Dennis Hobein. 18th May, 2005 - 2:43 pm
New York isn?t the only city with a rivalry named after public transportation. Wrigley Field, on the north side, and US Cellular Field, on the south side, are separated by 8 miles of ?El? track. Just hop on the Red Line and you can visit both in a mere 30 minutes. Although only 8 miles separate these two teams, it may as well be a thousand. The white collar north vs. the blue collar south makes for a civil rivalry that tends to go far beyond just baseball.
The teams themselves are actually similar in one very significant way. Neither team has won a World Series in over 85 years. The Cubs actually have 11 more pennants than the Sox, so the real ?cursed? team may be residing in the south side of town. And Boston thought they had it bad with one cursed team! To say Chicago baseball is due for a champion would be the understatement of the year. As for similarities, that?s about it.
This year, the Sox have been the biggest surprise team in the league. The Cubs have been one of the biggest disappointments. With a combination of outstanding starting and relief pitching, and aggressive base-running, the White Sox have jumped out to the best record in baseball at 28-12. Jon Garland is a perfect 8-0, making a bid to become the starting AL pitcher in the All-Star Game and perhaps taking the Cy Young.
Meanwhile, the Cubs have been decimated by injuries and have not found a consistent way to score runs. Joe Borowski, Kerry Wood, Nomar Garciaparra, Aramis Ramirez, Todd Walker, and Chad Fox have all spent time on the DL or missed games this year. Combine those key injuries with a bullpen that has actually blown more saves than they have converted, and there?s going to be problems. Todd Hollandsworth, Corey Patterson, Jerry Hairston, and Aramis Ramirez have all under-performed offensively to compound the problem. The only constant for the Cubs has been Derrek Lee, whose back has got to be sore since he has been carrying this team.
The Cubs and the White Sox clearly have different approaches to the game. Ozzie Guillen likes to make things happen on the base-paths. Their line-up doesn?t exactly scare anybody, so Ozzie has gone with a more aggressive attack. For example, the Sox had 3 runners thrown out at home in one game not too long ago. They force opposing defenses to make plays.
The Cubs, naturally, are quite opposite. Dusty Baker likes his players to go up there ?hacking?. It?s interesting because the Cubs play an American League style of play while the White Sox play a National League style of play. In fact, the White Sox lead the American League in sacrifice bunts. The Cubs are more of a ?station-to-station? team that sits back and waits for a 3-run homer. The last two years the Cubs have been at or close to leading the league in strikeouts, and have taken the least amount of walks. It?s easy to see why the Cubs have struggled offensively.
The differences between the two run even deeper when you look at the fan bases and the venues. White Sox fans take pride in their ?blue collar? work ethic and their claim that they are the ?real? baseball fans in Chicago. Cubs? fans, on the other hand, take pride in the fact that they play hookie on Friday afternoons to catch the 2:20 at Wrigley.
US Cellular Field was the original new model stadium in the big leagues. Built in 1991, it was dubbed one of Chicago?s ten worst architectural designs. It was a cavernous eye-sore on the south side, with an upper deck that could give someone vertigo. However, it has since been remodeled and is much more fan-friendly these days. New seats, less upper deck, and shrubs in the outfield (I wonder where they got that idea?) make it much more appealing. Post game activities at a Sox game include finding your car in the massive parking lots and driving home?..fast.
Wrigley Field, on the other hand, is one of baseballs? gems. Constantly sold out, with a loud and boisterous fan base, a Cubs game at Wrigley Field is more than just a game. It?s an event and a celebration if the home team wins. The bleachers, the vines, the scoreboard, the 7th inning stretch, Old Style beer and the rooftops give Wrigley Field a flavor no other ballpark in America has. And after the game it?s either ?cheers to a Cub?s win? or ?Wait until next year? at one of the many local establishments.
With all these contrasting styles, characteristics, and environments, the Cubs and White Sox have naturally formed a bitter resentment toward each other. Games are always hard fought and the stands are always full of clashing fans. It all makes the ?El Series? one of the best rivalries in sports, with the 2005 version starting this weekend at Wrigley Field.