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2005 White Sox relive championship season

Oral history of the 2005 White Sox season.

Ten years ago, on a late-October night in Houston, the White Sox delivered a World Series championship to a city starved for one. It had been 88 years since Chicago had tasted one, and many weren't expecting it to happen in 2005. But the Sox led the American League Central wire to wire and overwhelmed opponents during an 11-1 postseason run.

Many players from that 2005 team will be in town next weekend to celebrate the achievement during a reunion at U.S. Cellular Field. The Tribune caught up with several key figures from the team who shared some of their favorite memories from that unforgettable season. This first installment covers the regular season and first two rounds of the playoffs; the second will cover the World Series and its aftermath.

Wire to wire — barely

The White Sox led the American League Central wire to wire in 2005, but with August came some worry. Their lead shrunk from 15 games to 1½ as the Indians threatened to ruin the season. Still, manager Ozzie Guillen and the Sox kept things light, and the Sox finished the season an American League-best 99-63, six games ahead of the Indians.

Third baseman Joe Crede: It was bad. "There's no way this is happening." We were just as tense as the fans. For me it was, "There's no way we're blowing this."

Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf: I grew up in Brooklyn. And when I was 15 years old, the Dodgers had a 13 1/2-game lead and they blew it. And then Bobby Thomson hit the most famous home run in the history of baseball. All I could think about as this 15-game lead was going down was, "It's happening to me again."

It made it all sweeter, we sweated it out like that.

Pitcher Jose Contreras: In the first half of the season the results weren't good for me. When we were in the All-Star break, at the start of the second half, I took all my clothes and burned them. And I started the second half with the new clothes. That worked for me.

Reserve Geoff Blum: There was a situation where (Mark) Buehrle had a tough game and Ozzie (Guillen) threw him under the bus again. But (Buehrle) had one of the clubhouse kids take a white T-shirt out in the parking lot and had him drive over it. It had tire marks all over it, and he put the T-shirt back on and did his postgame interview. So I thought, you know, as much as Ozzie gave us, we did a good job of giving some back.

Manager Ozzie Guillen: I have players with balls. I have players with a thick skin. I have players who didn't have to call their agents to cry. To me it's like your wife wearing a perfume you don't like and she keeps wearing it and you just tell her not to smell like that. Why not tell your wife? She will be pissed for a couple days, but after that she will appreciate that. I need you to tell me the truth. That's the same way with the players.

Right fielder Jermaine Dye: We knew at some point we were destined to hit a bad streak. We got into August and things weren't looking too good. Cleveland was playing unbelievably. Things were a little tight in the clubhouse.

Blum: (Guillen) had the perfect personality for that ballclub. I also think the guys in the clubhouse had a better personality to counteract what was going on with Ozzie. We didn't know what was going to come out of his mouth. I don't think anybody cared.

Guillen: Fans were booing me and they had no idea how sick to my stomach I was. Nobody in that field cared more about the White Sox than Ozzie Guillen. Even now I feel when they lose.

Reinsdorf: We were down to 2 1/2 when a fellow I knew who was in the Illinois Legislature sent me this John Wayne doll. He said, "It's my good-luck charm. Why don't you take it to the games with you?" I figured, what do I have to lose? So I set him up in my home office, put the TV on and put a note on him to my wife, "Do not turn the television off."

Now we go out to Anaheim, someone said, "Aren't you worried going to Anaheim?" I said, "Why?" He said, "You're going to fly into John Wayne Airport." He said, "How do you know he's not a double agent?" That's how goofy this thing got.

Battle of the Soxes

Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez entered Game 3 of the division series against the Red Sox with the bases loaded and nobody out in the sixth inning, and his team ahead by one. He retired the side without allowing a run and gave up one hit in three innings that night to help propel the Sox a 5-3 victory and their first postseason series win since 1917. Rookie Bobby Jenks, who began the season in the minors, closed the game.

