Home International Column: Cubs-White Sox games never disappoint — no matter how dismal the...

Column: Cubs-White Sox games never disappoint — no matter how dismal the outlook for either team


“There is nothing Sox fans love more than beating the Cubs,” Chicago White Sox broadcaster Steve Stone said during Tuesday’s telecast of Game 1 of the City Series.

It’s a truism confirmed every time the crosstown rivals meet.

Conversely, there’s nothing Sox fans hate more than losing to the Cubs, other than Jerry Reinsdorf owning the team. That made the two-game sweep by the Cubs at Wrigley Field a nightmare of epic proportions.

The Sox blew a five-run lead to lose the opener 7-6, then blew a four-run lead Wednesday in another 7-6 loss, their franchise-record-tying 13th straight. As the Sox broadcast crew wrapped up the game with the unhappy totals, while the soundtrack of “Go, Cubs, Go” played in the background, new play-by-play man John Schriffen lamented, “To have to hear that song again…”

This was as bad as it gets. But there’s no rest for the weary, and on Thursday night the Sox would have to go right back at it, facing the Boston Red Sox while trying to avoid setting a single-season record for franchise futility. And the .500 Cubs could not rest on their laurels, facing the Reds in Cincinnati to start a seven-game trip.

Having covered all 144 games of the City Series on the North and South sides since the inception of interleague play in 1997, I feel safe in saying this was one of the least anticipated crosstown events ever.

Both teams were struggling, with abysmal offenses that ranked at or near the bottom of the major leagues. The gamut of emotions of their fan bases ran from disappointed to disgusted.

Even the media turnout was relatively small, as former Sox manager and current NBC Sports Chicago analyst Ozzie Guillén pointed out before Wednesday’s game. Bears minicamp in Lake Forest had stolen the show.

Guillén compared it with the golden era of the crosstown games during the first decade of this century, when he managed against Dusty Baker, Lou Piniella and “that bald guy,” also known as Mike Quade.

That was an era that included “the Punch,” Piniella’s feuds with Stone and TV/radio personality David Kaplan, the escapades of Carlos Zambrano and Milton Bradley and the Section 508 brawl of 2007. Every Cubs-Sox series back then had enough drama for a “30 for 30” episode.

Photos: Cubs beat White Sox 7-6 in Game 2 of the City Series at Wrigley Field

Low expectations might have greeted this year’s first round, but warm weather, a well-timed rain delay Tuesday and two intriguing games made it an entertaining series.

As usual, every big moment reminded you of something from the past.

Cubs closer Héctor Neris picked Sox pinch runner Duke Ellis off second base with one out in the ninth to help save Game 1, calling to mind a similar moment on June 10, 2000, at new Comiskey Park. That’s when Sox reliever Sean Lowe picked Cubs star Mark Grace off first base with two outs in the eighth, preserving a one-run lead with Sammy Sosa at the plate and the tying run on third.

On Neris’ pickoff Tuesday, the call came from the Cubs dugout thanks to bench coach Ryan Flaherty. Similarly, Sox bench coach and renowned sign stealer Joe Nossek signaled the play that picked off Grace in 2000. Grace claimed afterward Lowe had balked but added: “You’re not going to get a tying-run balk at Comiskey Park. As a veteran ballplayer, I know that.”

The Sox won 4-3 to put them 14 games over .500 for the first time since Aug. 12, 1996, and they remained two games ahead of Cleveland in the American League Central on their way to a division title. That 2000 rebuild was best remembered for a lineup that led the league with 978 runs, six per game. This Sox team is dead last, averaging three runs per game.

Stone noted during Tuesday’s broadcast that Ellis was not being held at second on the first pitch by Neris, then decided to dance around off the base: “One of the things you can’t be doing is bouncing around. Either you go or you don’t.” Hopefully the human bounce house will learn his lesson and not become a footnote in Cubs-Sox history.

Photos: Cubs beat White Sox 7-6 in a comeback win at Wrigley Field

Mike Tauchman’s walk-off home run off Michael Kopech on Wednesday undoubtedly will go down alongside other great homers in the City Series, including shots by A.J. Pierzynski, Mike Caruso, Christopher Morel and Carlos Lee.

As a Palatine native, Tauchman was asked afterward to put the City Series in context. Instead of giving the expected answer about the rivalry, Tauchman paused for a moment and delivered a thoughtful response about the conjunction of baseball and summer in the Midwest. These kinds of days are the ones you dream about in January when you’re scraping ice off your windshield with a credit card.

“Being a Midwest guy, it starts to warm up and you start getting outside after a long winter and a cold spring,” he said. “There’s a lot of energy. And there definitely was a lot of energy in the crowd the last two days.

“As far as the rivalry stuff, I don’t pay much attention to that. The crowd on our side was really great tonight, and as players we can really feel it.”

We’re fortunate to have two teams in this town, no matter how dismal the outlook for one or both. We can only pray Reinsdorf doesn’t move the Sox when he doesn’t get public funding for his proposed South Loop stadium.

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