Like most of you, I can remember like it was yesterday exactly where I was for each of the seminal moments of the 2005 playoffs - Orlando Hernandez coming into Game 3 of the ALDS with the bases loaded and no outs and pulling three rabbits out of his cap, Doug "I saw a clear change of direction" Eddings' call in Game 2 of the ALCS, Paul Konerko's grand slam in the miserably cold and wet Game 2 of the World Series, Scott Podsednik's walk-off home run in the same game and Juan Uribe going into the stands to record the second out in the bottom of the ninth in Game 4.
Asking me to pick the one highlight from that 11-1 run that is my favorite is an impossible task. It's far easier to just call Hernandez' the most tense, Eddings' the most hilarious, Konerko's the most mood-changing, Podsednik's the most euphoric and Uribe's the ballsiest.
There is one moment, though, that has more memories connected to it for me than the others. And that's probably because it came from the longest game in World Series history - 5 hours and 41 minutes and 14 innings. And that's Geoff Blum's game-winning home run in Game 3.After seeing the first two games in-person, for Game 3 I returned to my practice of watching in some bar in Champaign-Urbana with a couple other diehard White Sox fans. This time, the venue was The Office in Urbana (since closed, I learned writing this).
Jon Garland was shaky, giving up four runs over the first four innings, though that was assisted by some poor defense. But the White Sox erased that lead with a five run outburst in the 5th, highlighted by a Joe Crede home run and an A.J. Pierzynski 2 run double. Garland then settled down and protected the one run lead for the next three innings before giving way to Cliff Politte.
When the game was turned over to the bullpen in 2005, one felt pretty good about the team's chances and I remember thinking the White Sox will be in good shape if they get the ball to Bobby Jenks in the ninth with the lead.
Politte recorded two outs in the bottom of the 8th before walking Morgan Ensberg. Neal Cotts then came in to face the left-handed Mike Lamb, who he walked. Dustin Hermanson came in and gave up a double to Jason Lane that scored Ensberg before finally getting the last out. Three guys who had been stellar in the regular season combined to lose the lead. Jenks wouldn't be coming in for the 9th.
Instead, Hernandez decided that he wanted to replicate the ALDS and loaded the bases himself in the 9th. But he managed to pitch out of it and send the game to extra innings. After walking the leadoff man in the 10th, he left the game with a shoulder injury, which may have contributed to his precarious effectiveness. Luis Vizcaino held the Astros scoreless for the remainder of the inning.
It was probably about that time that I began to consider which starter could be available. Game One's starter, Jose Contreras, probably had thrown a side session before the game. So that left Game Two's starter.
Bobby Jenks came in to pitch the 11th and stayed on to pitch a scoreless 12th. The White Sox offense continued to be unable to score against the Astros bullpen.
And it was probably about that time that my friends and I began to have another thing to worry about - it was approaching closing time at The Office. That the game wouldn't be over by closing was an eventuality we had not considered. With the clock ticking, we had to call an audible. We quickly determined whose apartment we could reach the quickest and made the move to the exit. With the game on the radio, I missed very little action in the sprint to my car and the sprint into the apartment.
Having solved our venue problem, we could return our full attention to the game, which continued to be a stalemate. Chad Qualls pitched three scoreless innings for the Astros. And the much-maligned Damaso Marte, the last man in the White Sox bullpen, relieved Jenks with a scoreless 13th. Because this game was at the Juice Box, the amusing NL rules were in effect. To keep the pitcher's spot in the batting order as far away as possible, Marte came into the game for Tadahito Iguchi, who had made the final White Sox out in the top of the inning. The last man on the bench, Blum, substituted in for Jenks. The stage was now set.
The Astros bullpen was in slightly better shape with two relievers remaining. Phil Garner called on his righty, Ezequiel Astacio. He chose...poorly.
Jermaine Dye singled to leadoff the inning but Konerko grounded into a double play. Blum came to the plate with two outs and his .500 OPS since coming to the White Sox. The threat level was somewhere around Brendan freakin' Ryan.
After getting the first two outs of the inning on three pitches, Astacio apparently wanted to get some work in and he promptly threw two balls to Blum. His third pitch, however, was a strike - low and inside, just where a lefty likes it. And Blum put it over the right field wall.
I remember it being a surprise that it went out. It was past 1 am at that point and fatigue certainly had begun to set in with us. And after the double play, particularly with Blum up, there wasn't much expectation for anything to happen. Then, out of nowhere, was a line shot that got out in the hurry and someone had finally scored.
The floodgates then opened up and Astacio let things get out of hand by loading the bases, ultimately surrendering another run to make it 7-5. Wandy Rodriguez - the only current Astro remaining from that 2005 team - came in to get the last out.
The Astros did threaten in the bottom of the 14th, with the help of a Uribe error that put runners on first and third with two outs. But then Game Two's starter came into the game to record the final out - the only save of Mark Buehrle's career.
That win obviously was pivotal - a 3-0 deficit is basically a death sentence in baseball. Other than driving home to climb into bed, I had one other task remaining. larry's mom needed to be alerted of the victory. She had made it through 13 innings but then fell asleep. When she picked up the phone, she had no idea what had happened and it took her a minute to sufficiently wake up to realize 1) who was calling and 2) why they were calling. The rest of the drive in desolate Urbana was uneventful. But it was then that I really let myself believe that the White Sox would win the World Series.