Thrilling Series symbolic, says Selig

Thrilling Series symbolic, says Selig

HOUSTON -- He hugged Jerry Reinsdorf and presented the White Sox owner with the World Series trophy after all these years. The two warhorses have been together through thick and thin since Reinsdorf purchased the team in 1981.

Bud Selig owned the Milwaukee Brewers then. He bought that team in 1970 and relinquished that position to become Commissioner in September 1992. He's had some thrilling moments during his tenure, but perhaps none as sublime as Wednesday night when the White Sox swept the Astros out of the World Series with a 1-0 win in Game 4 at Minute Maid Park.

"There are a lot of tough days, but as we close the season, today I'm proud to be the Commissioner," Selig told MLB.com. "The grand old game is doing OK."

He has called this Major League Baseball's greatest year, and the toughly fought World Series that the White Sox won by a total of six runs only put a punctuation point on that assessment.

The 30 MLB teams drew a composite of more than 73.1 million fans, a new record. Races for the division titles in the American League East and AL Central came down to the final weekend of the season and the Wild Card berths in both leagues weren't secured by the Astros and Red Sox until the last day.

"It's been an amazing year," Selig said. "It's hard to believe it's over. You think of the last two months of the season, the drama and the excitement. We not only broke attendance records, but this game has regained its stature. It's more popular than ever before. You can see it in every city we go. I had some fans stop me today and say, 'Whatever happens, we can't wait for next season.' That's the feeling you get everywhere."

The playoffs brought new intrigue as the White Sox won their first AL pennant since 1959 and the Astros captured their first NL flag at the conclusion of the 44th year since the expansion franchise came into existence.

The World Series brought further drama, with the White Sox winning Game 1, 5-3, in what might have been the final appearance for Roger Clemens in his stellar 21-year career. Clemens left the game at U.S. Cellular Field after two innings with a torn left hamstring. But it was the first White Sox World Series win in Chicago since the Pale Hose defeated the Dodgers at old Comiskey Park in Game 1 of the 1959 Series, one they lost in six games.

Game 2, played in a downpour, saw the Astros tie the score in the top of the ninth only to lose, 7-6, two batters into the bottom of the inning on Scott Podsednik's walk-off homer.

Game 3 in Houston was a an epic five-hour, 41-minute, 14-inning battle that the White Sox won, 7-5. It set records for the longest game by time in World Series history and tied the longest game by innings that Boston won, 2-1, over Brooklyn in 1916.

Game 4 was a taut pitchers' duel that ended with the Astros stranding the tying run on second base.

"Even though this was a four-gamer, every game was so dramatic I'm worn out," Selig said. "You'd have liked it to have gone longer, but I think we packed seven games into four games, which is symbolic of the season. It's been a great season. It's been a joyous season."

Selig, who is 71 and a Milwaukee native, has witnessed the remarkable happen. In the last two seasons, the Red Sox defeated the Cardinals to win their first World Series in 86 years and the White Sox won their first title in 88 years. As a young man growing up in a town that didn't have Major League Baseball until the Braves vacated Boston for Milwaukee in 1953, he spent his more formative years enjoying games at Wrigley Field and Comiskey Park.

The Cubs remain the team with the longest World Series hex, having not won one since 1908 nor even having been to the Fall Classic since 1945.

"It's wonderful," said Selig about the back-to-back World Series sweeps administered by the Red Sox and White Sox. "That's what makes this sport great. You've often heard me say, and I say it to the clubs at every meeting, you've got to have hope and faith. I used to make that speech when I was president of the Brewers. You've got to do that.

"And now the Curse of the Bambino is gone. It's 88 years later and the White Sox are the world champions. It's great for baseball. We've done things for baseball that are so great and so exciting, every year brings a different level of excitement."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.