For those not familiar with baseball, and more than that with the Chicago baseball scene, I need to give you a very honest assessment of what it is about.
Chicago has had two Major League teams since 1901. The Cubs had been here since 1876 … an original member of the National League. The White Sox were the upstart punks …. moving in to the city from Minnesota as a part of the new American League.
For the first two decades of the twentieth century, the White Sox had the best winning percentage of any American League team ……. though the Cubs were better. They had each won two World Series, though the Sox had won one of theirs over the Cubs.
After that, all heck started breaking loose. First, the Sox dropped off the face of the Earth for thirty years. Didn’t see a resurgence until the 1950s. The Cubs stayed pretty darn good for the next 25 years or so, but despite a number of National League Championships, the Cubs did not win a World Series.
The Sox did great in the 1950s. Even made it back to the Series … losing to Los Angeles in ’59. They stayed good for a short time, but then settled into mediocrity until the early 1980s. The Cubs suffered immensely in the 60s and 70s. They too came back in the 80s. The Sox were awesome in the 1990s (fourth best winning percentage in the majors). The Cubs stumbled along. 2005 saw the Sox win the World Series, followed by the Cardinals in ’06. After the Cubs choked hard in ’04, it had to be the lowest time in Cubs history …. just when their long suffering seemed over, they not only blew it, but saw the worst two possible teams win the Series in consecutive years.
So it got me wondering: why do the Cubs command such media presence? You turn on ESPN, and the coverage for baseball is: Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, ….. ehhh …. Angels ….. some other teams …. It drives Sox fans crazy ….. what have the Cubs done to earn this respect to be treated side by side with the Yankees and Red Sox ….???
Let us examine:
The Cubs have a losing record since 1960. The White Sox have a winning record over that time. You could argue that the Cubs face tougher opposition, and maybe in the 60s and 70s that was true, but not over the last 25 years. The AL is clearly the stronger league (check the All-Star Game, World Series, head-to-head in interleague games). The White Sox still managed to win more than they lose, and the Cubs didn’t against seemingly weaker opposition. Yet, the Cubs are king.
The White Sox have had post-season success. True, not by much, but the 2005 World Series was amazing. The Sox tied the Yankees for the single biggest butt whomping in post season history since the post season went to three rounds. The biggest thing the Cubs did was defeating the Braves in a time after they stopped having post season success.
Both teams have had ownership do some weird things. The Sox ownership did get us to a World Series, but there have been some other oddities: I love Hawk Harrelson in the booth, but as a GM? ehhh…. Firing Tony LaRussa … ehhhhh. Bringing in David Wells ….. uh boy. However the Cubs have had their share of bad moves ….. like elevating Sammy Sosa to god-like status when everyone else saw there was a problem ……… like elevating Mark Prior to cult-like status when he barely had started his career. More poor manager hires than you can shake a stick at …… allowing Greg Maddux to get away was criminal …. and Dennis Eckersley ……. I’ll call this a draw.
Fan friendliness ….. The White Sox are second to none! Lots of on site parking (more secure and cheaper than parking near that other park), there are many promotions for fans, reduced ticket pricing, lots to do before a game, family friendly areas, a healthy respect for the past (the Cubs got tons of publicity for erecting a statue of Ernie Banks this week ….. the White Sox already have nearly half-a-dozen of their greats in bronze). The bathrooms are plentiful and clean ….. there’s even stalls! At the other park, the bathrooms are prime locations for knifings. Having dined at such places as Fenway Park, I can say with full honesty, the food at U.S. Cellular is the very best. Now I know that the other park has that old feel, but the jackanapes in the bleachers throw back home run balls. This is one of the greatest affronts to baseball tradition that there is. Fans throwing back balls at the Cell are booed, and then ejected; the way it should be! I can’t believe a manual scoreboard and half-browned ivy makes that park all that much better.
Under ownership woes, the Cubs are getting ready to once again block the view of local rooftops. I could understand if the unemployed, tourists, and yuppies who show up weren’t selling the park out that this would be an issue, but the Cubs are so desperate to keep a tight control on things, that they cannot stand when someone might be seeing things for free. That’s not very fan friendly!
Yet, despite jacking up prices through the roof, a lack of fan friendly facilities, and an on-field product that has not seen overall improvement in 40 + years, the Cubs have some weird cult-like following. Why?