Editorial: Time for the Sox to shine and show Chicago’s not just a Cubs town

Chicago Tribune
Chicago Tribune
Team manager Ozzie Guillen takes in the adoration during a rally in the Loop for the Chicago White Sox on Oct. 28, 2005, following their World Series win. John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune

Chicago’s a manic sports town. And, inevitably, we’re seen by the rest of the country through the lens of our big league teams.

The Bears of ’85 live forever, memorialized by pop culture homages like SNL’s “Superfans” sketches. The Bulls of the ’90s? Close your eyes, pick a place on the map and there you’ll find locals who know all about Michael Jordan. Then there’s Patrick Kane’s Blackhawks and their shelf of Stanley Cups, and of course, the Cubs of 2016, who buried in the ground 108 years of our“Wait till next year” groans.

As much as Barack Obama, Michigan Avenue or deep-dish pizza, Chicago’s glorious obsession with its sports teams helps shape the city’s identity.

So why aren’t the White Sox as synonymous with Chicago as are the Cubs or Bears? They should be. And here comes their chance to prove that point.

The Sox face the Houston Astros in a playoff series that begins Thursday, the same team the Sox beat to win it all in 2005. On the diamond, they’re one of Major League Baseball’s most talented and versatile teams in the postseason. Jose Abreu, Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Tim Anderson and more — a balance of power, speed and heart. On the mound, Lucas Giolito, Lance Lynn, Dylan Cease, Carlos Rodon and Liam Hendriks lead a rock-solid pitching corps.

Sure, they’re household names to the Sox faithful. But to non-South Siders, they might as well be a team of John Does. There’s a universal familiarity with the Cubs and Bears that escapes the Sox. Maybe the newbies need a primer on Sox lore — and no, we’re not going to back to 1919, Shoeless Joe Jackson and Black Sox infamy.

How about if we start with someone who’s about as Chicago as one can get? Long before Harry Caray became a fixture at Wrigley Field, the venerated sportscaster rollicked through play-by-play at Comiskey Park during the era of Dick Allen, Wilbur Wood and Goose Gossage — pitching to the TV audience “ice cold Falstaff!” beer and catching foul balls with a fishing net. Caray gravelly crooning “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” began not at Wrigley but at Comiskey.

If you’re old enough to have been around for the 1959 World Series, you may remember the Go-Go Sox, a nickname derived from the pennant-winning team’s penchant for scoring runs not with power but with zip on the base paths. Base-stealing shortstop Luis “Little Looie” Aparicio embodied that scrappiness, drawing chants of “Go-Go-Go-Go!” every time he got on base. They lost the Series to the L.A. Dodgers, but pennants in this city are about as rare as comet sightings, so second place still felt good.

Then there’s the 2005 Series winning team, helmed by Sox legend Ozzie Guillen. Remember, Chicago. Baez, Bryant, Rizzo and Lester may have ended the North Side’s Series drought with their 2016 win, but it was the Sox in 2005 that brought the championship back to Chicago before that. The Sox hadn’t won since 1917, and the Cubs had been Series champion-deprived since 1908.

Yes, there’s also bad lore, depending on your perspective. Comiskey Park hosted Steve Dahl’s infamous (and undeniably racist) Disco Demolition in 1979, which may have helped hasten the end of platform shoes and a music genre, but also made the ball field look like a meteor shower hit it and forced the Sox to forfeit the second game of the doubleheader. Center field bonfires tend to make a ball field unplayable.

But there’s also the Hollywood ending written and directed by this year’s Sox — the Field of Dreams game in Dyersville Iowa, played at the same farm where the Kevin Costner/Amy Madigan/Ray Liotta classic was filmed. The Sox beat the Yankees 9-8 on a bottom-of-the-ninth, two-run homer by Tim Anderson that shot into the cornfields behind right field. Fireworks erupted, so did the Sox. And now former Sox great Frank Thomas ( reportedly in concert with Chicago developer Rick Heidner) has purchased the iconic site, suggesting the retro summer fun will be safe in years to come. And knowing Thomas, we bet the Sox will be at the heart of all that.

This year’s Sox have a just-get-it-done mindset with which Chicagoans can identify. No flashiness, no gimmickry — just steely resolve. We’re ecstatic about October baseball returning to Guaranteed Rate Field, and we like the Sox’s chances to bring Series mania back to Chicago.

We hope all of Chicago gets behind this Sox team, not just the South Side. There’s room not only for two baseball teams in this city, but for two teams that define our city together.

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