CHICAGO – Jermaine Dye (search) drove in the first run of the World Series for the Chicago White Sox (search), and the last.
From start to finish, he certainly was the most valuable player.
Dye's two-out RBI single off Brad Lidge (search) in the eighth inning snapped a scoreless tie and sent Chicago to its first championship since 1917 with a 1-0 victory over the Houston Astros (search) on Wednesday night.
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"It feels unbelievable. This is an exciting moment," Dye said. "It's something I never will forget."
The scrappy White Sox polished off a four-game sweep thanks in no small part to their big right fielder, who went 7-for-16 (.438) with a home run and three RBIs to earn MVP honors. He scored three times and walked twice.
"It's been a long time since they've been in the World Series and won," Dye said. "And it means a lot, not only to us in the clubhouse but to the organization, to the fans, to the city, and it's just a great feeling. And we're just happy to be able to bring a championship to the city of Chicago, and it's really special."
For Dye, it was a much better performance than his first trip to the World Series. As a rookie with the Atlanta Braves in 1996, he was 2-for-17 (.118) with one RBI in a loss to the New York Yankees.
"I was just excited to be there, just having fun. You just never know if you're going to get that chance again," Dye said. "Nine years later, 10 years later or whatever, I think I kind of knew what it took to get back to the playoffs and win."
This time, big hits and pure joy. And it all capped a remarkable personal resurgence after a string of injuries that included a gruesome broken leg when he fouled a pitch off it during the 2001 playoffs against the Yankees.
A proven slugger, Dye struggled so much with Oakland in 2003 that backup catcher Adam Melhuse pinch hit for him in the playoffs with the season on the line.
But there was nobody Chicago would rather have at the plate in this World Series.
Dye homered off Roger Clemens (search) in the first inning of Game 1, giving the White Sox a quick lead in their first Fall Classic since 1959.
Then he wound up in the middle of a ruckus in Game 2, when plate umpire Jeff Nelson ruled that Dye was hit by a pitch in the seventh inning even though replays showed the ball glanced off his bat.
Dye knew that all along and admitted it later. But he kept quiet at that moment and went to first base. Paul Konerko (search) followed with a go-ahead grand slam, and the White Sox pulled out a 7-6 victory on Scott Podsednik's (search) surprising homer in the ninth.
"We don't have any egos on this team. I think that was what was really special about this club," Dye said.
He wanted to stay near home with the Athletics after last season, but wasn't willing to take a huge pay cut to do it. Oakland declined his $14 million option for 2005.
Looking to find a comfortable spot and cut down on some cross-country travel, Dye signed a $10.15 million, two-year contract with Chicago.
"I've been around a long time," he said. "This is my ninth season in the big leagues. I felt like this club was the best fit for me. We have a lot of young guys mixed with some older guys that just knew how to win. It's been a long season, a lot of stuff went on, but we finally got it done."
He had big shoes to fill, too — those of star right fielder Magglio Ordonez (search), who left for Detroit after last season.
But Dye gave the White Sox plenty of production in the middle of the lineup all year. He stayed healthy enough to get 529 at-bats, hitting .274 with 31 homers and 86 RBIs.
And it only got better in October.
"I just knew our starting pitchers and our bullpen had the capability of going out there and shutting a lot of teams down," he said. "With our offense, I knew we were good. ... From the start of spring training everybody was hungry. Everybody wanted to go out there and win together. Everybody was pulling on the same rope."