The request we’re sending to bloggers of all 30 teams this spring is a simple one: What are the 10 best things about being a fan of your favorite team? What features of the franchise have you excited for opening day and what keeps you coming back year after year?
As we reach the end of our little experiment, we’re glad to hear that so many of you enjoyed the ride. Polishing off our series is our own David Brown.
1. Oct. 26, 2005: The White Sox had gone 88 years since winning the World Series, a streak of morbidity longer than the Boston Red Sox were riding into 2004 when they finally won it all. Further, the White Sox’s futility was 91 percent as long as the Cubs’ 97-season streak without a championship. They were just as bad or worse than the Red Sox and Cubs and yet, outside of Chicago — at least the parts that root for the White Sox — no one cared about the South Side. They didn’t care when Juan Uribe and Paul Konerko teamed up to record the final out at Minute Maid Park against the Houston Astros. The ineptness of the Cubs and Red Sox was lamented internationally, even celebrated. Much of the baseball world had held its breath two in 2003 when the Cubs were six outs away from a World Series date with the Yankees. And it let out a mighty exhale in ’04 when the Red Sox came back to beat the Yankees in the ALCS and then the Cardinals in the World Series. White Sox fans are born alone, they die alone and they celebrated the ’05 World Series alone. And can’t no one ever take that way. Our trophy! Get away!
2. Paul Konerko’s grand slam against Chad Qualls in Game 2:
Oh, we’re milking the ’05 Series for all it’s worth. Konerko’s blast was the most exciting White Sox moment in my lifetime and it’s not even close. With the Astros leading 4-2 in the bottom of the seventh, Konerko connected against Qualls and sent U.S. Cellular Field into a bedlam louder than anything before or sense at the ballpark. Konerko’s home run didn’t even win the game — li’l Scott Podsednik did with a home run against Brad Lidge in the bottom of the ninth — and the White Sox didn’t become champions for three more days. But as soon as Konerko hit that ball and it cleared the fence and landed in the home bullpen, not even the most skeptical Sox fan on the planet could reasonably doubt that their team was about to win it all. And for someone who grew up going to games with his mom, watching crappy teams or heartbreaking outcomes, and wondered if winning would ever happen for his team, it was a powerful moment. I still think of it whenever Chad Qualls pitches. (The second-best Sox moment in my lifetime is probably when Carlton Fisk tagged out two guys at home plate at Yankee Stadium on the same play in 1985. Happened on NBC’s Thursday night baseball.)
3. The exploding scoreboard: Back in 1960, Sox owner Bill Veeck introduced a scoreboard that shot off fireworks like it was the Fourth of July whenever the home team would hit a home run. Many teams since have copied or riffed on Veeck’s All-American idea. Today, pretty much every stadium has a scoreboard that lights up. Many of them shoot fireworks. Some have other bells and whistles. But all of it started on the South Side decades ago. It’s transcended being a gimmick and has become tradition — unlike some of Veeck’s other ideas, such as having the Sox wear shorts during games in 1976. And it outlives the classic Veeck moment of sending a little person, Eddie Gaedel, up to bat with the St. Louis Browns.
4. The “Na Na Na, Hey Hey, Good-bye” song: It’s become an anthem in stadiums across all sports, right up with with “We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions” and whatever else fans might chant at a ballgame. White Sox organist Nancy Faust started playing it in 1977 for fans as they serenaded an opposing pitcher adieu, but she also played it as the scoreboard exploded when a Sox player hit a home run. The White Sox were hipster with the multimedia before it became cool.
5. Harry Caray at his absolute best: Speaking of cool, Caray for the 11 seasons he worked for the White Sox was the most unconventional, yet coolest baseball broadcaster of all time. When teamed with analyst Jimmy Piersall, it was nirvana. Nobody dissected (and sometimes vivisected) a baseball team like those two. Broadcasting from the bleachers with his shirt off, and broadcasting anywhere while drinking beer, Harry Caray could always be trusted by fans to say how it was. And nobody got more excited when the Sox happened to do something good. Once he moved to the Cubs and became a real star, Caray was closer to a caricature and sometimes incoherent to the point of distraction. When he was with the Sox, he was close to perfect. Here’s Harry singing “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” and you can actually understand him.
6. A classic uniform — finally: Few franchises in sports had a tougher time finding their fashion niche than the White Sox. They wore Veeck’s shorts, which went with Veeck’s pajamas. They wore those oddly striped tuxedo uniforms in the early ’80s that made their heavy players look even heavier. In the late ’80s, the “C” for Chicago in the cap looked like “E” for Einhorn, one of the owners. They never settled on a color scheme for more than three season at a time. Finally in 1990, as old Comiskey Park was on the verge of euthanasia, the Sox hit the daily double of fashion. First, they held the MLB’s first “turn back the clock” day, complete with uniforms from 1917. This was the fuel with which the retro jersey craze still burns. Secondly, they remodeled their everyday uniforms — again. But they finally got it right, combining the look of the 1950s and ’60s “Go-Go Sox” era with the popular black and silver color all the best street gangs were wearing. Presto! Straight outta Compton. The players looked so suave, NWA vets Dr. Dré, Ice Cube and Easy E wore their duds in videos (NSFW). The team also started to play well, and had added advertising/cultural phenomenon/hip replacement spokesperson Bo Jackson to the roster in 1991. Suddenly, the Sox were the popular kid in school. Some 20 years later, the team’s overall popularity has ebbed, but the coolness of their uniforms continues to flow.
