Perlozzo, White Sox's Guillen cut from the same cloth

ON BASEBALL

October 13, 2005|By DAN CONNOLLY

CHICAGO -- At a crowded news conference yesterday afternoon, the excitable manager gushed about leading the team he loves. How no matter what happens in his baseball career this always would be his most coveted baseball job.

It's a sentiment Orioles fans are familiar with, but this was 600 miles from Camden Yards, and, really, a world away from Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo and the mind-numbing dysfunction buzzing around Baltimore these days.

The man chirping and beaming at this podium was Ozzie Guillen, the Chicago White Sox skipper and the current patron saint of South Side baseball.

Guillen held court before the second game of the American League Championship Series, one in which his White Sox won an unbelievable game, 2-1, last night to tie the Los Angeles Angels 1-1 as the series heads to Anaheim, Calif.

For two days here before the national media, Guillen has been as advertised, equally outspoken and engaging. He even flirted with a cardinal sin by nearly "crying in baseball' when asked Tuesday about his late mentor Chico Carrasquel, who died in May.

He got choked up and abruptly ended that pre-game conference. Yesterday, he wanted to stick around after his session was over, just to heckle White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper.

Yes, Guillen is one of a kind. So maybe comparing him to anyone, including Perlozzo, is a stretch.

Perlozzo, a charming and fiery Italian, likes to talk. Guillen, a charming and fiery Venezuelan, doesn't shut up. Perlozzo, a former middle infielder, gets excited when his buttons are properly pushed. Guillen, a former middle infielder, has buttons stuck in go.

But know this: Guillen, a second-year skipper and likely the 2005 AL Manager of the Year, and Perlozzo, whose interim tag officially was removed by the Orioles yesterday, share something undeniable: They absolutely live and breathe for the uniform they are currently wearing.

In this era of fractured loyalty, that means something.

"I keep saying in Chicago I am the biggest White Sox fan ever, because I feel this team." Guillen said. " I think I'm a bigger fan than Jerry [Reinsdorf] and Jerry owns this team I feel this team."

He even feels sick for this team. He admitted during the White Sox's late-season skid he had to vomit after losses, giving new meaning to flushing loyalty down the toilet.

"I get sick because I don't want to lose." said Guillen, who spent 13 of his 16 major league seasons with the White Sox (and, incidentally, 12 games in 1998 with the Orioles). "I feel sick because deep inside, this is our organization."

The club may one day get sick of him and his honesty. It can irritate players. Cooper, the pitching coach, said Guillen's style isn't that much different than Billy Martin's in New York.

"You knew when he was in the room, who was in charge." Cooper said. "Here in Chicago, the inmates don't run the asylum. They have to do things a certain way, they"re held accountable Also they know that they can go to him and talk to him."

Guillen's love and energy for the White Sox is transferable. His players exhibit it. And so do the paying customers in a stadium once known for its apathy. Tuesday's sellout crowd saved its loudest ovation during pre-game introductions for Guillen. Last night, the fans rarely sat or stopped clapping during the nail-biter, showing that people here really do care about the lovable Cubbies" ugly stepsister.

Guillen deserves plenty of credit for that. He joked that if the White Sox win the World Series, he could unseat Richard M. Daley in the next mayoral election here.

Perlozzo, however, won't be banging on doors in Highlandtown anytime soon. He has a long way to go with a rudderless club before the key to Charm City is handed over.

He's also older than Guillen, not as ebullient. But a similar effort will be there.

Because, like Guillen, this is the only job Perlozzo really wants. He never played for the Orioles, but he grew up in western Maryland. He's been an Orioles coach for 10 years. He is as black and orange as Guillen is black and white.

Organizational ties aren't a prerequisite for managerial success. Lee Mazzilli and Mike Hargrove didn't have them, Ray Miller did and all failed in these eight dark years.

Guillen also had to deal with an often-criticized owner and a franchise used to losing. He now has the White Sox, his White Sox, in the ALCS on the same week that the Orioles have decided to go with one of their own.

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

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