Phil Kadner: The greatest season of them all

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Chicago White Sox infielder Geoff Blum pumps his fist during a ticker-tape parade in the downtown business district of Chicago Friday, Oct. 28, 2005, during the city’s celebration for the team’s World Series championship. Blum hit the game-winning home run in Game 3 of the Series. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

I had waited my entire life for this and after a key win in the World Series I had to call Dad in Florida. After all, this is the dream we had shared since I was a small child.

“We’re going to finally do this,” I barked into the telephone. “Did you see them last night?”

There was a long, puzzling pause on the other end of the line.


“What are you talking about?” Dad finally replied.

I told him I was talking about the World Series, of course.

“Oh,” he replied. “Did they win? I must have gone to sleep.”

The White Sox would eventually win the World Series, but it wouldn’t matter much to me, and not at all to Dad.

As the celebration was going on in Chicago, I was driving south to be with my father following one of the worst hurricanes in U.S. history, Hurricane Wilma. After arriving, I would discover that he had probably been displaying symptoms of Alzheimer’s for months.

As I watched Cubs fans rejoicing this fall, I have often thought back on that 2005 White Sox season. I wondered how many of Cub fans discovered what I did.

The joy is not so much in the winning, but in the decades of losing, and the thousands of memories you create with the people you love.

“That’s where Babe Ruth used to play,” Dad had said, pointing to the outfield grass in old Comiskey Park as we took our seats in the left field grandstands back in 1959.

Who else did you see play, Dad?

“Hank Greenberg. Ted Lyons. Luke Appling. Joe DiMaggio.”

Was DiMaggio better than Mickey Mantle?

“DiMaggio was the greatest defensive outfielder I ever saw.”

And he played right here?

“Right down there.”

My 7-year-old eyes got so big they could have been in a Margaret Keane painting.

With each step the Sox took toward the pennant in 2005, I remembered those games with Dad, watching Nellie Fox, Bubba Phillips, Pete Ward, Tommy John, Gary Peters, “No Neck” Williams, Richie Allen, Terry Foster and Bill Melton, just to mention a few.

There were some awful teams. Terrible years. Team uniforms that looked like softball jerseys and players forced to dress in shorts.

There had been the beloved owner Bill Veeck and the “South Side Hit Men,” players rented for a single year because Veeck couldn’t afford the multi-year contracts of the other Major League owners.

I think that was the year Harry Caray started leading the crowd in singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh-inning stretch.

As the Sox made their way toward the World Series, I remembered the arguments I had with boyhood pals about who was the better shortstop, Ernie Banks of the Cubs or Luis Aparicio of the Sox. I recalled opening packs of baseball cards and simply smelling them.

I remembered all the days and evenings playing Whiffle ball, or fast-pitch against the wall at Stevenson Elementary School, and pick-up games in the street on Kolin Avenue with a sewer cover as home plate.

“I’m Jungle Jim Rivera,” someone would shout, as he ran to catch a fly ball.

I could remember they way Jack Brickhouse called games on TV and his tips for young players during rain delays.

There were hot summer nights standing around a radio set listening to late night games from the West Coast, which were some of the greatest sports contests I ever saw.

There was laughter and profanity and shouts of jubilation and cries of outrage. None of it has anything to do with the championship season of 2005. All of it was about being a White Sox fan. Loving baseball.

I’m glad the Sox won it all that year. It didn’t matter nearly as much as I thought it would when I was a kid. Every season spent with Dad was the greatest of them all.


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