White SoxCubs rivalry

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The White Sox-Cubs Rivalry refers to the rivalry between fans of the two Major League Baseball teams which play their home games in Chicago, Illinois. The Chicago Cubs of the National League play their home games at Wrigley Field located on the city's north side, while the Chicago White Sox of the American League play their home games at U.S. Cellular Field on the city's south side. The terms "Northsiders" and "Southsiders" are virtually synonymous with the respective teams and their fans. It is one of the most heated interleague play rivalries in baseball.

History

The rivalry between the two teams and their fans dates back to the founding of the American League. In 1900, the St. Paul, Minnesota minor league franchise was transfered to Chicago, and renamed "White Stockings", which was the former name of the Cubs. The name was specifically used to draw fans in who had memories of the previous name. The establishment of a new team in the city was a direct challenge to the National League franchise, which was the idea of establishing the AL. As the AL gained in popularity (with cheaper prices on admission and alcohol), the NL recognized the equality of the AL. This recognition did little to stem the rivalry between owners, players, and fans.

While teams in New York City (such as the Yankees, Giants, and Brooklyn Dodgers) routinely played against each other in World Series matchups throughout the 1940s and 1950s, the two Chicago teams only met once in the 1906 World Series, a celebrated event that seemingly put the city on hold for a full week. The heavily favored but young Cubs (who had won 116 games in the regular season) lost in six games to the veteran and pitching-strong White Sox, "The Hitless Wonders".

Since 1906, until the advent of interleague play in 1997, the Cubs and White Sox occasionally met in a "City Series" and later in single charity exhibition games. While fans generally loved the games, as evidenced by the high attendance at these events, these games did not count toward the teams' rankings in their respective league standings, thus taking away some of the excitement from these events. At best, they provided "braggin' rights" to the winner.

Since interleague play began, the White Sox and Cubs routinely play each other six times each year (three times at each stadium). Based on the availability of tickets, and the prices offered through ticket brokers, these games are among the most anticipated of the season by fans of the teams. These games have featured a variety of heroics, perceived slights, and errors on both sides that have become more fuel to this rivalry -- and the White Sox's 2005 World Championship certainly won't hurt.

Socioeconomics

The history of Chicago is like that of many large urban centers in the 19th century. There has long existed a separation between the more affluent citizens and the economically poorer citizens (often recent immigrants and African-Americans). The north side of Chicago, with its favorable higher ground became the center for affluence, while the less developed south side became the home for numerous immigrant groups (Irish, German, Polish, Italian, Greek, Slavic, among others). The south side of Chicago was already home to a growing African-American population. Locals logically tended to follow the sports teams that were closest to home, thus the Cubs became associated with more affluent, mostly Caucasian fans, while the White Sox became more associated with blue collar workers and immigrants. Thus, the issues between workers and owners, between races, between immigrants and more established families, and poor and rich which became key struggles in the 20th century were represented very clearly in Chicago by the various fans who followed their respective baseball teams. In a sense, this sports based rivalry became a far less violent way to express dissatisfactions between rival groups.

Today, U.S. Cellular Field is much more accessible by car than Wrigley Field, and the White Sox enjoy a respectable and growing suburban fan base. Even so, the perception of Cubs fans being, for the most part, more affluent than White Sox fans continues, especially in the city.

Stadiums

The White Sox have always been located in the south side. At the time the White Sox came to town, the Cubs' home field was West Side Park, in an older section of the city which is now the realm of the Chicago Bulls and Chicago Blackhawks. (Ironically, for a few seasons in the early 1890s the National Leaguers home park was within a block of the sites of the future Sox ballparks). In 1916 the Cubs moved from the west to the north side, taking over Weeghman Park, the abandoned Federal League facility (later renamed Wrigley Field), thus setting up the current juxtaposition.

For many years, both teams could boast two of the oldest ballparks in Major League Baseball. The White Sox called Comiskey Park home from 1910 through 1990 (the oldest stadium in Major League Baseball in 1990). The Cubs have called Clark and Addison their home address for some 90 years now, and barring any significant structural problems it seems likely they will be there at least until Charlie Weeghman's 99-year lease expires in 2014.

