Whatever happened to those good, old-fashioned curses?

October 25, 2005|By RICK MAESE

HOUSTON — Houston-- --You do see what's happening, don't you? They're trying to change everything, trying to shake the very foundation on which you've built your sporting world all these years.

The White Sox take a 2-0 World Series lead into tonight's Game 3 against the Astros. As is typical when you're on the brink of something either very great or very disastrous, the entire city of Chicago is all of a sudden very spiritual.

They're talking about fate and divine intervention. They're talking about forgiving gods and a team destined to break a curse.

I prefer to operate in truths. If the Sox somehow win a World Series, it'll make me question all those things that are supposed to be reliable in the sporting world - little things, like bringing in a lefty to face a right-hander, giving Jordan the ball with the game on the line and the Yankees treating the offseason like a game-show shopping spree.

See, all my life, I've been told the Cubs are cursed, the Indians are cursed, the Red Sox are cursed and the White Sox are cursed. Doesn't a good curse mean anything anymore?

I can understand the gods giving the Red Sox a championship last season. After all, who could bear another minute of listening to Boston fans moan and complain?

But the White Sox? They're the most undeserving of the bunch. The Black Sox scandal of 1919 is still the most shameful act in sports history, and that deserves at least a 100-year sentence. Now, I don't personally hold Paul Konerko and Jermaine Dye responsible for acts committed by their South Side ancestors. But I expect the baseball gods to.

Frank Thomas used to have a little sign hanging in his locker. It read, "Don't believe the hype." Great words, because as we head into tonight's Game 3, logic goes out the window.

In the past 20 years, 12 teams have jumped out to a two-game lead in the Series. Only the 1996 Braves failed to win the whole thing.

As impressive as the Sox are playing right now - they've won 14 or their past 15 - don't be surprised if there's a momentum shift. It makes the least sense, therefore is the most likely.

The Sox are on an incredible playoff run, in position to post one of the best postseason records since each league was divided into divisions. Chicago is delirious with excitement right now. Fans refused to leave the ballpark Sunday night after a dramatic Game 2 victory. It's tough to blame them.

Their team trailed 4-2 heading into the seventh inning. With two outs and two runners on base, fortune smiled on the cursed team. Plate umpire Jeff Nelson ruled Jermaine Dye was hit by a pitch, though the ball actually hit his bat.

The bases were suddenly loaded. On the next pitch, Konerko blasted the ball into the left-field seats. He later said it was like an "out-of-body experience." Of course, as though a celestial spirit was guiding that ball. Could the Sox win any other way?

The Astros came back and tied the score in the top of the ninth. And then something even more implausible happened. In the bottom of the ninth, outfielder Scott Podsednik, a guy who didn't have a single home run in 507 at-bats during the regular season, hit his second homer of the postseason.

How do you explain something like that? It's when you can't explain something that you start turning to the supernatural. And this is the third time in the postseason that umpires - er, good luck - have helped the Sox.

In Game 4 of the ALCS, umps failed to notice that catcher A.J. Pierzynski's glove interfered with Steve Finley's bat as he swung. The ball rolled into a double play that ended the inning. And the most memorable came in Game 2, when plate umpire Doug Eddings allowed Pierzynski to take first base on a dropped third strike, even though Angels catcher Josh Paul clearly caught the ball.

You know what the White Sox's official song is? Journey's "Don't Stop Believing." Lead singer Steve Perry was even on hand for Sunday night's game.

Sox fans have to believe their team is going to win, because if they think about it and remember how cruel the past 87 years have seemed, those hopes will seem about as dependable as a politician's promise.

Me? I can't stop believing, because I never started. I selectively choose which parts of history are most important. You can stick by the records of previous teams that jumped out to 2-0 World Series leads.

If long-suffering fans can side with divine happenstance, the rest of us can stand by deserved curse.

rick.maese@baltsun.com

Postseason schedule

WORLD SERIES

(Best of seven; *-if necessary)

Houston vs. Chicago White Sox

(Chicago leads series 2-0)

Game 1 -- Chicago 5, Houston 3

Game 2 -- Chicago 7, Houston 6

Today -- Chicago (Garland 18-10) @Houston (Oswalt 20-12), 8:38 p.m.

Tomorrow -- Chicago (Garcia 14-8) @Houston (Backe 10-8), 8:33 p.m.

*Thursday -- Chicago@Houston, 8:28 p.m.

*Saturday -- Houston@Chicago, 7:58 p.m.

*Sunday -- Houston@Chicago, 8:13 p.m.

World Series

Game 3: White Sox (Garland 18-10)@Astros (Oswalt 20-12), 8:38 tonight, Chs. 45, 5

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