This week’s prompt word for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is “socks.” I’m going to take some liberties and spell it Sox. As in Chicago White Sox…
I’ve told the odyssey many times, of being born on the North Side of Chicago, normally Cubs fan territory, but because my mother and her family were all South Siders, I grew up a White Sox fan. Sure, I went to Cubs games: I was at Wrigley Field the day before Ernie Banks hit his 500th home run (doesn’t matter what part of town you were from or what your favorite team was, everyone was an Ernie Banks fan), and sat in the bleachers with the bums on more than one occasion. But my happiest baseball memories all center around 324 W. 35th Street, the place where Charles Comiskey’s baseball palace stood.
It’s been torn down now, of course; when Jerry Reinsdorf and Eddie Einhorn bought the Sox back in the 1980’s, they made it clear they were going to move to either Addison, Illinois, or possibly Tampa Bay, Florida, unless the state financed a new baseball stadium for them. The Illinois Legislature hemmed and hawed, taking up the matter of a bond issue to build the new stadium close to the end of the session. House Speaker Mike Madigan, a Chicago Democrat like his mentor, the late Mayor Richard J. Daley (one of the biggest White Sox fans of all time), kept the clock running past the hour that the session was supposed to end to be sure the financing was there.
They built the new park, now called US Cellular Field, across 35th Street from the old one. It’s nice, but it’s not the old one. There was history there. It’s said that Babe Ruth would leave the park between innings and run across 35th street for a beer at McCuddy’s Tavern (one of the businesses demolished when the new stadium went up). I can see it happening: the road clubhouse was on the first base side, which ran along 35th Street, so it wouldn’t be hard. Plenty of Hall of Famers played at Comiskey, even a few who played for the Sox: Ed Walsh (who won 40 games one season), Red Faber, Luke Appling, Luis Aparicio, Ted Lyons, Nellie Fox, and, most recently, Frank Thomas, to name just a few.
Of course, Sox might also refer to the Boston Red Sox. Not much of a fan of theirs, although I have been to Fenway Park and squeezed my ample behind into one of the seats there. I saw Ken Griffey Jr. hit his 200th career home run that night. I bring up the Red Sox because the White Sox and Red Sox were two of the original teams in the American League. They took on the discarded names of the National League teams already there, the Chicago White Stockings and Boston Red Stockings. The White Stockings of old are now the Cubs, and the Red Stockings are now the Braves, as in the Atlanta Braves.
The Braves are my local favorite. When I got to Atlanta, they were terrible, losing 97 games (out of 162) in 1988 and 1990 and 106 games in 1989. Then they went on a tear, winning fourteen division titles in fifteen years (the odd year being 1994, when the players went on strike and were locked out by the owners, cancelling the postseason), and going to the World Series five times, winning it once. The manager of those teams, Bobby Cox, is now in the Hall of Fame, as are the three pitching stars of those teams, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, and Greg Maddux. The year Cox, Glavine, and Maddux were inducted, three others were inducted: Joe Torre, who played for the Braves from 1960 to 1968 and managed them from 1982 to 1984; Tony LaRussa, who played 9 games for the Braves in 1971 and managed the White Sox from 1979 to 1986; and the aforementioned Frank Thomas, who played most of his career with the White Sox and was one of the last players to play at the old Comiskey Park. I was a happy boy that year.
The Braves are in the midst of a rebuild, ten years overdue (in my never-humble opinion). Many fans of the team are furious John Hart (president of baseball operations) and John Coppolella (the general manager) traded their favorite players (no doubt having invested in replica jerseys with those player names on them), but I understand what they’re doing, and I’m willing to be patient. I’ve been through it several times with the White Sox, who spent most of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s doing it. I’m used to it.
This longish entry was prompted by Linda Hill, who runs Stream of Consciousness Saturday from the comfort of her blog, which you can find here. Follow the link and you’ll find the rules (which I ignored big time today) and pingbacks from others participating today.