Originally created 03/12/06

Windy city hero



TUCSON, Ariz. - Jermaine Dye hit the ball up the middle, and when it cleared the infield for an RBI single he responded with an uncharacteristic display of emotion by clapping his hands.

No wonder. One of the biggest hits of his career, one of the most celebrated ever in the city of Chicago, his hit drove in the only run as the White Sox won the World Series clincher in Houston last October.

"You can sit back when you are old and gray and remember some of the good old days," Dye said as he reflected on his hit, which helped him earn the World Series MVP award.

"Right now I'm still playing," he said. "That was last year and this is a different year."

That's what the White Sox have been saying since opening camp.

But huge banners proclaiming their championship hang on the outside walls of their complex, and pictures of the 2005 postseason line the inner ones.

Included is one of Dye just as he makes contact off Brad Lidge, sending Willie Harris home with two out in the eighth inning of Game 4.

A short time later, the White Sox were soaked with champagne. And whenever Dye walks down the corridor to the practice field, he can see his hit up close.

"It brings back memories," Dye said. "I think it's something you may think about every now and then. It's something I'll never forget and at the same time, it's another season and I just have to get ready."

DYE STARTED SLOWLY a year ago in his first season with the White Sox, his fourth major league team, batting just .175 in his first month. But it's how he finished that helped the White Sox fight off a late swoon and win the AL Central.

Dye batted .300 over his final 55 games and finished with a .274 average, 31 homers and 86 RBI. When manager Ozzie Guillen moved him into the No. 3 batting spot for the regular-season finale and kept him there in the postseason, it stabilized Chicago's order.

"It was the right guy at that particular time," Guillen said. "

Dye went 7-for-16 (.438) in the World Series with a home run off Roger Clemens and three RBI. He also scored three times, walked twice and had a .526 on-base percentage.

He was in the disputed Game 2 play, when plate umpire Jeff Nelson ruled that Dye was hit by a pitch in the seventh inning - replays showed the ball glanced off Dye's bat. Dye kept quiet and went to first base, and Paul Konerko followed with a grand slam as the White Sox went on to win on Scott Podsednik's homer.

DYE WILL BE DROPPED in the order this spring as Guillen has already named newly acquired Jim Thome his No. 3 hitter. That means Dye will be fifth in the order.

With Guillen's unpredictable moves a staple of the season, Dye also had two more firsts last year. He made his major league debut at a shortstop early in the season when the White Sox ran out of players in a game against Oakland. He also made his first career start at first base.

He was also relatively injury free, playing in 145 games. But late in the season, he played through what appeared to be a groin strain.

"We never thought it was a hernia. I didn't really get diagnosed until a couple of weeks after the season was over," he said.

Dye had a hernia operation in early December but says he is fully recovered and ready to go.

Despite winning the Series MVP award, Dye said his offseason was relatively uneventful.

"I live out here in Phoenix and it's about the Diamondbacks out there," he said.

"It was fun for a while and then you realize you have to get ready and get back on your workout program."