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Say it is so

White Sox capture first Series title since 1917

HOUSTON -- They are dirty Sox no more.

The Chicago White Sox, who have long been remembered for not how they won or lost, but how they fixed the game, last night blotted out one of the enduring stains in the history of baseball, a sport that prides itself on having a long memory, by beating the Houston Astros, 1-0, and sweeping the 101st World Series, four games to none.

A team unashamed of its South Side roots in a city where the fashionable have traditionally tilted north toward the ivy-covered Cubs, the White Sox no longer have to say it ain't so, the scandal of the rigged 1919 World Series melting away under the splendor of a golden Oztober.

Fittingly, Ozzie Guillen, the manager who could do no wrong in an 11-1 postseason run that began with a sweep of Boston, required five games to dispose of the Angels, and ended with a sweep of the Astros, made the right move that ended the longest scoreless tie in Series history since the Twins beat the Braves, 1-0, in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, a.k.a. the Jack Morris Game.

Guillen called upon Willie Harris, who had batted just once before in the postseason, to pinch hit for starter Freddy Garcia to open the eighth. Harris lined a 2-and-2 pitch from Astros closer Brad Lidge over the head of shortstop Adam Everett for a single. Harris took second on a sacrifice, advanced to third on Carl Everett's infield out, and scored on Jermaine Dye's topped ground-ball single up the middle.

The White Sox won their first World Series since 1917, joining their brethren in men's hosiery, the Red Sox (1918), in terminating two of baseball's most noted droughts. Only the Cubs (1908), who are approaching a century between Series titles, have a longer losing streak.

''I hope they live it up and party like it's 1917," said White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who was in the middle of so much that took place this postseason, including the fountain of champagne that erupted when Kenny Williams, the only African-American general manager in baseball, stormed into the clubhouse, the World Series trophy held high over his head.

The White Sox won the Series on the birthday of William ''Kid" Gleason, the manager of the 1919 White Sox who would have been 139 yesterday, and on the 74th anniversary of the death of Charles Comiskey, the owner of the disgraced team.

''This could have ended the other way," said White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who has won six championships as owner of the NBA's Bulls but baseball was the first love of a kid growing up in Brooklyn. ''One swing of the bat, and we lose. The whole series was like that.

''Every one of these games could have gone to the Houston Astros. This will go down in history as a four-game sweep, but it certainly wasn't a blowout.

''This team, coming out of spring training, we thought we were pretty good but I don't think a lot of other people agreed with us. So, this is improbable, and when you go 88 years, it's astonishing."

They were not assured of victory until two marvelous plays in the ninth by shortstop Juan Uribe, who reached into the stands to grab a pop by Everett -- no Bartman in the stands to impede his catch -- then charged Orlando Palmeiro's slow roller over the mound and threw him out by an eyelash for the game's final out. ''It's fitting," Pierzynski said. ''We win the first game of the year, 1-0, we won the first game of the second half, 1-0, and so it's fitting we win the last game of the year, 1-0."

The Astros, playing in the first World Series played on Texas turf, went hitless in their last 20 opportunities with runners in scoring position, 0 for 11 in Game 4 after going 0 for 9 following Jason Lane's tying double in the eighth inning of Game 3's epic 7-5 loss in 14 innings, the longest game in Series history.

''We just didn't eke it out this time," Astros manager Phil Garner said. ''It's unfortunate because we had done a pretty good job of coming up with a run here and there."

''I was in the stands for Game 4 when Boston won it at St. Louis," said White Sox third baseman Joe Crede, who grew up a Cardinals fan. ''I got chills up and down my spine when they got the final out, and there was definitely a feeling going through my mind that I wanted to be there, and we could be there."

Dye was named Most Valuable Player of the series.

The White Sox had to get past Brandon Backe, the least celestial member of an Astros pitching staff that had seen its brightest stars -- Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, and Roy Oswalt -- dimmed one by one by the White Sox as they opened a 3-0 Series lead.

Under the bill of Backe's cap, etched in ink, are the phrases ''Don't stop, never quit," words that have accompanied him to the mound, he said, since he was in high school. And despite the bleak prospects facing Houston's finest last night -- of the 21 previous teams that have trailed, three games to none, in the Series, all have lost, 18 by a sweep -- Backe showed heart.

He held the White Sox, who came into the game batting .300 with six home runs in the first three games of the Series, to three hits through the first six innings: Dye's two-out double in the first, Scott Podsednik's two-out triple in the third, and Dye's leadoff single in the fourth.

After Dye reached for the second time, Backe proceeded to strike out the next five batters, one short of a World Series record held by three pitchers, including one Hod Eller, pitching for the 1919 Reds against a team not playing on the square, a team known forever after as the Black Sox.

But while Backe dominated a White Sox team trying with all its might, Houston's hitters remained in a funk so deep, their only consolation was that Garner was nowhere near a furniture store. Garner had hurled a stool in anger in the Astros' dugout the night before -- the longest night in World Series history (14 innings, 5 hours 41 minutes), until former Astro Geoff Blum helped end it with a home run.

No telling what Garner might have done in a showroom full of La-Z-Boys, when the Astros continued wasting chances last night, going 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position through six innings against another former Astro, Garcia.

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