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Thursday, Apr. 2, 2015

The Land of Oz won't be the same

Posted Tuesday, September 27, 2011, at 5:25 PM

When I got home Tuesday night and turned on the latest highlights from MLB Network, I saw the official announcement roll across the bottom of the screen about Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen being released from his contract.

Being the most adamant White Sox fan for many years and the only one in the office, I feel it my responsibility to comment on his leaving the team.

Guillen, who was a shortstop for the Sox for 13 of his 16 big league seasons, gave the Pale Hose Nation a spark it needed back in 2004.

Just for those of you who aren't familiar with the situation, that's when owner Jerry Reinsdorf and general manager Kenny Williams brought back Guillen to the fold.

The intense Venezuelan replaced the much maligned Jerry Manuel.

The enigmatic Manuel had been known more for what he and his coaching staff didn't do as much as what they did.

He was a relatively quiet, unassuming skipper.

Then came the Oz.

The fiery brand of manager that, at the time, my beloved White Sox needed to right the ship. Not only did he bring passion back to the home dugout at 35th and Shields in Chicago, he also brought back the belief in tying the past to the present.

From the very top of the organization down to the field level, Guillen and Williams began by building a coaching staff of mostly former Sox players to instill the belief that the team could sustain enough to finally get to the World Series.

With at the time, coaches Joey Cora, Harold Baines, Kevin Hickey, Art Kushner and Greg Walker along with Yankee import Don Cooper (who replaced Guillen as interim manager for the final two games), Guillen and Williams set out to build a contender.

Williams (who was also a former member of the team on the field) gave Ozzie the parts he needed to -- just a year later -- bring a well-deserved title to the Southsiders.

In one of the most emotional and exciting times as a Sox fan, the 2005 season unfolded.

First they won 99 games, led the American League Central division wire-to-wire and claimed the first division title since 2000.

But Guillen's firebrand leadership not only propelled the team to winning the division, it also challenged them to win their first postseason series since the turn of the century.

Their 11-1 run through the 2005 postseason was almost legendary. They handed the defending champ Red Sox a three-game sweep, lost the opener to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim before winning three straight to claim the AL title ahead of a razor-like slicing and dicing of the Houston Astros in the Series.

When that happened it seemed to lift the veil of frustration from around the edges of White Sox Nation, a veil that had seemed to hold them in place since they lost to the Dodgers in the 1959 World Series and had carried over to a 3-1 series loss to the Baltimore Orioles in 1983 and another loss to the Toronto Blue Jays 10 seasons later.

Gone, thanks to Ozzie's undeniable influence, were the memories of postseason failures that had added to the frustration of 85 years.

With Ozzie leading the way, everything went by the wayside that night in October 2005.

The first wave of magic came when Willie Harris scored in the eighth inning off thanks to an RBI single from series MVP Jermaine Dye.

The veil finally was lifted for good when Juan Uribe's throw to Paul Konerko recorded the final out and was the final blow to the Astros hopes.

Now, just nearly as quickly, Ozzie's fiery temper, scalding tieraids and unique mouthing off contributed to his demise as Sox boss and sent him to other pastures in Miami.

But as any true White Sox fan who can look things with only a heavy objectivity, I will say that I think it's probably time for Ozzie to click his heels together three times and say "there's no place like Miami."

We as fans do have to thank him for more than just the leadership that lead a World Series title in 2005.

He currently ranks third all-time in wins with 678, seventh in winning percentage with a .523 mark, tied for second in winning seasons with five and Guillen ranks first for division titles with two.

So when you remember Ozzie Guillen, don't remember him for the way he left the White Sox. Instead remember him for what he did for them before the time to move on came.

And in baseball the time to move on comes more often than not.

Rick is a sports writer for the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached by telephone at (812) 847-4487, ext. 20. He can be reached by email at rcurl@gcdailyworld.com.

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