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Baffoe: Sports' Greatest Conspiracy Theory -- Existence Of The 2005 World Series

By Tim Baffoe--

(CBS) Fake news is a part of our lives now, unfortunately. It varies in form. Once in a while, it's a genuine factual inaccuracy in a piece of journalism. Often, it's the leader of the free world applying the term to anything he doesn't like. It can also take the form of shoddy conspiracy theories.

Sports is no stranger to this. The New York Knicks had a frozen draft envelope allowing them to get Patrick Ewing. Michael Jordan played baseball to duck a gambling suspension. Michael Moorer got put on the canvas by a 45-year-old George Foreman's 10th-round fly swatter.

And the Chicago White Sox won the 2005 World Series.

Yes, many people will tell you that last one actually happened. Bumper stickers on Oldsmobiles. Polo shirts at Mt. Greenwood weddings. Something called "Mark Buehrle Day." They all claim "2005 World Series champions." Yet ask any of those folks to prove to you that the White Sox won a baseball championship in the Year of Our Lord Two-Thousand Five, and you'll get talked into an eventual impasse.

Perhaps this is because the Sox didn't, in fact, win that World Series. I certainly don't remember it. It's a type of fake news. Mike Caulfield, director of blended and networked learning at Washington State University in Vancouver, notes four steps in vetting for fake news:

Check for previous work: Look around to see whether someone else has already fact-checked the claim or provided a synthesis of research.

Go upstream to the source: Most web content is not original. Get to the original source to understand the trustworthiness of the information. Is it a reputable scientific journal? Is there an original news media account from a well-known outlet? If that is not immediately apparent, then move to step 3.

Read laterally: Once you get to the source of a claim, read what other people say about the source (publication, author, etc.). The truth is in the network.

Circle back: If you get lost or hit dead ends or find yourself going down a rabbit hole, back up and start over. 

Know who else doesn't remember the 2005 World Series happening? Major sports outlet ESP and N. Pretty good "someone else" who has fact checked, no?

On Oct. 24, the Worldwide Leader in Sports' Stats & Info account tweeted that the 1998 New York Yankees are the only team to win a World Series with only two or fewer playoff losses in the wild-card era.

The brainwashed immediately claimed that the White Sox lost one game in the 2005 playoffs and terrorized the well-meaning trivia account into deleting the tweet, as conspiracy theorists are wont to do on social media.

That came a year to the day that SportsCenter showed a graphic about Chicago sports championships that didn't include the White Sox.

Now, we're talking ESPN here. They've created an empire on sports. That doesn't happen by getting facts wrong. But White Sox fans don't consider this logical appeal to authority. They have a watercolor in the garage that their art school nephew did of a gray pile of jerseys and limbs on a Houston mound, the same mound in what was once known as Enron Field, named for a company that scammed its own people to a point in which it was as though those employees' finances never existed. That amateur artwork might as well be next to an oil painting of L. Ron Hubbard and a neon sign for Billy Beer.

That same day in 2016, CBS This Morning's Twitter account also ignored the supposed 2005 World Series.

A day later, the venerable Washington Post used the Boston Red Sox and the Boston Red Sox alone as the only team that could give advice on ending a drought to the then championship-less Cubs and Cleveland Indians as they squared off in a World Series that everyone knows actually did occur. Maybe the Post knows that a certain team is still amid a drought and has been since 1917.

Are we not picking up an obvious pattern here? Nah, deny deny deny, right? It must have happened. Had to. It's clear as day in so many minds. People can tell you exactly where they were when Juan … or is it Jose?... Uribe made the final put out, so the story goes.

But here's the ace in the hole of that whole spiel. Gerry Hunsicker was the Astros general manager from 1995 to 2004. Even he of all people claims that the Astros never participated in the 2005 World Series.

Now to "go upstream" to the source. Hall of Famer Frank Thomas was asked on the Spiegel and Parkins Show about the dissing of the White Sox's "accomplishment."

"It was easy for them to forget about the White Sox," he said. "It was disrespectful, we all know. They tried to clear it up later. But we know what we did in 2005.

"It was a great run. We swept the World Series. But last year was all about the Cubs. Those guys paid a lot of bills for a lot of networks, and it was easy to forget the White Sox. It just is what it is."

Yet when I look at Thomas' stats from the 2005 postseason, I… I don't seem to find any. Funny that. Yes, we know what you did in 2005, Frank. Yep.

670 The Score's Dan Bernstein wrote last year:

"I was in Houston with the White Sox when they won it all and shared an early flight back home the next morning with a beaming Richard M. Daley, the then-mayor and pride of south-side Bridgeport up front in his gray suit and black Sox cap. I didn't think I merely hallucinated that, but I was getting close to wondering."

Ah, yes, that gold standard of honesty, Mayor Daley. I'm still supposed to "read laterally" in that third step of determining fake news. But do I really need to "read what other people say about" Dan friggin Bernstein? It's fun to do but not necessary. This is also the same Bernstein who has said more than once on the air that "nobody watched the White Sox World Series." Hmm...

The White Sox are more like a redheaded stepchild in Chicago and nationally (though some of us are quite handsome). Their fans handle this with aplomb, though, always willing to let you know how many inches of newspaper have been devoted to their team or if your radio station should change its call letters to WCUBSFU.

It's a culture fertile enough for a desperate fantasy to grow. After all, there are adamant grownups who haven't died of contagious diseases -- clearly because of their perfect biologies -- who will swear that vaccinating children according to the advice of actual medical professionals over the past 13 decades is a bad idea. There's even a real cabal of internetters who are beholden to the Mandela effect of comedian Sinbad playing a genie in a movie titled Shazam that was never made, written or pitched. We even live in a world where a flat earth argument has re-emerged, even reaching the sports world.

Shaquille O'Neal believes the Earth is flat by NBA Highlights · YouTube on YouTube

So White Sox fans believing that their favorite team played in and won the World Series in 2005 isn't all that unexpected, despite being kind of sad. They'll keep maintaining this was an actual event that happened in real life, that they have witnesses to corroborate, etc. This fever dream is even sweatier now that the Cubs have "matched" them in ludicrous pissing contest. And they'll fight on wildly for years until they bite off more than they can chew.

The fourth and final fake news determination step is to circle back. We still have no reliable proof. I'm willing to listen to credible arguments otherwise.

Until then, fake news. It starts with the White Sox not winning a World Series. It ends up with Hitler chilling in Maracaibo.

Tim Baffoe is a columnist for Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not CBS Local Chicago or our affiliated television and radio stations.

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