South Side Magic: The White Sox

south side chicago white soxPhoto Credit

I’m a typical North Sider — a Chicago transplant, caucasian, Cubs fan. My brother breaks the city down into two neighborhoods: “Wrigleyville and the rest of Chicago.” So part of my reality of moving to this city was that there is in fact another baseball team, and it has a history just as rich as its Windy City rival. On the south side of the Red Line rests the much bigger and much newer stadium, housing the much more successful team (hey, I’m just speaking truth), the Chicago White Sox.

The Sox seed was planted on the South Side in 1900, when the Western League became the American League and was given the go ahead to put a team in Chicago. Reds manager Charles Comiskey saw an opportunity here and left Cincinnati, bought a minor league team in Minnesota and transferred those boys to town. The Sox, originally christened the White Stockings, were born. They had early success, winning the pennant in 1901. Chicago Tribune editors shortened the name to White Sox to make snappier headlines after the pennant victory, and the name stuck. South Side Park was the Sox home until 1910, when the franchise moved to Comiskey Park – it’s home for the next 80 years.

In 1991, after 81 years at old Comiskey, the South Siders moved to their current location. The stadium was re-named U.S. Cellular Field in 2003 (beautiful capitalism!), but if you ask a Chicagoan how to get to Cellular Field you may get a momentary blank stare. It’s still Comiskey to the average Bear.

Like any other franchise, the team has had its highs and lows. Some highs: the “Hitless Wonders” of 1906 who won the World Series despite having the lowest team batting average in the American League. The 1917 World Series champs. Frank Thomas. The 2005 World Series champs.

Undoubtedly their worst moment was the 1919 cheating scandal that revealed some Sox players had thrown the World Series against the Reds for some fast cash. The scandal branded the team the “Black Sox,” and it took decades for the boys in black to shake that reputation. But once they shook it, they started shattering records. They boasted 17 consecutive winning seasons from 1951-67, the second-best streak in the Major League. They struggled big time in 1970, tallying 106 losses — the most in franchise history. And the Good Guys suffered nine straight losing seasons from 1927-35.

But, despite those hiccups, the White Sox boast an impressive franchise record. They have finished with a winning percentage lower than .400 only eight times. Arguably the most exciting time (besides the 2005 World Series run of course) was the 1977 team affectionately dubbed the South Side Hit Men. On a budget and desperate for flashy play, owner Bill Veeck hatched a plan in 1976 to put together a team with young inexperience juxtaposed veterans hoping to springboard into a better contract. His theory was quite simply that any success this team would have would surely attract more talent to the franchise and it wouldn’t cost much. Their Hit Men nickname rose when they proved to be a surprising offensive juggernaut, blasting a team record 192 home runs and a slugging percentage of .444. They couldn’t pull off a late playoff run, but fans remember the 1977 season as one of the team’s most exciting.

Most recently, the past ten years has been a whirlwind for the South Siders. The franchise was searching for a new manager to take over for the struggling Jerrry Manuel in 2003. They found their match with the eccentric young coach Ozzie Guillen. Guillen quickly won fans’ respect in the 2005 season, leading them to their first AL pennant since 1959 and their first World Series win since 1917. He also garnered Chicagoans’ adoration in 2010 for his humorous and at times controversial tweets.

Some don’t consider them as endearing as the Lovable Losers at Wrigley, but the White Sox have left half of Chicago’s population with “Still Believe” flags in the windows of their walk-up apartments. Their day will surely come again, and realistically before their cross-town rival.

About Cheryl Thomas

Cheryl grew up in rural northern Indiana, where everyone is somehow related to a farmer and horse and buggy stations are in the Wal-Mart parking lots. She moved to Chicago a few months after graduating from IU and has since fallen hopelessly in love with the city. She likes trying new deep dish places, exploring used bookstores and dive bars, chatting with strangers on public transit, and all sorts of writing - especially fiction and playwriting.

Leave a comment

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *