White Sox fans will never forget all of the heroics that they witnessed in the 2005 run to a World Series title. There was a different hero in each game, or so it seemed. Perhaps it was Scott Podsednik hitting a home run in the first game of the ALDS after going homeless for the entire regular season. Then again, it may have been El Duque’s magical escape in Fenway against the defending champs. Many will always cherish the four complete games in the ALCS (Jose Contreras also went 8 1/3 innings in Game One). Of course, A.J. Pierzynski will always have a place in Sox fans’ memories for his famous dropped third strike.
Maybe it was Paul Konerko’s grand slam and Podsednik’s walk-off in Game Two of the World Series. Does anybody remember Geoff Blum or Mark Buehrle getting a save in Game Three? How about Juan Uribe making not one, but two spectacular plays in the ninth inning of Game Four, including the final out? This, of course, followed Jermaine Dye’s RBI single in the top of the eighth inning. Or how about this trivia: the 2005 White Sox are the only team in Major League history to win 1-0 on Opening Day, and win the final game of the World Series by a 1-0 score. A lot of memories for sure. Yet, perhaps lost in all the excitement of this run to a championship is a man without whom there may not have been a playoff run – Dustin Hermanson.
Dustin Hermanson – An Unlikely Hero
The White Sox signed Hermanson to a two-year deal as a free agent in December of 2004. When they signed him, the intention was to use him as a set-up man out of the bullpen. They already had a close in Shingo Takatsu, he of the “Frisbee” slow ball. Takatsu debuted with the Sox in 2004 and pitched well. He recorded an earned run average of 2.31 and compiled 19 saves. However, the league figured him out in 2005, and the White Sox released him on August 1st, 2005. When Takatsu faltered, the Pale Hose turned to Hermanson as their closer in the middle of a pennant run.
While Hermanson had a slight stint as the Giants’ closer in 2004, he really was not a closer by trade. In fact, prior to assuming that role for the Giants, Hermanson had a grand total of six saves in nine seasons. He did manage to record seventeen saves with the Giants in 2004 but was not regarded as a bonafide MLB closer in the 2004/05 free agency period. Thus, the White Sox were able to sign him for two years for $5.5 million. Now, all of a sudden, the Sox were entrusting the vital closer role to a man who had never been asked to face as much pressure. While the move was made out of necessity, it surely did not inspire confidence in the hearts of anxious White Sox fans.
Taking Advantage of an Opportunity
Dustin Hermanson took over the closer’s role in late May of 2005. He started his White Sox career 15 for 15 as a closer. At the All-Star break, he had compiled a staggering 21 saves, with an ERA of 1.53, pretty good for a guy the Sox signed as a set-up man. He helped carry the Sox to a solid lead in the AL Central at the All-Star break. He stepped into a role that nobody had imagined he would perform and pitched incredibly well. All things considered, it is not a stretch to suggest that Dustin Hermanson’s biggest save was saving the White Sox 2005 season.
After the All-Star break, Hermanson pitched admirably, although not as well as he had pitched in the first half. He managed to add 13 more saves and pitched to an ERA of 2.86 in 24 games in the second half of the season. Unfortunately, his back began to betray him, and he was forced to the disabled list. His magical run ended when the White Sox placed him on the DL. For the season, Hermanson pitched a total of 57 1/3 innings, had a stellar ERA of 2.04, and compiled a total of 34 saves. He had an ERA+ of 221, and a WHIP of 1.099. Both of these were career bests for Hermanson. There is no doubt that faced with a pressure situation, Dustin Hermanson came through big-time and was a major factor in the White Sox run to the postseason.
Dustin Hermanson – Footnote
Ironically, when Hermanson went down with a back injury, he turned the closer’s role over to another unlikely hero – Bobby Jenks. White Sox fans know all about how Jenks came out of nowhere and became the closer for a World Series championship as a rookie. Jenks closed out Game Four in Houston, and will always be a key figure in White Sox folklore. His place in White Sox history is secure, as it should be. However, it was the effort of Dustin Hermanson that White Sox fans should never forget. He has earned his place in Sox history, as well. Without him, there may never have been a Bobby Jenks closing out the Astros. Well done, Mr. Hermanson, take a bow.
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