The first: Ozzie Guillén reflects on World Series win

Every day during the World Series, La Vida Baseball will showcase a great Latino moment in World Series history. Today’s piece is about the White Sox etching Ozzie Guillén’s name in the history books.

These are the moments to celebrate. They are special partly because one never knows if it will ever happen again. One never knows whether the first time would be only time.

Between Chicago’s last world title and the 2005 White Sox title, baseball had undergone tremendous change. In 1917, the White Sox had never had a Latino player on its roster, much less a Latino manager.

The success of the 2005 White Sox was due to both. The Sox’s starting rotation included Venezuelan Freddy García and Cuban pitchers José Contreras and Orlando “El Duque” Hernández. Two Dominicans worked regularly out of the bullpen, lefty Damaso Marté and righty Luis Vizcaino.

Dominicans also made contributions with Juan Uribe as the regular shortstop while Pablo Ozuna and Timo Pérez contributed off the bench.

The Sox won 99 regular season games before going 11-1 in the postseason, including a sweep of the then-National League champion Houston Astros in the World Series.

A Latino First

Guillén had been hired a season earlier. Although he had been the bench coach for the Florida Marlins’ 2003 World Series-winning team, the Sox was his first managerial post.

Most new managers would be excited to manage the franchise where they had success as a player. That was not the only emotion Guillén felt when he returned to Chicago in 2004.

“I feel proud to manage a team I love, to manage the team that [gave] me the opportunity to be who I am as a player,” Guillen said. “It’s something when you [are] managing a team you feel for, you care for. It’s a different scenario.”

“It’s not an easy job to have in Chicago. I love it, yes. But I’m not excited about it. I didn’t win the Lotto. You didn’t give me two hundred million dollars just to say ‘Here it is.’ Then I’d be excited. But you give me a job that’s not an easy job, but I’m very happy to do it.”

From a Latino perspective, there was much to celebrate in the White Sox’s 2005 triumph. Guillén, a native Venezuelan, had become the first Latino manager to lead a team to a World Series title. His accomplishment got the attention of not just his home country, but Latino fans across Latin America and the United States.

But leave the labeling of his World Series triumph as a Latino first to others. It grated Guillén when a broadcast associate kept bringing it up every time they were working for ESPN.

“Hey, hey, hey just say ‘Ozzie Guillén’. Don’t put ‘first Latino as a manager’, I don’t like it. Just say ‘Ozzie Guillen’. They changed that,” he said. “I’m grateful that I did it … I feel proud about it. But being the first one … I don’t need that…I don’t even wear my rings. I do the shows on TV I don’t wear my rings.”

While he prefers the “first Latino” tag not be applied every time his World Series managerial triumph is mentioned, he does hope his family takes pride in the accomplishment.

“I hope my kids feel proud about it,” he said. “My friends feel proud about it. But me? I don’t. Maybe later on I might tell people, like ‘you remember me? Yeah I won the championship with the Chicago White Sox. I was the first Latino’… I have more priorities in my life than to be the first Latino manager in baseball [to win a World Series].”

A Family Affair

Family was and remains a first priority to Guillén. Sharing the World Series moment with his family was the biggest part of the celebration for him. They were right there with him in the Houston dugout to witness the championship moment in Game Four.

”The last out in the World Series …when I turn and I got to see my three kids next to me, to me that was more important than everything that come with the game,” he said. “God gave me the opportunity to have my three kids next to me when one of the most important days of my life happened. My two kids were working with the White Sox and the little one was a bat boy.”

It seems surreal when one goes back and watches the 2005 postgame celebration. The often gregarious, sometimes volatile, Guillén seems serene, calmly walking onto the field after a family hug with his sons after the final out.

There is no going crazy. No jumping up and down for the then-41-year-old manager. And that perhaps is his biggest regret.

“I was more aware, like don’t get excited. It’s another game, respect the other team. I regret that. I regret that because now I know how hard it is to be a World Series champ. I should’ve jumped and taken my clothes off and run off the field. Do what people thought I got to do. The bad thing about all that stuff was when everybody [was] celebrating I was with the media.”

“With the ball club I grew up with, the ball club I was when I was twenty years old, gave me the opportunity to do that,” he said. “It can’t be better than this … It was something.”

Keep reademng throughout the World Seremes to see how our favoremte players performed on the game’s bemggest stage.

Oct. 22: Sergio Romo
Oct. 23: Luis Gonzalez
Oct. 24: Ozzie Guillén
Oct. 25: Edgar Rentería
Oct. 26: Roberto Clemente
Oct. 27: David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Pedro Martínez

Featured Image: Brad Mangin / Major League Baseball