In a Pinch, Chicago's Harris Comes Through
Thursday, October 27, 2005
HOUSTON, Oct. 26 -- They had benched him, left him, tossed him aside and still Willie Harris kept stomping through the Chicago White Sox clubhouse, boasting, shouting the way he always did.
"If I get in I'm going to get it on!" he yelled.
His teammates laughed and nodded. Same old Willie, they said. Always talking.
He had once been the White Sox' starting second baseman, but Chicago thought it could do better and management went to Japan and brought in Tadahito Iguchi to play his position. They called it a competition in spring training, but the job was really Iguchi's to lose, and Harris did nothing to help himself by hitting less than .200 in the most important March of his baseball life.
He sat all year, went to the minor leagues for 28 games because it seemed there was nothing he could do to help the big league team. It had been a waste of a season anyway, after the mother of his 10-year-old daughter died in the spring, and he left the club for 10 days to somehow piece his child's life back together.
But even after he came back to Chicago and was given his locker and his old uniform again, there was little time on the field. As the White Sox rolled on to the American League Central title he was simply an extra piece, someone to have around in case of an emergency.
Still he boomed around the clubhouse, talking about "getting it on," talking about all his big moments in the World Series. And like always his teammates laughed and rolled their eyes.
"That's Willie; he likes to talk," first baseman Frank Thomas said.
Then Willie Harris's moment came. It arrived Wednesday night in the eighth inning of the fourth game of the World Series in a 0-0 tie. He was sent in to pinch hit, to stand at the plate for the first time since Oct. 4 and face Houston's Brad Lidge and his 100 mph fastball. It was an impossible task. And yet there he was, getting it on just like he promised. He swung and there was a shot into the outfield, a single, and suddenly the White Sox had their best chance to score in five innings. He went to second on a sacrifice, moved to third on a groundout and then scored the only run of the night on Jermaine Dye's ground ball up the middle.
And his White Sox teammates would probably have rolled their eyes were they not jumping so high in the Chicago dugout.
"He never stopped working," White Sox hitting coach Greg Walker said. "He kept working and working and never gave up. That's the kind of guy he is."
Then Walker laughed.
"You know I would always watch the World Series and be amazed at how these guys would do all these amazing things," he said. "You say 'God, how do they do that? How would a guy sit for the whole postseason and then come up with the big hit?' Then you get here and you see these guys doing it and you say 'oh okay that's how it's done.' "
Wednesday night it was Harris who got it done for Chicago. Once again it was another player who was the perfect metaphor for this team of castoffs and rejects who delivered. He might have been the last player anyone would have expected to win the World Series for the White Sox.
But there he was. Same old Willie.
Only this time he really did get it on.