White Sox

Emma: Crosstown Classic Lacks Luster

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Where have the days of Michael Barrett and A.J. Pierzynski exchanging blows gone? (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Where have the days of Michael Barrett and A.J. Pierzynski exchanging blows gone? (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Chris Emma mug Chris Emma
Chris Emma covers the college sports scene for CBSChicago.com,...
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By Chris Emma-

CHICAGO (CBS) — For more than two decades before the turn of the 20th century, Chicago had just one Major League Baseball team.

When Charles Comiskey moved his St. Paul Saints to Chicago, the Cubs were less than welcoming to their new neighbors. It’s a believed a lawsuit was filed by the Cubs to have Comiskey’s team removed. In response, the team was named the “White Stockings,” claiming the Cubs’ prior identity.

A baseball rivalry was born in Chicago.

The venom between north and south side is authentic. They’re located on two ends of town, unique in their own ways. Friends become enemies when the two teams meet.

Before Bud Selig brought interleague play to baseball in 1997, the Cubs and White Sox had met just once — the 1906 World Series, a White Sox win.  The return was thrilling, with fans packing Wrigley Field and Comiskey Park to see their squads battle.

There have been classic games and names in the crosstown series. Sammy vs. Big Hurt, Lou vs. Ozzie, Barrett vs. Pierzynski. But the rivalry is now lacking the intensity it once displayed.

What made the games so special was seeing the city’s baseball heroes go head to head. As the Cubs and White Sox work through rebuilding years —each fresh off last-place divisional finishes in 2013 — it’s hard to generate that distain that once existed.

The Cubs and White Sox used to play thrilling, meaningful games. Now, the series is an annual reminder of the city’s sad baseball state, sponsored by BP.

Part of the rivalry’s demise stems from the White Sox’s long-awaited World Series title, something the Cubs have been longing for. The big-picture view means more than a week of games against a rival. White Sox fans are quick to belittle their north side neighbors, further insulting an organization mired in a losing history.

The BP Crosstown Cup’s birth sucked the life out even more. The beauty of this rivalry — and any other — is how bragging rights are on the line. Neighbors unite around their respective teams with a mix of fun and hatred. Instead, corporate dollars sponsor a sad trophy buried in a closet for 361 days of the year. The real trophy sits in a glass case inside U.S. Cellular Field.

Perhaps the lowest moment of the crosstown rivalry was when the horrid BP Cup was presented alongside the Stanley Cup, the Taj Mahal of trophies. Cubs and White Sox fans were celebrating their Blackhawks’ 2010 triumph, but the pathetic baseball trophy was all too present serving as an albatross.

Better days are ahead in Chicago. The Cubs have built one of baseball’s best farm systems and are opening up a window to compete for first place. The White Sox have rebuilt their roster with promising talents like Chris Sale, Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia. Maybe one day, the series will be better known for Rizzo vs. Abreu or Soler vs. Garcia. Without the big games and names, it’s just not the same.

Fans are so focused on the big picture, losing sight of why they hate the other team. The White Sox have their World Series trophy, and the Cubs are working their way toward one. This matters much more than a corporate-funded trophy.

There will be trash talk aplenty when the Cubs and White Sox meet for four games this week, starting tonight. The reality is, both teams are shy of their bright futures.

When that day comes, the hate will be restored in this historic rivalry.

Follow Chris Emma on Twitter @CEmmaScout.

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