White Sox End 88-Year World Series Drought

On Wednesday night, the Chicago White Sox swept the Houston Astros 4-0 in the best-of-seven contest to win their first MLB World Series in 88 years. Jason DeRose puts the team's victory in perspective by taking a look back at 1917, the last time the White Sox were baseball champions.

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NOAH ADAMS, host:

This is DAY TO DAY from NPR News. I'm Noah Adams.

The Chicago White Sox won the World Series against the Houston Astros last night, taking four games in a row for the best-of-seven. It was the first time since 1959 the Sox had been in the series, the first time since 1917 that the Sox have won. NPR's Jason DeRose has this look at how the city of Chicago, the US and the world have changed in the past 88 years.

JASON DeROSE reporting:

It's been so long since the White Sox last won the World Series, there aren't any audio recordings of the event. In fact, radio broadcasts of games in Chicago didn't begin until the 1920s. So to know what was happening on the field, you had to be one of the 32,000 people at the old Comiskey Park on the South Side or, says Chicago Historical Society curator Peter Alter...

Mr. PETER ALTER (Curator, Chicago Historical Society): Also what they had in the early part of the 20th century were these scoreboards posted throughout the city where the games would be telegraphed to the scoreboard site. And so there would be a scoreboard in the Loop, for example. There was one in Grant Park in 1917.

DeROSE: For more genteel audiences, Alter says scoreboards were also set up in theaters around town, along with baseball diamond-shaped boards on which people moved figures of players so audiences could virtually experience the game.

(Soundbite of song "Over There")

Ms. NORA BAYES: (Singing) Over there, over there, send the word, send the word over there...

DeROSE: About six months before the 1917 World Series, the US officially joined the war in Europe, later known as World War I.

Mr. ALTER: And that actually struck home directly with the White Sox because the White Sox players, shortly after the declaration of war, were asked to help with recruiting into the volunteer army as well as the Selective Service.

DeROSE: Alter says major-league baseball teams began to stitch US flags onto their uniforms to show their support for the war as well.

1917 was also the year of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia.

(Soundbite of demonstration)

Unidentified Man: (Russian spoken)

(Soundbite of cheering and applause)

DeROSE: And, Alter says, with the Russian Revolution came a fear of outsiders, especially possible socialists and Communists.

Mr. ALTER: What you see nationally as well as locally is a crackdown on any sort of radical thinking, especially in terms of politics and labor. And so the Industrial Workers of the World, for example--their headquarters are raided in something like 42 cities throughout the country, of course, including Chicago.

DeROSE: Peter Alter says it was around this time, too, that Chicago began to be thought of as America's second city, after New York, in terms of population and economic importance. It took that title away from Boston. 1917 was the beginning of the influenza pandemic that killed millions, and 1917 was the last year before this year that the Chicago White Sox won the World Series. Then, the victory was against the New York Giants. Last night, the victory was at the expense of the Houston Astros. Jason DeRose, NPR News.

ADAMS: And Jason, hardworking reporter that he obviously is, isn't quite done yet. He's run around Chicago and has worked up a second story for our program. It's about God and Starbucks, and you'll hear that in a few minutes.

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