My first experience with White Sox fans were Jamie McCauley and his dad Ed who lived down the street from me. Jamie was a borderline friend/bully, and his dad was just kind of a bully. He would actually call me “Chrissy” instead of Chris…an in genius method of questioning my 6 year old manhood I suppose…and this was a grown man talking to a very young boy. He used the same method when disparaging my Cubs…calling them the Cubbies and using a woman’s voice to do it. When this is your first impression of a fandom…and you are only 6…it leaves a lasting impression on your little brain.
The next neighborhood was not much different…Sox fans were bullies and blowhards…and once again I was outnumbered and always defending my Cubs. Now, almost 40 years later, I really have evolved and grown up as a baseball fan. I don’t automatically hate everything about the White Sox. As a baseball fan, I watch them occasionally, and I respect some of their players and I love listening to new GM Rick Hahn (an especially bright fellow). I no longer have to deal with any White Sox bullies…and I know longer live and die with the results of the crosstown classic. Therefore my position on the White Sox has softened in my old(er) age.
However, even with this new evolved stance on the South Siders; I still have some problems with the White Sox and how they are compared and contrasted with the Cubs. The first being the air of supremacy that Sox fans display; they assume they are “smarter baseball fans” and they quickly shout “2005!” in response to any current criticism. My psychology background tells me they have a huge inferiority complex and are overcompensating for it. Sox fans also seem to feel/think that they have been a much better organization historically.
The second is that since the Cubs have the image as the lovable losers/cursed team/bumbling organization of Chicago, the Sox have benefitted by having some historic blunders of their own get swept under the rug. While Cubs’ mistakes have been magnified and rehashed over and over again, little is ever said about Sox mistakes that are equally as substantial or behavior or performance that is equally as bad. Let’s take a look at examples that fall under these two categories:
1. The History of the Teams.
When comparing the Cubs and White Sox, Sox fans assume their team has been so much more successful than the “loser” Cubs. When the White Sox won the World Series in 2005 it was their first title since 1917. So assuming neither team wins a title this year (about as safe a bet as the sun coming up tomorrow) it will mean the Sox have 1 title in the last 97 years. Obviously, I credit them greatly for winning recently in 2005…but 1 for 97 is just marginally better than 0 for the last 106. (But it’s still 1!!!! 2005! 2005!) Aside from World Series titles, let’s compare the teams from the date of the Cubs last title in 1908:
W.S. TITLES W.S. APP. POSTSEASON PLAY-OFFS SINCE ‘69(DIVISION PLAY BEGINS)
SOX 2 4 8 5
CUBS 0 10 16 6
Once again, the 2005 World Series title trumps much of this…but I really expected to see a closer picture here…or even White Sox dominance. (Yes…I know…2005!)
While the Cubs’ have been historically inept at winning a World Series title, the White Sox have been equally incompetent in making the post-season. If the Cubs are “106 year losers”…the White Sox haven’t exactly had a century of glory. Not even mentioning the fact (…yet) that the White Sox threw the 1919 World Series, which almost was almost the death knell for Major League Baseball.
It may at times appear the Cubs are trying to lose on purpose…but at least they have never been put on trial for it.
2. Historical Blunders
As I wrote in my book, the Cubs have been mercifully crucified for the trade of Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio for over 50 years. It was a bad trade, and the Cubs have made many others (…see my book). Yet the South Side Squad as just as many historical blunders that are not mentioned near as frequently.
– the aforementioned 1917 Black Sox scandal…most baseball fans have seen the film Eight Men Out…and it’s still debatable which players were in on it, and who’s to blame…cheapskate owner Charles Commisky or the mobsters behind the scenes? It really doesn’t matter…the Sox were involved in one of the biggest sports scandals ever, and had Babe Ruth not come around…baseball may have died.
– letting Harry Caray leave to the Cubs…You young bucks probably only think of Harry with the Cubs, but I was more accustomed to him as a White Sox announcer as a youngster. Let’s play Back to the Future for a minute and assume this never happened…Cubs’ history would be altered for the worse. A Cubs’ history without Harry Caray would be quite dim. Other than the 1984 season, Harry Caray is the single biggest reason for the Cubs(and the neighborhoods) 20 year boom. The Sox let a valuable asset go to their crosstown competitors, who helped them assert economic dominance over them for the next 2 decades.
– firing Tony LaRussa…Hey…young managers get fired all of the time, and on many occasions their second stints are much more successful. Therefore I am not criticizing the Sox for firing LaRussa…but can you imagine if the Cubs had down this? It would be Brock for Broglio all over again. If Ryno wins a World Series as a manager in the next few years…how do you think that will go over?
– Trading Sosa for Bell…As an old fella’, with perspective, I can honestly say that I was stunned when I heard about this deal. George Bell had been an absolute dog for the Cubs, and I can remember trying to convince giddy Sox fans about how poor of a trade this would turn out to be. Sosa may or may not have been cheating…but he hit a ton of home runs and made the Cubs a sh#t-load of money. What Harry Caray did for the Cubs in the ‘80s, Sosa did for the team in the ‘90s. Thank you White Sox.
If the Cubs had been guilty of any of the above infractions, they would still be constantly referenced among the teams many failures…for some reason, the Sox have gotten a pass.
3. Hawk Harrelson and his “chip on their shoulders” brethren
I can do a very good Hawk Harrelson impersonation, although it won’t translate as well in print. Here goes:
Start with about 47 seconds of silence, then say in Hawks’ voice with no emotion; “…and that’s a record setting 6th triple play turned by the Royals today” or “and that’s an 8-8 double cycle for Joe Mauer”
Hawk amazes me…I’m sorry…but he is a 72 year old baby. While professional announcers endure the challenge of keeping the game interesting for the fan…no matter how the home team is doing…Hawk blames umps, talks about his own greatness, or just sits quietly and pouts. While Len Kasper espouses how lucky he is to have a job millions of people would want, Hawk acts like we are the privileged ones to listen to his pathetic stories of Yaz.
Over the last few years, I have noticed that others in the Sox organization share this certain bit of curmudgeon-dry with Hawk. Radio announcer Ed Farmer can be just as grumpy, self-serving and condescending as Harrelson. Studio-analyst Bill Melton will be short and rage-filled after a Sox loss. The finest pitching coach in the universe (at least that’s the way he is perceived for some reason) Don Cooper treats every question like a personal affront during his morning radio appearances. No one knows pitching like Cooper…and he is not afraid to tell that to anyone who will listen. Every one of these White Sox contributors comes off as joy-less, humor-free, and a downright a##-hole.
Back to my Psychology background, I attribute this to the fact that the Sox have been the 2nd team in the city for quite some time, and since most of these men are White sox-lifers…I guess those “shoulder chips” are deeply implanted.
I really didn’t want this piece to come off as a guy who just hates the White Sox. I just wanted to point out that as Chicago losers go, the Cubs are only a rung or two below the Sox. I could never root for them as I do the Cubs, but I could at least be indifferent towards them if it weren’t for Hawk and the things mentioned above.
It is often forgotten now, but the White Sox were oh so close to moving back in the late 80’s. Jerry Reinsdorf was able to get public assistance in building the perfect 1980’s ballpark as the Orioles were making history with the cutting edge Camden Yards. It may have been an outdated “new” stadium…but Reinsdorf got it, and the Sox stayed.
Can you imagine the outcry if the Cubs ever asked for public assistance for their park?