Rivalries are one of the cornerstones of sports. They fuel a contest with more passion, more drive and more will to succeed than nearly any other circumstance. Separated by less than 10 miles and 12 stops on the Red Line and with a rivalry that dates back more than a century, the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox are no exception. However, scheduling changes within the past few years negatively changed the way the rivalry plays out, for the teams and especially for the fans and the city.
Since playing each other for the first official time in the 1906 World Series, the two teams faced off in occasional exhibition games that meant nothing in the context of each team’s respective season. With the introduction of interleague play in 1997 the exhibitionary nature of the contest became legitimate and the series had a new format, with three games at Wrigley Field and three games at U.S. Cellular Field. It typically began on a weekend in mid May and concluded sometime during the week in June or July, allowing for the maximum number of fans and thus the maximum amount of energy in the stands. As a result, the games themselves were electrifying, both in terms of the final results and the on-field antics. It’s impossible to forget the 2006 brawl, when the benches cleared after Cub catcher Michael Barrett slugged A.J. Pierzynski of the White Sox. Incidents like that one become part of the fabric of the city’s storied baseball past.
However, when the Houston Astros abandoned the NL Central for the AL West last year, the nature of interleague play as a whole changed — changes that trickled down to the Crosstown Classic. The series downsized to four games squashed into the schedule in the middle of the week in the beginning of May, taking away any chance of warm weather or a sellout crowd.
As the White Sox and Cubs battled each other tonight in 30-degree temperatures and gusts of Wrigley Field wind strong enough to keep even the hits of Jose Abreu within the limits Friendly Confines, something continued to feel off. White Sox broadcaster Ken “Hawk” Harrelson he lamented the conditions and said that this isn’t how the rivalry was meant to be played. And he’s completely right.