CHICAGO (AP) – Shoeless Joe Jackson was roaming the outfield, Woodrow Wilson was in the White House and World War I was raging the last time the Chicago White Sox won a World Series.

When those Pale Hose of 1917 beat the New York Giants in six games, winning the clincher at the Polo Grounds, who knew it would be the last championship for the team from Chicago’s South Side?

Now the White Sox have a chance to undo a long history of frustration, just as the Boston Red Sox did a year ago when they foiled the “Curse of the Bambino” and won their first World Series since 1918.

“They didn’t go out there saying, Let’s find a way to end the 86-year curse.’ It’s a good story line, but it doesn’t carry over between the lines,” Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said.

But if the Red Sox could finally break through – they were nearly on their way out before winning eight straight to beat the Yankees in the ALCS and then the Cardinals in the World Series – why not the White Sox, who led the AL with 99 wins this season?

“It would be comparable,” Chicago first baseman Paul Konerko said Monday as the teams got ready for Tuesday’s best-of-five opener at U.S. Cellular Field.

“They’ve been there, they’ve got experience and they know what it’s all about,” Chicago infielder Willie Harris added. “They won it last year, why can’t we win it this year?”

But Konerko, a native of Rhode Island, is well aware of the historical perspective surrounding the Red Sox.

“I don’t know if any team ever overcame so much baggage and so much bad stuff and also with their main rival winning so much in the meantime. What those guys did last year, without question in my mind, is the best story, got to be one of the best teams ever to overcome all the stuff they had to overcome,” Konerko said.

“It would be comparable if we could ever pull this thing off, it would be a lot of parallel lines to what they have done,” he said.

Red Sox center fielder Johnny Damon characterized his teammates last season as a “bunch of idiots” for the way various clubhouse characters and personalities meshed and won a championship.

Damon also sees some similarities between the two Soxes.

“They remind me of us last year,” he said. “They’re crazy, happy-go-lucky guys who got each others’ backs.”

The Red Sox won the AL wild card Sunday and they got help from the team they must now beat to advance – the White Sox, who swept three in Cleveland and finished the season with eight wins in their last 10 games, stopping a slide that had seen their once 15-game lead evaporate to 11/2. They led the Central wire-to-wire.

Boston’s explosive lineup features Damon at the top and the powerful 3-4 combination of David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, who combined for five homers in the seven games against the White Sox. Boston won the season series 4-3, but little of that matters and manager Terry Francona isn’t sure how much a factor experience will be.

“This time last year we hadn’t won anything, so basically we’re in the same position,” Francona said. “We sold out every game. Everywhere we went was craziness. It feels as if we played 162 playoff games.”

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said he understands why the Red Sox are favored going into the opener, with Jose Contreras facing Boston’s Matt Clement in Game 1. Mark Buehrle opposes David Wells on Wednesday before the series shifts to Fenway Park.

“We have to compete against the world champions. We never did as a White Sox organization in the last 80 years or whatever it is, we never did anything to earn that respect,” Guillen said.

Guillen, like Francona, said the number of close games – Chicago was 35-19 in one-run contests – should help his team in the postseason.

“You get to the playoffs you got to win 11 games. In the regular season, you win 99 and go to the wire and almost lose,” Guillen said. “The way we played all year long it was like a playoff game every day. … I talked to the guys. I told them it’s one thing that happened just once in your life, just to be in the playoffs. Some people play a lot of years in this game and never have this opportunity.”

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