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Original Issue

South Side Story

The White Sox have a championship drought--but not the legacy of a curse--to match their Windy City brethren

They are the forgotten stepchild on baseball's boulevard of broken dreams. The White Sox haven't won a World Series since 1917, only nine years after the fair-haired Cubs won their last championship. Sure, the South Siders have the indignity of the 1919 Black Sox scandal, but they don't have a bona fide curse to blame for their failings. "We don't have anything other than, 'It just hasn't happened,'" says first baseman Paul Konerko. "Maybe somebody should come up with one."

One week into the 2005 season the Second City's second bananas were getting by without one. Despite the departures of slugging outfielders Magglio Ordoñez and Carlos Lee, the White Sox were 5-2, thanks to a deeper rotation, more speed on the bases and better clubhouse chemistry than the team had last year.

"I really don't think the players [put stock in curses]," says outfielder Jermaine Dye. "That's more for fans and media to talk about." But true to their no-frills, blue-collar reputation, South Side fans don't seem to mind either. On April 4 a near-capacity crowd of 38,141 turned out at U.S. Cellular Field on an unseasonably warm Opening Day to see their new small-ball club squeak out a 1-0 win over the Indians. Two days later the White Sox did it again, scoring all their runs in the ninth inning to stun Cleveland 4-3.

But along with the overcast skies and heavy gusts typical of springtime in Chicago, a touch of reality returned to U.S. Cellular last Thursday. Taking a 5-2 lead into the ninth of the series finale, closer Shingo Takatsu was rocked for three home runs, which tied the game, and Cleveland went on to win 11-5 in 11 innings. For the sparse crowd filing out of the stadium that day, it was hard to envision the end of their team's championship drought.

Before the game manager Ozzie Guillen was asked why White Sox fans don't wax poetic about their team's dry spell the way North Siders do their club's (and, until last year, New Englanders did theirs). Why don't these hearty fans rally around, say, the Curse of Shoeless Joe the way Cubs fans embrace the Curse of the Billy Goat? "You know why? Because it's an excuse," said Guillen, the former infielder who played 13 seasons with the White Sox. "I don't think we have a curse. We've just had a lot of horse---- teams." --Marty Burns




Scott Podsednik is part of a speed-oriented makeover that has produced uneven results.