I love the White Sox. I hate the Cubs. A strange situation as I grew up a Cubs fan and my mom still loves them, watching every game she can. My dad loved the Cubs and they were my introduction to the Majors. There’s nothing quite as heartwarming to me as the memories of my parents taking me to Wrigley Field as a child. As I write this, just behind me is a framed scorecard of a game they took me to on August 24th, 1962, a day after my 9th birthday. Warren Spahn pitched for the then Milwaukee Braves. Hank Aaron hit a home run in the 4th. Lou Brock was playing centerfield for the Cubs (they made the brilliant trade to the Cardinals in 1964), Billy Williams was in left, Santo was at third, Atlman was at first giving Ernie Banks a day off. The Cubs lost ten to one. On the other side of the scorecard are the autographs of Ernie Banks, Don Landrum and Ken Hubbs, who was at second that day. I’m sure few remember Ken Hubbs. He was star to me, but he was killed in a plane crash in 1964 after only three seasons that included becoming the first rookie to win a Gold Glove and National League Rookie of the Year. Hot dogs were 30 cents, PBR 35 cents, cigarettes 35 cents and cigars went for 10 cents, 15 cents or 25 cents depending on how much of a connoisseur you were.
It is my most valued possession and someday will be passed to my son Colin. For some, expensive watches become heirlooms, but I can’t think of anything more valuable than this old scorecard and the detailed penciled history of that single game that my dad passed on to his son, grandson and certainly great grandchildren after that. On the day he died he had a Manhattan, watched the Cubs, then died in his sleep that night. He would of thought it a good last day.
As you can see baseball means a lot to me. So how could I desert the team of my childhood and my father? It happened slowly and took many seasons. Things started to unraveling in 1984 when the Cubs choked in the playoffs, winning the first two in a best out of five against San Diego then going on to lose three straight to be eliminated. On top of this I had started hanging out with some White Sox fans and went to many games on the South Side with them. Also, as is common in Illinois, it was not that my family was without White Sox sympathizers as my grandfather Chester was a Sox fan as is my Uncle Gene.
Over the years I went to both ball parks, gradually gravitating to Comiskey over Wrigley. By the early 90’s I rarely went to Wrigley, but I did not actively root against the Cubs. How could I? Then in 1997 it happened, inter-league play was introduced. I actually thought the games would be fun with good sports all around, after all, at the end of the day a Chicago team would be the winner. I could not have been more wrong. I did not anticipate the wrath of the Cubs fans, who, I’m happy to say lost that first series just as they did the 1906 World Series against the Sox, which was the last time they’d played each other in games that counted.
It was only this experience that opened my eyes to why I had abandoned the Cubs and adopted the White Sox. The White Sox have to win to draw fans: to succeed. They were just like me. On the other hand were the Cubs who consistently packed tourists into their Field of Dreams stadium (I admit I love Wrigley) who cared little if the home team won or lost. The remainder of the seats at Wrigley are filled by beer-fueled bankers/lawyers/accountants/traders with little tattoos hidden under their pinstripes and loosened ties to brand them as the rebels they imagine themselves. It’s hard to take seriously a team that has a stadium packed with people who barely know the score, but never miss getting in their last round of beers. Oblivion makes people accept the idea that any team can have a bad century.
The White Sox have to win. The Cubs can wallow in mediocrity and still rake in the dough. Like I said, the Sox are just like me and they’re just like you. Now we get to the part where it has to do with wine.
There are a lot of Chicago Cubs in the wine business. Wineries that haven’t hit a home run in years, but still live on past glories and fans that just don’t pay attention to the actual score. They have famous names and play in beautiful ball parks, but most are well on their way to having a losing century, just like the Cubs. Some people must feel that bland is beautiful.
You’ll always get more for your money buying wine from winemakers who have to win, who are driven to win. Winemakers and ball teams do not get to the World Series by trying to play it safe. No guts, no glory.
Many of the biggest names in wine offer more fame than personality. What’s in the bottle should be more important than what’s on the outside. Wrigley Field is a great package with a famous name, but the quality of what’s inside leaves a lot to be desired. Just because sales are good doesn’t mean the product deserves it.
Rooting for the White Sox of the wine world will get you not only better wines: you also get to watch better baseball in the process.
Saturday, July 23, 2011 at 4:51PM