Access to Comiskey Park was improved dramatically in the late 1950s when the Dan Ryan Expressway was built along a path that provided an exit ramp right by Comiskey Park. Meanwhile, the expressways on the north side came nowhere near Wrigley Field. Perhaps uncoincidentally, Mayor Richard J. Daley, who had a great deal of say in where the roads went, was a lifelong White Sox fan.

When the new Comiskey Park (now called U.S. Cellular Field) was built, many in the media and baseball (including both Cubs and White Sox fans) called the park "sterile", and lacking the beauty and personality of the old park. This ignored the fact of how many seats at Sox Park were cramped, behind posts, or in the outfield. Regardless, this again set up a point of rivalry as Cubs fans had their classic "jewel box" ballpark, while White Sox fans had their modern stadium. While several renovations to U.S. Cellular Field have silenced many criticisms, the difference between the fields remains a point of rivalry between fans of the teams.

When the Tribune Company bought the Cubs, they immediately started pressing for night baseball, threatening to abandon Wrigley Field otherwise. They got what they wanted, and after some negotiations with the city they are also about to expand Wrigley's bleachers for the first time since 1938. In its later years, the Sox performed various renovations on old Comiskey but ultimately abandoned the park. The recent (2005) success of the White Sox, coupled with age-related problems with Wrigley, and the presumed expiration of the lease in 2013, raise the possibility of a "me too" situation on the North Side eventually, in yet another chapter of the "facilities" side of the rivalry.

Neighborhoods

Even the neighborhoods around the stadiums show the difference between the fans. The aptly named "Wrigleyville" neighborhood of Chicago (really, a part of the Lakeview neighborhood) surrounds the Cubs' stadium, and is composed of upper and upper middle class housing, as well as many restaurants and bars for fans to visit before and after games. The Bridgeport neighborhood directly west of the White Sox home field is comprised of mostly blue collar workers. The area around the Sox park is perceived as a higher-crime area than Wrigleyville. This is probably because the area directly around the park is a vast parking lot and housing projects. Most of the restaurants and bars in the area closed in the 1970s, although increased construction in the area is changing this.

Media coverage

While harder to document, one of the most common points of contention by White Sox fans (as documented on local sports talk radio) is the claim of biased media coverage. While not all White Sox fans will make this claim, it is a common topic among fans that the Cubs receive more coverage than the White Sox. This contention becomes even more vocal when the White Sox are winning more games than the Cubs. This is fueled by the fact that the Cubs are owned by the Tribune Company, ostensibly one of the larger media companies in the United States, whose holdings, among others, include the Chicago Tribune and the WGN television, cable, and radio stations. While this is something that is not easy to objectively demonstrate, it is a rather common complaint that Cubs fans will often counter with disbelief.

Performance

While New York of the 1940s and 1950s often had two or three teams vying for championships, the two Chicago teams have had comparitively little to celebrate for a long time, with the Cubs' last World Series appearance coming in 1945, and the White Sox appearing in the Series only twice since, in 1959 and 2005. Thus each team's fans feel bad for their own team's relatively poor performance, but can take solace that the other team is doing just as badly. Thus, the White Sox-Cubs rivalry can often be one where fans of one team are just as happy for the poor play of the other team as they are for the good play of their own. This animosity among fans (that fortunately only rarely escalates to violence) is summed up in the lines from the song "The Ballad of the South Side Irish", echoing sentiments often expressed by at least one side of any number of sports rivalries in America: "When it comes to baseball there are two teams that I love, it's the "go-go White sox...and whoever plays the Cubs."

Meanwhile, ardent Cubs fans such as the late columnist Mike Royko would take their shots at the Sox. Royko once wrote that the reason Sox fans have a (presumably) bad attitude is that when they would go to games at Comiskey Park, the stench of the Union Stock Yards would fill their nostrils and remind them of the status of their team.

This above all is what makes the White Sox-Cubs rivalry unique in Major League Baseball. An examination of other great rivalries (Yankees-Red Sox; Mets-Yankees; Giants-Athletics; Dodgers-Angels; Dodgers-Giants; Cardinals-Cubs) shows that (with the Cardinals-Cubs exception) both teams have made World Series appearances in the past twenty years.

