The White Sox were the best team in the American League in 2005.
And yet, during a field report in the first inning of the first playoff game on the South Side that postseason, what did ESPN’s Erin Andrews call the White Sox?
Underdogs? Ninety-nine wins and they were underdogs?
Of course, it didn’t bother the White Sox. Teams are always happy to wear the underdog mentality like a badge of honor.
Andrews relayed this quote from Ozzie Guillen: “When you are the White Sox, you have to accomplish something or you’re not going to be in the spotlight.”
Boy, did they grab the spotlight in Game 1 of the ALDS.
White Sox fans know what Guillen was talking about all too well, what with the attention the Cubs are always receiving, in good times or bad, on the other side of town. And it should have come as no surprise that the defending-champion Boston Red Sox, the White Sox adversaries in this ALDS, would receive the lion’s share of the attention from the national media.
And so, despite leading the AL Central from wire to wire, despite grabbing the top seed on the AL side of the playoff bracket, they still had to do something to capture the attention of the baseball world at large.
Scoring 14 runs sure counts as something.
A team that wins 99 games shouldn’t require a “coming-out party.” But the White Sox did it anyway, making some big-time noise against the Red Sox and doing it quickly. They scored five runs in the first inning, A.J. Pierzynski delivering the big blow with a three-run home run off Matt Clement, a blast that whipped an already electric crowd into a new level of frenzy.
1st inning of the playoffs... five runs. A.J. Pierzynski's 3-run bomb has the South Side going crazy!#SoxRewind now on @NBCSChicago and streaming here: https://t.co/hsj69OeT53 (@saintxavier) pic.twitter.com/4TXVe6wvyw— White Sox Talk (@NBCSWhiteSox) May 24, 2020
The runs didn’t stop coming. Paul Konerko homered in the third inning to make it a 6-0 game. Juan Uribe hit a two-run shot in the fourth. Scott Podsednik, after finishing the regular season with a grand total of zero home runs, hit a three-run homer in the sixth. Pierzynski homered again in the eighth.
Oh, and Jose Contreras pretty well silenced a Red Sox lineup featuring two of the world’s best hitters, David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, over 7.2 innings of two-run ball.
Again, the White Sox probably didn’t care. Or if they did care, they were happy to hear it, drawing some motivation in a way that everyone can understand after watching “The Last Dance.”
But the way ESPN play-by-play announcer Chris Berman said, “You wouldn’t know that Chicago hit more home runs than Boston,” really said it all. Because anyone who didn’t know that — granted, the Red Sox scored more runs than any team in 2005 — simply hadn’t been watching.
The Red Sox pitching staff was atrocious in the season following their World Series win. Mr. Bloody Sock, Curt Schilling, had an ERA approaching 6.00. Same, too, for former White Sox closer Keith Foulke. No one in the Boston rotation had an ERA under 4.00. A Red Sox team that a season prior won it all started Clement and David Wells in Games 1 and 2 of their next trip to the playoffs. On the broadcast, the word “patchwork” was used to describe a Red Sox bullpen that had the AL’s highest ERA.
The White Sox wasted no time jumping all over that shaky staff, scoring eight runs off Clement before the second out of the fourth inning, then tagging the Red Sox ‘pen for another half dozen runs before Game 1 was over.
That, too, shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise.
While the final month of the season was indeed a white-knuckle ride that nearly ended with a dramatic collapse, the White Sox stayed on track enough to avoid missing out on October baseball. That was thanks in no small part to the efforts of Contreras, Konerko, Jermaine Dye and others. Anyone who watched this team all season long knew what they were capable of.
After bashing the brains of the defending champs in on national TV in their first playoff game, everyone knew.
Keep reliving the White Sox march to the 2005 World Series with #SoxRewind, which features Game 2 of the ALDS, airing at 7 p.m. Sunday on NBC Sports Chicago.