7. They’re the president’s team: You might be able to get into a spirited conversation with Luke Scott about where Barack Obama was born, but there’s no questioning the location of his loyalty when it comes to baseball. In 2009 at the All-Star Game in St. Louis, the President Obama wore a White Sox jacket (and mom jeans) to throw out the first pitch. In 2010 on opening day at Nationals Park in D.C., he wore a beat-up Sox cap pulled down tight over his head. Always representing. No matter your politics, there’s something comforting about having a White Sox fan living in the White House for up to eight years. (On a local scale, living in Chicago with South Side native Richard Daley as mayor from 1989-2010 had a similar effect.)
8. Mark Buehrle’s perfect game and no-hitter: I’ve seen just about every worthy White Sox moment from 1983-present, either in person or on TV. But I don’t mind telling the story about how I happened to sleep through Buehrle’s perfect game in 2009 against the Tampa Bay Rays, because I saw his no-hitter against the Texas Rangers in 2007 in person. Easily the most awesome thing about Buehrle’s perfect game is that, even if you didn’t know it existed, he more or less has a spare historical moment for you to recall. I’ll always be grateful. And in awe.
9. Frank Thomas: White Sox broadcaster Ken “Hawk” Harrelson applied one of the greatest nicknames in sports history to Thomas because he hurt the ball when he hit. With the exception of the brief time on the South Side of Dick Allen, the White Sox had never really had a player who could consistently lead the league in slugging percentage, much less “hurt” the baseball. In other words, the White Sox had not been known for sluggers. In 1906, “The Hitless Wonders” beat the Cubs in the World Series. In 1910, they opened a ballpark (partly designed by pitcher Ed Walsh) that made home runs ridiculously hard to come by. In the 1950s and ’60s during the team’s golden era, they won with pitching and speed. (This might have something to do with why ownership wanted to ignite fireworks whenever a Sox player hit a homer.) But Thomas was homegrown, drafted in the first round in 1989 and making it to the majors by the middle of 1990. He could hit for average, for power and he had the best batting eye this side of Barry Bonds, and maybe Ted Williams before that. He was big and strong and beautiful, winning the AL MVP in 1993 and 1994 during what amounts to a modern heyday for the White Sox. Even with the injuries that befell him later in his career, Thomas remains one of the best 20 or so best power hitters of all time. One day, he’ll give the Sox something they don’t have in Cooperstown: A real slugger.
10. The best ballpark in the city: Yeah, I said it. The park on the North Side has its bricks (they hurt) and ivy (it dies) and rooftops (high entrance fees) and sunshine (in diminishing quantities). But it’s almost 100 years old and parts have been falling down for years. Soon, they’ll probably complete refurbishments and it’ll be good enough to stand for another 100 years. It was reviled because it wasn’t Wrigley or Camden Yards, but U.S. Cellular Field is one of the more underrated parks in the major leagues — thanks to years of smart renovations and improvements. Unlike Wrigley, it smells nice and has all along since opening in 1991. It smells like grilled onions, the smell wafting into your nostrils as you enter the park. U.S. Cellular is aesthetically pleasing enough, about a billion times better to look at than when it opened. Wide concourses, plenty of bathrooms, much better food. Good seats available. Did I mention the parking lots? Yes, you can park there, and tailgate, unlike other places. And if you want to take the El, there’s a stop right there — just like at Clark and Addison. Best of all, U.S. Cellular isn’t a tourist destination. It’s not a place to be seen. It’s not a singles bar in the outfield. Almost all of the people there go because of baseball and that’s it. If that’s what you want, you know where to go.
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What are your favorite things about being a White Sox fan?
Previous “10 Best Things”: Detroit Tigers, Cincinnati Reds, Kansas City Royals, Oakland Athletics, Minnesota Twins, Los Angeles Angels, Arizona Diamondbacks, San Francisco Giants,Baltimore Orioles, Milwaukee Brewers, New York Yankees, Colorado Rockies, St. Louis Cardinals, Houston Astros, New York Mets, Tampa Bay Rays, Pittsburgh Pirates, Toronto Blue Jays, Cleveland Indians, San Diego Padres, Atlanta Braves, Chicago Cubs, Miami Marlins, Los Angeles Dodgers, Philadelphia Phillies, Boston Red Sox, Washington Nationals, Texas Rangers
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The 10 best things about being a White Sox fan