White Sox fans have reason to rejoice
First ALCS appearance since 1993, first series win since 1917
CHICAGO -- As he sat at his table watching the waiters and waitresses at the ESPN Zone bring out the brooms with the start of the ninth inning playing on the TV behind them, Rich Roeske couldn't help shaking his head and muttering to himself.
"It's not over yet," Roeske, 44, said. "As a longtime White Sox fan, I know it's not over yet."
But the doubt and worry that Roeske shared with many of his fellow White Sox fans turned to jubilation only moments later when Bobby Jenks got Edgar Renteria to ground out to second baseman Tadahito Iguchi to secure the White Sox 5-3 victory and a ticket to the American League Championship Series.
Screams and high fives filled the downtown Chicago restaurant that was packed with White Sox fans, celebrating the moment they had been waiting a lifetime to see -- the White Sox clinch their first playoff series victory since 1917.
While Roeske pumped his fist and high-fived others as the final out was recorded, Tony Compton stood at the bar on his cell phone sharing the good news with a close friend as tears formed in his eyes.
"It means everything to see them do this, absolutely everything," said Compton, 39. "You are going to see a grown man cry. To have them win their first postseason series since 1917. I mean, I'm lucky to be alive to see it."
The euphoria that filled the room following the victory was a stark contrast from the veil of silence that had came over the upstairs bar of the restaurant a little over an hour earlier. That came when White Sox reliever Damaso Marte walked two batters in the sixth inning to load the bases with no outs.
Hundreds of people gathered in front of the wide-screen televisions with all eyes glued to the screen as former starter Orlando Hernandez entered the game and recorded three straight outs to hold Chicago's slim 4-3 lead.
"That was huge!" Tim Strocchia, 38, shouted at the end of the inning. "Absolutely huge!"
It was a moment that the rest of the White Sox fans would reflect on after the game as a turning point in not only the game but what may be to come in the postseason.
"That inning was one of the most exciting innings I've ever seen, maybe the best ever in baseball," Dan Curran, 26, said. "It was a momentum swinger for the Sox; hopefully it can carry us all the way."
Winning a playoff series for the first time was a big accomplishment, but most won't be satisfied with just that.
"One series win won't make the entire season," Roeske said. "This is great and exciting, but I have to wait until we win the whole thing to really start the celebrating."
If the parties that occurred inside Chicago bars and on the field in Boston on Friday night are any indication, that celebration could be unlike any other that the city has ever seen.
Kelly Thesier is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.