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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Believing!
by Hal Vickery

Tying together some loose ends before taking next week off:

• Two games have made me a believer: Last Wednesday’s come from behind crushing the Diamondbacks and last Saturday’s come from behind thriller against the Dodgers. These two games have convinced me that, barring key injuries, nothing is going to stop the White Sox this year.

When Jon Garland reverted to form with a horrible fifth inning Wednesday night, the offense picked him up to the tune of ten runs in the sixth. Sox hitters just poured it on and didn’t stop until they had doubled the score over the Diamondbacks. It was a sight to behold.

The other great thing to see was the crowd of 28,000-plus (on a Wednesday night, traditionally a terrible attendance night for the Sox) going absolutely berserk as the Sox piled it on the hapless D-backs to salvage a win out of the series and breaking a two-game losing “streak” that had callers to sportsblab stations, and even Bryan Dolgin’s post-game show in a seeming panic.

As for Saturday’s game against the Dodgers, Ed Farmer’s comments (heard on the way home during the post-game show) described the atmosphere precisely. It was, as Farmer said, electric. I’ve seen some pretty wild finishes in my fifty years as a Sox fan, but until this year, the wildest year had to be 1977, the year of the South Side Hit Men. Saturday night’s crowd rivaled that.

The scene following A.J. Pierzynski’s game-winning home run reminded me of newsreels of VE Day or VJ Day in World War II. People were hugging each other in absolute elation. After I left my seat, three total strangers high-fived me. Fans were whooping all the way down the exit ramps and into the parking lots.

Sox fans have gone through a lot of lean years. As Jerry Reinsdorf noted in an interview last week on WSCR, where the Sox announced their upcoming five-year affiliation with the station, “After twenty-five years, I can’t believe we still haven’t won a World Series. We must be doing something wrong.”

Reinsdorf could just be right about that, at least from the years 1981-2004. As far as 2005 is concerned, it’s quite possible that the Sox have finally gotten it right. It was appropriate that the Sox chose 1959 uniforms for their Turn Back the Clock game this weekend. This is one of the speediest teams the Sox have had since that year, the closest anyone my age has come to any kind of glory.

The ’59 team had great pitching, particularly from Early Wynn and Bob Shaw, but the pitching this year is better. The Sox had speed with Luis Aparicio and the ability to move him along with the bat control of Nellie Fox. Scott Podsednik is a comparable speed demon, and Tadahito Iguchi, although not as good a hitter as Fox, isn’t bad at moving him along.

With Frank Thomas, Carl Everett, and Jermain Dye splitting time with regulars Paul Konerko, and Aaron Rowand, the middle of this lineup is stronger than that of the ’59 club. A.J. Pierzynski is pretty comparable behind the plate to Sherman Lollar, while Joe Crede, although struggling with the bat, is still superior to Bubba Phillips at third base.

If 1959 is the model, this club is probably better. I’d love to say nothing can stop us, but we’ve all seen what can happen with key injuries. So let’s be conservative and say, “Barring injury nothing can stop us!” This just feels like the year.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

• So what did the media have to say about the Sox? Well, if you read the Wall Street Journal it’s that the Sox have lousy attendance. Expect a similar piece to come soon from Crain’s Chicago Business. Some of us from WSI have already been interviewed on that very subject.

So what is happening to attendance? It’s rising now. Why is it rising? Well, it’s June. School is out. Families are coming to the ball park. I’ve seen a lot more kids the last couple of games I’ve been to than any April or May game except kids days.

In other words, the attendance trend is just what we said it would be back when the subject was first brought up by the media types in April and May.

Here’s a little more for the media types to ponder: The Sox have had a club from 2001-2004 that for various reasons has hovered right around .500. This has eroded the season ticket base which spiked for the All-Star Game in 2003. This year that base is reportedly around 12,000 tickets.

That means that in order to draw the 36,000 fans that attended Saturday night, the Sox had to rely on nine or thirteen game ticket plans, pre-sales of individual tickets, and walk-ups to account for double the number of season tickets.

Another thing to consider is that attendance, particularly season ticket sales, usually spikes the year after a big year. If 2005 is really the big year we think it might be, look for attendance to boom next year, provided the Sox don’t stink up the joint in April and May as they did in 2001 after their big year in 2000.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

• Last Wednesday afternoon’s game was billed as “Nothing But Nancy Day,” featuring no music other than that provided by longtime Sox organist Nancy Faust. Nancy seems to be getting more playing time this year under the direction of Brooks Boyer, but this is also the second year of her two-year deal with the Sox.

Now would be a great time for Sox fans to show up and show how much we appreciate having the best baseball organist in the world. Send a message to the Sox that we want Nancy back for 2006 and beyond.

Otherwise, next year we could all be remembering the words of Joanie Mitchell, “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone?”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

• Should I mention the the annual ritual of idiots flocking to The Cell to embarrass themselves by revealing that they are complete idiots.

I quit going to these games when, in two of the three games I attended I sat next to a couple of those drunken boors during consecutive games. In the first game, after the crowd sang “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” some 20-something Cubbie jackass near me said in a loud, drunken voice, “Yeah, real original!”

He was probably one of those Cubs fans who think that the song was written by Harry Caray for the Cubs in 1982. Memo to Cubs fans: That seventh inning stretch tradition started at Comiskey Park in 1977, complete with Harry Caray singing. (Yes, he was a Sox announcer before he moved to the North Side.)

The second incident was even worse. Some 20-something Cubbie Clown was whooping at every pop fly hit by a Cubs batter. As he consumed more beer, he then began railing on the Sox, his diatribe peppered with “F-bombs.”

Finally a guy sitting in front of him said, very politely, “Could you tone it down a little bit? There are kids sitting around here.”

This pillar of Cubdom gave the sensitive reply, “F*** the kids!”

He was escorted out shortly thereafter.

So this year I had a choice. It was either purchase some tickets to put up with the likes of those idiots, or enjoy myself listening to three days of jazz in Elkhart, Indiana. It was no contest.

Three days of music is a lot more exciting proposition than three days of Cubs fans and three days of backhanded compliments from the local and national media.


Editor's Note: Hal Vickery has been a White Sox fan since 1955 when he was five years old. For much of that time he also had a secondary rooting interest in the Cubs, which he has shown the good sense to abandon. When not cheering for or writing about the Sox, Hal teachers chemistry and physics at North Boone High School, in Poplar Grove, IL. Hal commutes there daily from Joliet, where he lives with his wife Lee, and their dog, Buster T. Beagle. Hal's opinions are not necessarily those of North Boone High School, his wife, or Buster T. Beagle. You can write Hal at hvickery@svs.com.

More features from Hal Vickery here!

Have a Thought about
Believing!

You Can Put it on the Board -- Yes!



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