Pitching coach Don Cooper: (Hernandez) pretty much didn't throw any strikes. He said, "They all want to be the hero. I don't have to throw strikes. They swing at the stuff in the dirt." He told me after that game, "Cooper, it's OK you bring me in with one guy on. It's OK even two guys. No more three."

Pitcher Jon Garland: I was watching a batting practice session he was throwing on the back field (during spring training) and he threw at one of our guys. I was in utter shock. Right then and there he was sending a message. The passion and energy he had started to bring back that Little League kid in me.

Cooper: El Duque is telling (Contreras during the season), "You're not Cuban. I'm the Cuban." He said, "You're the fake Cuban. I'm the real one. I swim here. You fly first class."

Fire, passion. Ready to fight anybody on the other team, our own team at times.

Contreras: When I saw Orlando running from the bullpen, I didn't see him running in the grass. I saw him running in the air. I was like, "Oh, he's ready for this."

Jenks: Closing was never an option in my mind till that year. Everything I learned from spring training to the end of the season, I was pulling things out of my ass. I was saying, "Oh, I got this. I've been doing this for years." I had no clue what I was talking about.

ALCS

After the Sox dropped Game 1 of the ALCS to the Angels, their pitchers threw four consecutive complete games to take the series 4-1, winning their first pennant in 46 years.

Cooper: I dare anybody to break that record — four complete games. Neal Cotts threw six pitches in the first game. If we had to do it over, he wouldn't have thrown those pitches.

Contreras: I remember the guys in the rotation telling me, "Hey, you have to complete the game (in Game 5)." I said, "OK, I will do it, but you have to prepare the champagne for the celebration."

Blum: We lost that first game; it almost seemed to piss these guys off a little bit. We proceeded to watch four great pitchers go out there and throw four complete games and we're in the World Series.

Contreras: It was incredible. In the moment I didn't realize what could happen. I had the opportunity to watch the games again and I remember every detail as if it was today.

A.J. being A.J. ...

With Game 2 tied 1-1 and two outs in the ninth, White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski appeared to strike out swinging, which would have sent the game into extra innings. But Pierzynski darted for first when Angels catcher Josh Paul rolled the ball back to the mound. Joe Crede doubled and the Sox won 2-1 to tie the series 1-1.

Pierzynski: "I swung and missed and thought it hit the ground, and he didn't tag me right away. As soon as I saw him throwing the ball back to the pitcher, I just figured I'd go. The umpire hadn't said anything, and when I got to first, you know, nobody kind of knew what to do. It ended up working out."

Blum: I believe the umpire made the correct call.

Announcer Darrin Jackson: My first reaction was, "What is Josh Paul doing? Why is he rolling the ball out toward the mound? It might be smart, just in case, to hold on to the ball and make sure that you get the out before you roll it away." A.J.'s reaction — nobody has the natural instincts A.J. does the minute something crazy happens on a baseball field.

Reinsdorf: We needed a catcher. We brought up A.J.'s name. Everybody in San Francisco hated him. Ozzie said, "If he was on the other team, you hated him; if he's on your team, you hate him less."

General manager Ken Williams: One of the biggest influences on that decision was Hawk (Harrelson). We called Hawk.

Reinsdorf: He's known A.J. since high school.

Williams: He said, "Kenny, he's going to come here and this is what he's going to do." He said, "I promise you he'll be OK. And if he gets out of line I'll kick his …"

Reinsdorf: If there's one thing that can piss a person off, he knows what that is. I love A.J. Whenever we're in the same city we always manage to get together, and he pisses me off every single time. He knows exactly what to say. It's amazing.

Outfielder Scott Podsednik: If you look at any team in any sport that wins it, there's going to be breaks they get, there's going to be the occurrences they take advantage of. That's how hard it is to get to the dance and win it. Fortunately we were able to take advantage of the breaks we got, and we got plenty of them in the postseason.

Reinsdorf: If we don't win that game, we're down 0-2 going into Anaheim. Who knows what would have happened? It wasn't the World Series, but that certainly was one of the key incidents of the season.

pskrbina@tribpub.com

Twitter @ChiTribSkrbina

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