NEW YORK - When the White Sox won the World Series for the first time in nearly nine decades, it took awhile for Jerry Reinsdorf to realize what the title meant to many in Chicago.
"It started with a friend of mine sending an e-mail saying he had gone to the cemetery to tell his parents the White Sox had won the World Series," the White Sox owner said, "and when he got there, two-thirds of the graves were decorated with White Sox memorabilia. And then I found out that this was not just at that cemetery, this was going on all around the area."
Chicago's remarkable run to its first World Series title since 1917 was voted sports story of the year in balloting by newspaper and broadcast members of The Associated Press.
"There's hardly anybody still alive from 1917, and those few who are really don't much remember that," Reinsdorf said. "So this is the first time this has happened in almost everybody's lifetime. And the impact has just been incredible. Baseball makes people think about their ancestors, their parents and their grandparents."
Chicago's victory received 552 points in the voting. Hurricane Katrina displacing the NFL's New Orleans Saints, the NBA's Hornets and college teams was second with 465 points, followed by Lance Armstrong's record seventh straight Tour de France title (455), the furor over steroids in baseball (448), the New England Patriots' Super Bowl victory (259), Southern California's attempt to win its third straight college football title (243) and Baltimore's Rafael Palmeiro getting his 3,000th hit and then getting suspended for steroids.
Chicago went an AL-best 99-63 during the regular season, holding on to win the AL Central after a September slump nearly dropped the White Sox into second place behind Cleveland. Chicago then went 11-1 during the postseason, matching the 1999 New York Yankees for the best mark since the postseason expanded to three rounds in 1995.
"This was truly a team triumph," Reinsdorf said. "We didn't have a single .300 hitter. We only had one man who drove in 100 runs and it was just 100 runs. We didn't have a 20-game winner. Everybody contributed to it. It certainly was a tribute to our scouts, too. Think about how they jumped on Bobby Jenks."
Jenks was claimed on waivers from the Angels in December 2004, and the portly 270-pounder with the 100-mph fastball became Chicago's closer in the second half of the season.
Paul Konerko led the White Sox with 100 RBIs. While he became a free agent after the World Series, he re-signed with Chicago, which appeared to get even stronger this offseason by adding pitcher Javier Vazquez and designated hitter Jim Thome.
"Konerko didn't come up through our organization, it was a trade with Cincinnati after the Dodgers and the Reds had given up on him," Reinsdorf said. "But our scouts saw something in him. You can go around the whole lineup, if you will, and the scouts had so much to do with it."
Reinsdorf's Chicago Bulls won six NBA titles from 1991-98. This championship meant far more, he said last week from the Phoenix area, where he spends much of the offseason.
"Basketball is a great sport. Baseball is a religion, and I truly believe that," Reinsdorf said. "Ask 10 people what was the first basketball game they went to and whom did they go with, then ask them what was the first baseball game and whom they went with, and there's a good chance that all 10 will remember the baseball and none of them will remember the basketball - or the football or the hockey."
Despite the sweep, the White Sox outscored Houston by just six runs in the World Series, matching the smallest run differential in a sweep, a mark set by the 1950 Yankees against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Had it not been for a few controversial calls in the AL championship series that went Chicago's way, the Angels could have been in the World Series seeking their second title in four seasons.
"In order for a team, an ordinary team, to win the World Series - by ordinary team, that's everybody other than the Yankees - all sorts of things have to happen, the stars really have to line up in the right order," Reinsdorf said. "You have to have a lot of breaks, and we got them. I can think of a zillion breaks that we got in the postseason."
Reinsdorf's group bought the White Sox in 1981 and endured a quarter-century wait just to make it to the World Series. The joy he saw from the people of Chicago awed him.
"This could only happen in a city that has a long history in baseball that hadn't won for a long time," he said. "New York had parades when the Yankees won, it was not the same thing. When the Diamondbacks won the World Series here a few years ago - what was it, their third or fourth year? - it wasn't the same thing. When a whole generation or several generations have failed to see a winner and then finally saw that winner, the joy is beyond belief. If we were to win again next year, I can't imagine it would be the same thing."