Friday, July 17, 2015

EXTRA: ‘Damn Yanqui’ helped give Chicago that ’05 White Sox champ

I wish I could make it out to the ballpark this weekend, not because I care one bit about seeing the Kansas City Royals play. But because former pitcher Orlando Hernandez was supposed to be among the White Sox players on hand for ceremonies paying tribute to one decade having passed since the World Series came to Chicago.

Already traded to Arizona by time card came out
Hernandez was the Cuban defector and star of the Cuba national baseball team who wound up being for a time the best pitcher for the New York Yankees.

BY THE TIME he joined the White Sox for the 2005 season, he was presumed to have been washed up. As in only the White Sox were willing to take a chance on him.

In fact, by the halfway point of that ’05 season, Hernandez had been dropped from the starting rotation.

Which is why when the playoffs began, Hernandez had his roster spot but was relegated to the bullpen. He pitched in relief in rare situations.

Yet the guy who was part of those Yankees teams that won three straight World Series in 1998-2000 got called on in the third game of the first round of the playoffs against the Boston Red Sox.

I STILL REMEMBER the White Sox with a one-run lead in the sixth inning, nobody out and the bases full when manager Ozzie Guillen called upon the one-time Yankee and Cuba ace to get the White Sox out of the jam.

His job was to keep the Red Sox from completely blowing the game open. Keep it close, and perhaps the White Sox could do something later.

Instead, Hernandez got all three batters out with no runs scoring. Including that final out where Red Sox outfielder Johnny Damon couldn’t check his swing in time (I’m sure Red Sox fans still whine that it should have been called Ball Four).

Although to me, it was equally impressive that Hernandez pitched two more shutout innings without giving up a hit – including appearances against Red Sox star hitters David Ortiz and Manny Hernandez (making the latter look like a total chump in the process).

Yankee-style glory in White Sox greys
THE WHITE SOX went on to win that game, and round of the playoffs, before going on to beat the Los Angeles Angels for the American League pennant and the Houston Astros for the World Series title.

I still remember ESPN announcer Chris Berman getting all worked up during that sixth inning going on about how this was THE MOMENT that the Red Sox would take a lead and begin a momentum that would let them win two more games and result in Boston reclaiming its rightful place atop the baseball world.

Instead, the ‘damned Yanqui’ from Havana, Cuba dumped all over that vision, much to the glee of South Side baseball fans, creating a moment that I must admit to periodically rewatching from time to time.

I actually purchased a DVD set of the ’05 playoffs and World Series games in their entirety, yet usually only watch that one inning over and over and over again.

SO EVEN THOUGH he only pitched that one season with the White Sox (a 9-win, 9-loss season with an earned run average of 5.12) and is now a Miami resident, the man known in baseball circles as “El Duque” (the nickname passed along from his father, who also pitched competitively in Cuba) gets to be an honorary Chicagoan for life!

Clinching the series victory
Just like Mark Buehrle, A.J. Pierzinski (he of the quick thinking that 'stole' a win from the Angels in the next round of the playoffs), Juan Uribe (remember that final out in Game Four of the World Series?) and Neal Cotts – the four remaining members of that team who are still playing baseball for other ball clubs who we'll cheer for even if they play against the White Sox.


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