Chicagos White Sox a joyous inspiration

1917 was the unforgettable year when the world witnessed the revolutionary birth of its first socialist state. The countries of imperialist expansion were waging a world war. But working-class Chicago found a unique reason to celebrate with the city’s first World Series triumph in U.S. baseball history.

Eighty-eight years later, the city where the Communist Party USA was founded, today home to the People’s Weekly World, is again celebrating a historic World Series victory — the Chicago White Sox are baseball champions. War and economic hardship continue to haunt working families here as around the world, but still working-class communities across Chicago are drawing inspiration from a sports team that brought unity and spirit to an entire city.

The White Sox won 16 of their last 17 games played this year. Beginning with a close end-of-the-season victory over Cleveland, the Sox swept the Boston Red Sox, then defeated the Los Angeles Anaheim Angels and went on to clinch the World Series by winning four straight games against the Houston Astros. The Sox demonstrated pure drive with their remarkable pitching, amazing defensive coordination and small ball genius, complemented by a hitting squad nothing short of sheer heart.

Game three of the exciting struggle between Chicago and Houston made baseball history as the longest World Series game ever — a 5-hour 41-minute, 14-inning battle. Nonetheless in game four, Venezuelan-born starting Sox pitcher Freddy Garcia displayed utter brilliance, throwing seven scoreless innings, giving up only four hits and striking out seven. At the top of the eighth inning, game four was zero to zero. No World Series game had gone scoreless for seven full innings in the past 14 years.

Yet MVP Jermaine Dye hit a single up the middle allowing pinch hitter Willie Harris to score the winning and only run of the game. Then at the bottom of the ninth, with one down, shortstop Juan Uribe made an “in your face” reach into a pro-Astros crowd, snatching Chris Burke’s foul ball. One out away from victory, Uribe once again charged a high-hopper hit, after two strikes, by Orlando Palmeiro, seizing the ball and firing it to first. Palmeiro was out and Chicago won!

What a spectacular, joyous display of clutch baseball and outstanding teamwork. George Bush Sr. and Barbara Bush were present, continuously showcased on national television by FOX, at the final games in Houston. It was fun to see them leave their home team stadium as losers.

The White Sox team’s achievements and organizational diversity are noteworthy. General Manager Kenny Williams is the first African American to hold that position in Chicago sports history and only the third in the major leagues. Manager Ozzie Guillen, who played for the Sox from 1985-97, is the first Venezuelan native to manage a major league team. Guillen is one of only three Latino managers and seven minority managers in the majors. The Sox starting lineup is impressively integrated, with African American, Latino, white and Japanese players who all equally contributed to the team’s success.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, on his weekly live television and radio program “Hello, Mr. President,” congratulated Guillen on his victory, calling him a “national hero.” Chavez told Guillen, “You are like the king of Venezuela. Your triumph is the triumph of all Venezuela.”

Guillen responded by saying, “I’m going to try to bring the World Series trophy so that my country may enjoy what the people of the United States enjoy,” adding, “It’s the first time the World Series trophy is going to leave the Unites States.” Although Guillen may not agree with everything Chavez is doing in Venezuela, Chavez expressed pride in the Chicago manager, concluding, “You are a true leader, friend, the whole nation is waiting for you.”

Tens of thousands greeted the South Side champions as they paraded through Chicago neighborhoods, saluting their fans. Similar to what we hope a May Day workers rally would look like one day, Chicagoans wearing Sox hats, jerseys and jackets packed downtown cheering the players. Waving team flags, balloons and white socks, and carrying brooms symbolizing the team sweeping the Astros, fans skipped work and school to celebrate their Chicago heroes.

Chicago’s World Series victory may not stop the war in Iraq, or instantly organize working families to promote united action around social justice, equality, peace or socialism. Baseball as a sport is arguably not the center of political education, raising working-class consciousness and revolutionary ideals. Capitalist exploitation in major professional sports, ridiculous salaries and many untold stories of violent injuries in athletic competition are all unquestionably heartbreaking. However, the love, passion and determination shown in this win are brave and inspiring. When a team sets a specific goal and then works tirelessly to achieve it, that motivational force is powerful.

As peace lovers, freedom fighters and social justice leaders, we can try to learn from the many positive, productive and collective experiences illustrated in major professional sports. As communists there is something unique, rich and beautiful about the game of baseball that we can all learn a lesson from. The historic victory of the Chicago White Sox is real proof of that.

Pepe Lozano (plozano@pww.org) is a staff writer for the PWW and a lifelong Chicagoan and Sox fan.