughout the game; back when I was just a fan there was a sense of nervousness that eventually went away as watching games became a job-related task. I miss that nervousness.
But anyway, I figured I’d watch Game 1 all the way through for the first time since I was on the couch at my parents’ house that October night in 2005. Along the way, I recorded five key retrospective observations.
So here we go…
José Contreras vs Roger Clemens!
Entering the 2005 World Series, Roger Clemens had 341 career regular season wins, whereas José Contreras (35), Jon Garland (64), Mark Buehrle (85) and Freddy García (99) had a combined total of 283.
In fact, at 43 years (and 79 days) of age Clemens was the oldest starting pitcher to face the White Sox since… Nolan Ryan (46 years, 185 days) — and in the Robin Ventura Game, no less — on August 4, 1993!
As for Contreras, what a run he had! The broadcast at one point cut to Chris Myers, who told a story of Humberto, Jose’s older brother, who rode by horseback in Cuba to a friend’s shack in order to listen to the game on radio (Humberto wasn’t able to get the broadcast on his own radio). It’s easy to lose sight of the sacrifices that players make for a better life.
The big Cuban righthander was in the middle of a 24-start regular season stretch (over 2005-06) where he went 17-0 with a 2.92 ERA. That incredible streak started on August 21 – which was better known as the day the Sox hit 4 home runs in an inning off Randy Johnson – and ended after the 2006 All-Star Break. And here was José Contreras as the 2005 World Series Game 1 starter. Amazing. The movement on his forkball was NASTY!
One more thing about Clemens:
Roger Clemens faced the 2005 White Sox staff a LOT. Here are those numbers (with postseason)
|GM Kenny Williams
|Manager Ozzie Guillen
|Bench Coach Harold Baines
|1B Coach Tim Raines
|3B Coach Joey Cora
|Hitting Coach Greg Walker
In the 2005 ALCS, the White Sox faced Vladimir Guerrero’s Angels, then in the 2005 World Series they faced Craig Biggio’s Astros. A pair of Hall of Famers whose kids, Vlad Jr. and Cavan, currently play for the Blue Jays.
One thing about this series that has always stuck out to me is this: you had Jeff Bagwell playing his final career games — a non-factor, going 1-for-8 with 2 HBP (both in Game 1) during the World Series. Then you had Frank Thomas, who didn’t get a chance to play due to injury. Both players were born on the same day – May 27, 1968 – and both won MVP in 1994. And both would never again play for these teams after the Series.
I miss Jermaine Dye. Such a good, solid performer. His Game 1 home run was the first by a White Sox player in the World Series since Ted Kluszewski in Game 6 of the 1959 Fall Classic. My favorite nugget on Dye was the improbable fact that he was born on the exact same day – January 28, 1974 – as the player he replaced as White Sox right fielder, Magglio Ordoñez. Dye went on to win 2005 World Series MVP, then he and Paul Konerko hit their 300th career home runs back-to-back on April 13, 2009. His career, though, ended abruptly after that 2009 season.
Dye hit 27 home runs in his final MLB campaign, a total only six other players in MLB history can match. David Ortiz (38 in 2016), Dave Kingman (35 in 1986), Mike Napoli (29 in 2017), Mark McGwire (29 in 2001), Ted Williams (29 in 1960) and Barry Bonds (28 in 2007). He never got another chance after 2009, and that’s a shame.
The Smallball Myth
Often, you’ll hear about the fact that the 2005 White Sox won because they played “smallball.” Is that true? Not really. That’s one of those myths that persist because that brand of baseball is more aesthetically pleasing despite the fact that the numbers say it’s mostly inefficient. Look at this strange list:
Teams to hit 200+ home runs and lead their league in sacrifice bunts (MLB history)
||Chicago White Sox
||Chicago White Sox
||Chicago White Sox
||Los Angeles Dodgers
Through the 2005 World Series, the White Sox had three of the four such seasons in MLB history, which is very odd. Yes, they led the AL in sacrifice bunts, but they also hit 200 home runs. Actually, if you were to single out one reason the White Sox were winners in 2005… it’s pitching!
They scored considerably more the year before and after, but that pitching was unbelievable in 2005. Three key starters – Contreras, Buehrle and Garland - had career years, as did three key relievers: Dustin Hermanson, Neal Cotts and Cliff Politte.
The White Sox took Game 1 by a 5-3 score, but the World Series was only getting warmed up. The White Sox completed a four-game sweep with a little bit of everything along the way – a grand slam, a walkoff home run, a 14th inning home run, a save by Mark Buehrle... you name it, you got it. What an amazing finish to an improbable year.
Kenny Williams kept his foot on the gas for 2006. Jim Thome (who hit 42 home runs in his White Sox debut) and workhorse starter Javier Vázquez were added to the mix, but the pitchers who had career years during the World Series run simply couldn’t duplicate their success.
And the South Side waits for its next championship parade.
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