By Michael Paul Martoccio, Guest Contributor
It finally happened. And as a life-long White Sox fan I’m pressed to say it: Congratulations Cubs! The goat has been slaughtered, the curse broken.
Yet as the city cleans up its 108-year-old strategic ticker-tape reserves, I am left to reflect on one overlooked part of this year’s World Series: the nation’s collective amnesia about the other Chicago baseball franchise, the White Sox.
Like most Sox fans, I faced a stark choice this past month: embrace the Cubs (anathema!), hate them (sour grapes), or, the best course I figured, ignore them altogether. So I turned the TV off and sat in a darkened room spitting Hawkisms, listening to my best-of Captain Stubby and the Buccaneers, and reminding myself we have the best knick-name in sports. I already knew what to expect with a Cubs’ World Series: the media blitz, middle-aged celebrities showered in champagne. I’ll pass.
But the national press had a surprise for me: last month, at the height of Cubs fever, CBS announced it had been 71 years since the Series graced Chicago, the Washington Post issued advice from Red Sox fans on the perils of curse-breaking, and ESPN declared Chicago had 10 championships since 1965 (six Bulls, three Hawks, and our beloved ’85 Bears) to Cleveland’s measly one.
It was all meant to play into the drama of the Cubs’ season and the legend of their curse. And it all made sense, but for one small thing: the facts were wrong. The White Sox played in the World Series in 2005, and what’s more, they won. While all have since apologized, the question remains: how could the country forget the second team in the Second City?
Sure, there are simple reasons: a decade with only one playoff appearance, years of declining attendance, and the news that our newly-announced sponsor wishes to bedeck our sterile stadium with a downward arrow – a more apt symbol for our collective depression there could not be!
But that’s not why the country forgot about the White Sox. I suspect the answer has more to do with where the teams are than how they play. For those unfamiliar with the city’s baseball geography, the White Sox occupy the South Side of the city; the Cubs, the North Side.
To walk around Comiskey Park (sorry, I will always call it Comiskey) is to travel back in time, to the twentieth-century heyday of Chicago, through blasted monuments of Sinclair’s Jungle to Drake and Clayton’s Black Metropolis to Van der Rohe’s stoic modernism at IIT, and to the long shut-down Campbell’s soup plant on California Ave from where my grandfather escaped every so often to cheer on his beloved Sox. But to walk these streets is also to face our city’s darkest ghosts: the shells of public housing, the long-silent screams of men tortured by the CPD’s rogue Midnight Crew, and the specter of 1919 – that fateful season that saw not only the Sox throw a World Series, but race riots set alight Bridgeport and the Black Belt. To walk around Comiskey is, in effect, to walk through a history of high modernism – its reckless ambition, its blaring contradictions. The South Side begs you to remember.
To trace similar steps through the streets of Wrigleyville is to come upon an alien landscape: raucous bars, newly-built condos, and, in the middle of it all, Wrigley Field, replete with a soon-to-be attached hotel, a beacon of the Cubs international fame. Here stands the glory of twenty-first century Chicago, a global alpha-city. For all the history of Wrigley Field itself, the North Side seduces us to indulge and forget.
To forget that we live in a divided city. Many believe that what separates Sox and Cubs fans is our colors or collars, but this oversimplifies and misses the larger point. Two economic realities exist in Chicago today – one localized, industrial, and decayed; the other globalized, commercial, and vibrant. In stark contrast to the cheers on Waveland and Addison, the news out of the South Side is dim: school and university closures, the vast majority of this year’s 3,795 shootings to date. It is as if Silicon Valley and Detroit are only a few Red Line stops away.
In this sense, to forget the White Sox is to forget these contradictions, to forgot that since the country’s greatest Sox fan, President Obama, took office the rest of the nation has looked increasingly like Chicago: rising income inequality and uncertainty clash with bullish stocks and a vibrant app economy. And, in an election almost as improbable as the Cubs comeback, it was strangely Sox fans who took center stage, either as disenfranchised working-class whites or villainized black and brown residents in need of Trump’s particular brand of law and order.
So now that the parade route is cleared, the banners raised, and our city returned to whatever normality we can hope to have with a winner in Wrigley, I ask my North Side compatriots for one bit of civic solidarity: please, don’t let the country forgot the Sox.
Michael Paul Martoccio is a Visiting Assistant Professor in History at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. He received his PhD from Northwestern University in 2015.