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World Series '06: Who's next?

World Series '06: Who's next?

HOUSTON -- Joe Crede was sitting in the outfield bleachers at Busch Stadium on that historic night exactly one year earlier -- Oct. 27, 2004 -- when the Boston Red Sox did the unthinkable and finally won their first World Series title since 1918.

Wednesday night, as Frank Thomas doused him with champagne inside a jubilant Chicago White Sox clubhouse, the Missouri native remembered exactly how he had felt watching the Red Sox celebrate after sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals club he had grown up following.

"I had an opportunity to be at Game 4 to see Boston win, and I got chills up and down my spine when they clinched it," Crede said. "There were these thoughts going through my mind that I wanted to have that feeling."

The most amazing thing then happened. Crede and the White Sox did exactly the same thing. So exact, it is absolutely eerie. The White Sox swept the Houston Astros for their first World Series title since 1917, finished the year on an eight-game winning streak that only the 2004 Red Sox ever had done before, and then celebrated like wild men on the opponents' field and in their visitors' clubhouse.

The World Series trophy was marched into the clubhouse and doused with champagne as players mobbed around it in the center of the room while Steve Perry's voice rang out, "Don't Stop Believin'" over the clubhouse speakers. Crede, who evoked images of the legendary Brooks Robinson during a truly special Fall Classic as the Chicago third baseman, finally had that same feeling.

First the Red Sox. Now the White Sox. The game is experiencing the most remarkable kind of trend, drought-busting like it's going out of style.

"I was there last year at Busch, too," said White Sox pitcher Mark Buerhle, who was born right in the heart of Cardinal country in St. Charles, Mo. "Games 3 and 4. But tonight, I'm not really thinking about the similarity. I'm just going to enjoy this. This time it's our turn."

Who's turn is it in 2006?

Are Cubs fans paying attention? Of course, they are -- they can't help it in Chicago right now. But it's impossible to watch what has just happened in back-to-back years and not wonder if maybe, just maybe, it could be the Cubs' turn next. They have not won a world championship since 1908. In this Drought-Busting Era, there is no question that "wait'll next year" takes on even more emphasis for the team from Wrigleyville.

If there is a formula to follow, maybe this is it: Forget about how long it's been, and finish red-hot. The White Sox just went 16-1 dating back to their last regular-season loss on Sept. 27. In other words, they went exactly one month with one defeat.

That's all you need to do.


Years Without A Championship
With their first world championship in 88 years, the White Sox followed the strides last year's Red Sox made with their own tremendous leap, moving from second on the list of longest quests for a World Series trophy down to the bottom.
Team
Year last won
Years since*
Cubs
1908
97
Indians
1948
57
Giants
1954
51
Rangers
--
44
Astros
--
43
Brewers
--
36
Expos/Nationals
--
36
Padres
--
36
Mariners
--
28
Pirates
1979
26
Phillies
1980
25
Cardinals
1982
23
Orioles
1983
22
Tigers
1984
21
Royals
1985
20
Mets
1986
19
Dodgers
1988
17
A's
1989
16
Reds
1990
15
Twins
1991
14
Blue Jays
1993
12
Rockies
--
12
Braves
1995
10
Tampa Bay
--
7
Yankees
2000
5
Diamondbacks
2001
4
Angels
2002
3
Marlins
2003
2
Red Sox
2004
1
White Sox
2005
--
* For teams that have never won a world championship, lifespan of franchise is noted

And have an incredible bond among players. Last year, the Red Sox won as a self-proclaimed bunch of "idiots," refusing to acknowledge curses and even a 3-0 deficit in the American League Championship Series. They became the first team to overcome that in a postseason and then celebrated with a Rolling Rally. Now it is the White Sox turn to celebrate, and they cited their unique chemistry under manager Ozzie Guillen as a big reason that they were able to do what few people -- even in September, when they were struggling -- thought they could do Wednesday night.

"That's what makes it even sweeter, that we get along so well as a team," Buerhle said. "Ozzie made us click together and fit right in. A lot of people doubted us in Spring Training, when we were getting rid of big hitters and going to this [small ball] style of play. It was just a great team that came together."

Buehrle was clinging tightly to a box of Wheaties that showed him prominently featured on both the front and back of the package. That new Wheaties box, which will be available nationally by mid-November, was yet another remarkable corollary between the 2004 and 2005 finishes to the Major League season.

This is the first time the White Sox have been featured on a Wheaties package, and the last one to recognize a World Series champion team honored the Red Sox and featured David Ortiz with his teammates. Who's going to be on next year's Wheaties box?

Maybe it will be the Cleveland Indians, who have not won it all since 1948. Maybe it will be the San Francisco Giants, who have never won since moving west in 1958 and who last won as a franchise in 1954.

Maybe it will be these same Houston Astros, who entered the Majors in 1962 as the Colt .45s and were playing in their first World Series -- lasting four games in this one. Maybe it will be the other team in their state, the Texas Rangers, who started in 1972 and never have been to a World Series.

Maybe it will be someone from that 1969 expansion class who never has won it all: the Milwaukee Brewers (nee Seattle Pilots for one season), the San Diego Padres or the Washington Nationals (nee Montreal Expos). All three of those clubs have reason to be hopeful, especially after watching what has just happened. The Brewers got to .500 this year and have momentum; the Padres reached the NL Division Series this year; and the Nationals had a terrific debut season in the U.S. capital and figure to contend in the NL East.

There are still some long, long droughts out there. The Red Sox and then the White Sox have just proven that it doesn't really matter.

"We don't really worry about the Red Sox," Chicago catcher A.J. Pierzynski said as he sprayed champagne in all directions. "We were just trying to win games for us and the city of Chicago, and it worked out."

Circle Oct. 27, 2006, on your calendar. Everyone is wondering who's next.

Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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