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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

A Night in Minneapolis

by George Bova

Unlike any previous SoxFest, the 2006 edition has proven itself much closer to a Sox LoveFest. 88 years of frustration have been washed away and finally Chicago's baseball fans (or at least those smart enough to take up the Sox banner) can pour forth the love and affection they have for a team and its management responsible for ending the unprecedented championship famine that once upon a time had over half the city's fans deluded into thinking losing was "lovable." Not all of us were so stupid... and only the dumbest of Chicago's baseball fans still believe the nonsense. These dopes won't be filling seats on the South Side this summer and that is something that we Sox Fans -- both old-time ones and newly-minted ones, too -- can all be thankful for.

The South Side is reserved for Chicago's smart baseball fans. When the rest of you finally wise up, you're invited to join us at our ongoing championship party. Meanwhile, go scratch.

While the good cheer of championship memories flowed freely this weekend in downtown Chicago, it was a party of a different sort going on in that large clearing of the woods, wilds, and wetlands of Minnesota. You're never too far from either ice fishing or small town attitude when visiting the Twin Cities and this past weekend's TwinsFest might appear at first glance a similar event to the one going on in Chicago. Nothing could be further for the truth. Last Thursday evening's events simply confirmed the facts.

Minneapolis/St. Paul might be the most sophisticated barnyard ever created. You can dress up Ron Gardenhire for an elegant evening, but you know beneath his sports coat he is just aching to spread his usual bullshit. Here he was last Thursday at the Diamond Awards Dinner, a charitable event set up to benefit a worthy cause championed by the University of Minnesota and a not-for-profit group named for Bob Allison, one of the great Minnesota Twins who delivered a pennant and a pair of division titles to the Twin Cities in the 60's and early 70's.

As the event's name implied, it was to be an elegant twist on the ol' Hot Stove League. Make no mistake, it was a evening for superlatives of the noblest order. Held inside the newly-renovated downtown Historic Depot, the Victorian era passenger terminal of the Milwaukee Road Railroad, it was a benefit dinner meant to inspire -- and it hit its mark. Over $800,000 was raised that evening to benefit Ataxia research, the degenerative disease that took Bob Allison's life prematurely. Twins owner Carl Pohlad was in attendance and so moved, he pledged on the spot one-half million dollars from his own charity to benefit the cause. It was a grand and noble gesture from a man often reviled by fans in his own city, especially lately as he attempts to get a new stadium built for his team. Sox Fans, does this sound familiar?

As grand and glorious as this night in Minneapolis appeared, the barnyard was never too far away. Though everyone was there to talk about the 2006 Minnesota Twins, never mentioned was the unmistakable epitaph of the 2005 team, the team that failed to win the division championship that the three previous Twins ballclubs achieved. It was like it never happened.

Sure, the Twins picked up a few new odds and ends this winter, and there was vague talk about hitting the ball better and fielding the ball better, though nobody voiced a plan for precisely how the 2006 team could be expected to do any better than the 2005 team that tried and failed at the same tasks. This Sox Fan in attendance remembers the most recent quotable quote from Twins manager Ron Gardenhire last September after our Sox put the final nail in Minnesota's championship coffin. Back then Gardenhire spoke in vague generalities of how "at least we made it interesting." Yeah Ron, maybe we'll put an asterisks next to your third place finish, "* They made it interesting."

Cleveland made it interesting, Ron. Not Minnesota.

Talk of winning the championship was never too far away, though most everyone managed to ignore it was the White Sox who possessed it -- not just a measly division title, but the whole enchilada, too. Mike Redmond seemed genuinely humbled upon receiving his award. Carlos Silva was polite in his comments. Harmon Killebrew and Rod Carew were ever the gentlemen. Torii Hunter showed himself to be easily the most charismatic speaker of the evening. The point was to talk up the team, talk up the new season, and do good work on behalf of a noble cause. It was that kind of a night for everyone. Everyone, that is, except Ron Gardenhire.

"We're not used to this. The White Sox are up there on top of us. We want to be back up there looking back down on them."

People in hell want ice water.

Sox Fans, if you think the Minnesota Twins will go gently into the night, think again. Their manager is just getting warmed up. The Hot Stove League is nearly over and pretty soon the games will count again.

Get ready.


George Bova is editor and founder of White Sox Interactive. You can write George at george@whitesoxinteractive.com

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