Monday, April 03, 2006

Yes, Virginia, the White Sox really did win the World Series last year

I was at the opener last night, until about 30 or 40 minutes after the rains came and it became obvious that the game was not going to get re-started anytime soon.

I wasn't there on my own nickel of course; with three kids in college I no longer possess that kind of discretionary income. Or any other kind, for that matter.

But I was there, wondering how I could be at a Sox-Indians game and cheering for Jim Thome. The world changes.

The banner ceremony was moving -- some thought too slow-moving, I've since heard, but I was not one of these. I was trying to keep from choking up during the deluge of images. Part of this is because my father lived his whole life without seeing the White Sox win a World Series -- and to see them play in exactly one. He probably didn't mind as much as I did.

Eight Men Out was on the cable the other night, and I was protesting to LSS and Youngest Son that they shouldn't be watching such a sad movie. LSS pointed out, not unreasonably I suppose, that the movie isn't as sad anymore, not since the Sox won the Series. But I complained to keep from crying: Maybe it's because my father's cousin-in-law once was given a glove by Buck Weaver. Maybe not.

Maybe it's because, as I get older, I choke up at the strangest things. Emotions well up unbidden and barely controlled. I worry that I'll someday be a seventy-something who cries every time the Sun goes behind the clouds. Or comes back out.

But I don't think that's a sufficient explanation. I think there's something about the connection I forged with the White Sox, as a child, listening to Bob Elson late at night -- late at night for me, as a little kid -- it's a totally one-sided love affair, of course. Back when I did have disposable income, we had weekend season tickets at the old park. Beautiful seats, too: First row above the walkway, last section of the Golden Boxes, just about even with third base. If the game was terrible, we could watch the parade of people wandering past. If the game was good, we could see the whole game.

Then 1991 came and we got moved to "equivalent" seats in the new ballpark -- deep in the right field corner (section 110) with no view of right field and just a couple hundred feet further from the action. See what I mean about one-sided? But they weren't bad seats, they were just nowhere near as good. And it was baseball. I could tell story after story about the ballpark (old and new) and how it figured in at important moments of my life.

Last year, I held back a bit, trying not to get too wrapped up in the pennant chase and the World Series because, as a life-long Chicagoan, I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. For some disaster to happen. For some routine grounder to get booted. Even when they won, when LSS clipped and saved every front page (some of which are framed in our home now), even when the victory parade went up LaSalle Street, some part of me didn't entirely believe it had really happened.

But last night, I couldn't help but give in -- and believe. I looked up, not just at the scoreboard, but at the furthest corners of the park, the seats that are never filled, even during a supposedly sold-out game. They were filled last night. "And," my host reminded me, when I pointed it out to him, "they're happy to be there."

And they were there early, too. The Sox gave out 20,000 tube socks to the first 20,000 through the gates. My host and I arrived an hour before the scheduled 7:00 p.m. game time. We didn't get socks. At least we got magnetic schedules: Some traditions remain.

Two jets flew over the park after the National Anthem. I believe they flew directly over my left shoulder. I won't say they were flying low, but I thought I could feel the exhaust -- and the pilot of one of the planes needed a shave.

So the Sox actually won the World Series. I'm certain of it now. And they won the opener, eventually, last night or this morning as you prefer, somewhere around 1:00 a.m, while I was dozing on the couch back at home. (And it may be a good thing, too, that there was a three hour rain delay: I got thoroughly wetted on my journey home, which I think made LSS and the kids less jealous of my good fortune in getting to go in the first place.)

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