Jays 4, White Sox 3

Thursday, August 04 2005 @ 08:00 AM EDT

Contributed by: Joe

Despite losing two in a row to the Blue Jays, the White Sox look to be headed to the postseason. The Pale Hose haven't been there since waaayyy back in 2000 (that's the turn of the millennium, for those youngsters out there). They also starred in the postseason in 1993 (and we all know how that turned out) and 1983, but you have to go all the way back to 1959 to find the White Sox' last World Series appearance.

Before even 1959, and this is a time that only Magpie would remember, the White Sox starred against the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series that nearly destroyed baseball.

Ok, maybe that's a bit dramatic, but the Black Sox scandal did great damage to the sport that the American public so desperately needed. For those who might not know, eight members of the 1919 White Sox, heavily favoured to win, threw the World Series to the Reds in exchange for $100,000 in gambling kickbacks. (According to The Inflation Calculator, $100,000 in 1919 is worth $1,229,927.10 today. That shows you how much baseball salaries have outpaced inflation. Can you imagine an athlete throwing a World Series for $153,740.89? Alex Rodriguez makes more money than that per regular season game.)

Among the throwers was one of the greatest stars of his time, "Shoeless" Joe Jackson. I didn't know, so I looked it up: Shoeless Joe had a career OPS+ of 170, with several straight seasons (1911-1913) of 193, 192, 192 OPS+. Talk about talent. Talk about consistency! In 1911, the man hit .408/.468/.590, with 233 hits (but only 7 HR). (And that year he came second in batting average!) So, basically, imagine A-Rod doesn't slap that ball out of Arroyo's glove because he was paid not to.

Of course, the eight players involved were banned from baseball for life. (Remember: A-Rod not allowed to play anymore, ever. Shoeless Joe Jackson was allowed back into baseball, though — posthumously.) Without its biggest star, and now tarnished forever, the sport nearly died there. A nation reeling from a developing economic depression turned its lonely eyes to The Pastime, and the Pastime flipped it the bird.

As we all know, though, the game did not die, and it owes its good fortune to one man. This man's star eclipsed even Shoeless Joe Jackson's. I'll list some of his more salient statistics for you, so if you haven't guessed already you'll probably figure it out. Career OPS+ of 207. Had over 200 OPS+ eleven times. His 1920 and 1921 seasons are remarkably similar: 54 HR-59 HR, 36 2B-44 2B, .376/.532/.847-.378/.512/.846. (That last number is SLG, not OPS.) Of course I'm talking about George Herman 'Babe' Ruth, maybe the best hitter who ever lived. The Babe was good in 1918, and great in 1919, but exactly when the sport needed it, he posted the greatest-hitting season anybody had ever seen (until somebody named Barry emerged near the bay).

If The Babe doesn't hit everything everywhere in 1920, does Barry even get his chance? Hell, does baseball get the chance to emerge from its stupidity in 1994, and get rescued by a couple of big sluggers named McGwire and Sosa? Will baseball again be rescued by a slugger in its (inevitable) time of great need? Or, as Star Trek opined, will it be "abandoned by a society that prized fast food and faster games"?