Several Cubs and White Sox fans have made a cottage industry selling shirts, hats, and other souveneirs that include slogans intended to take swipes at the opposing teams, rather than support their own.

Team owners naturally encourage such rivalries (two-time Sox owner Bill Veeck was a master at it), in the hope that they will translate to increased gate receipts. And the Cubs-Sox interleague games have borne out that theory.

"Cursed" teams

While not meant in the most literal sense to most fans, there is an overall feeling that both teams' misfortunes began with unfortunate events which some claim have cursed both teams into their poor play. This adds to the overall downtrodden feelings that fans feel for their own teams, making it much easier to revel in the poor play of the other.

The Chicago Cubs won ten National League championships between 1901 and 1945, and also had among the best winning percentages in the NL up to that time (3796-3022 for a 0.557 winning percentage). The Cubs had a 2 games to 1 lead over the Detroit Tigers in the 1945 World Series, when on October 6, 1945, Cubs fan and local tavern owner Billy Sianis was prevented from reaching his seat because he was accompanied by his pet billy goat. Local legend says that he responded by placing a curse on the Cubs to never again win the World Series, which they have not. While few take the idea of a curse with great seriousness, the Cubs, on more than one occasion, have featured a tongue-in-cheek promotion where billy goats are brought into the stadium to be offered as an apology (see: Curse of the Billy Goat). Some historians argue that the genesis of the curse goes back much farther; that the allegededly underhanded way they won the 1908 pennant (leading to their last World Series win) angered the "baseball gods". For lack of a standard term, this could be called the curse of Johnny Evers, since he was at the center of the controversy. Every post-season they have participated in since them seems to have featured a disaster of some kind, from Hack Wilson losing a fly ball in the sun, to Babe Ruth's "called shot", to the "Bartman incident". When they won the division in 1984, their first title since 1945, manager Jim Frey shouted in the champagne-soaked clubhouse, "The monkey's off our back!" Some fans took that as the kiss of death... which it proved to be, as the Padres late-inning rally in the final game in San Diego featured a ground ball slipping under the glove of first baseman Leon Durham... an eerie precursor to a similar and much-more-memorilazed incident with the Red Sox and former Cubs first baseman Bill Buckner that would occur two years later. That requires a quick mention of the "Ex-Cubs Factor", an offshoot of the main Cubs "curse": that any team reaching the post-season since the 1945 Series, and having 3 or more ex-Cubs, was almost certainly doomed to lose in either the playoffs or the Series due to "a critical mass of Cubness". The 1960 Pirates had been the lone exception until 2001, when the Diamondbacks effectively ended talk of that curse by winning the Series in a dramatic finish that featured 2 of the 3 ex-Cubs, one of them (Luis Gonzalez) making the game-winning RBI.

The White Sox had the best winning percentage of any American League team from 1901-1920 (1638-1325 for a 0.553 winning percentage), but quickly slipped to among the worst teams after that. Many point to the Black Sox scandal surrounding the 1919 World Series as the point in history that changed the White Sox fortunes. Eight White Sox players conspired to intentionally lose the World Series, and in 1920 were banned from baseball for life. While the White Sox won 4 AL titles in the first 20 years of their existence, they would win only one more league championship in the twentieth century. The term "curse" has seldom been used as such, since the scandal was perceived to be something the players did to themselves rather than being wrought by the front office conducting ill-advised transactions or committing public relations gaffes. Still, a pall seemed to settle on the franchise (along with a slim budget), and it would be the last years of the Eisenhower administration before they would win the league championship again. When the White Sox clinched the pennant, broadcaster Jack Brickhouse capped his play-by-play with, "A forty year wait has now ended!" The 2005 pennant ends a forty-six-year wait for the next one, while the 2005 World Championship ends an 88-year wait for a World Series victory. This adds a decidedly interesting twist on the rivalry as there are very few fans for either team who were alive to see one side actually claim a title while the other waited.

The 21st century seems to be a time for legendary curses to finally surpass their statutes of limitations, one by one. The Bambino curse was broken by the Red Sox's stunning victory in 2004. And the recent success of the White Sox has pretty well put their distant shady past behind them... leaving the Cubs, the "lovable losers", as the last remaining fully "cursed" team in the major leagues.