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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Turning it Around


The White Sox have had little of it during the last 10 years or so.  Since the 1994 strike destroyed at least a decent chance of going to the World Series, the franchise has suffered through public relations debacles and bad on the field performance.  They won the Central Division title in 2000, but the home attendance for that year was the lowest of the three division winning years, demonstrating real erosion in the fan base.  Two years later it had reached the point where the word “contraction” was beginning to be connected to the White Sox. 

The lifeless-looking first half of 2003 didn’t help.  The Sox lost by not hitting, not fielding, and by little-league type base running.  Rumors of fire sales or white flag trades surfaced.  The team seemed to be on a continuing decline leading fans to believe that 2000 was a fluke and the idea of winning anything significant was a Cub-like fantasy. 

But a couple strange things happened.  The White Sox began showing life, and they stared winning. 

It began with the games against the Cubs when the Sox took both series’ from the dumbbell lovable losers.  Beating the Cubs is always great.  However, the Sox did it with real emotion.  You could see the intensity in their faces.  Emotion is a big part of sports, and if you don’t care, you shouldn’t be playing.  I had my best feeling as a Sox fan since the team clinched their second division crown in September 1993. 

More important than the moral victories, was the Sox vanquishing the pretending Twins and, in a reversal of white flagging it, the team picked up Roberto Alomar and Carl Everett.  Critics were skeptical of giving up prospects to acquire these veterans.  I think that prospecting went out with the 1800’s, just a short time before the Sox won their last World Series. 

Along with a post-All Star hot streak, there have been other signs of life in the White Sox organization.  The team has been slowly making cosmetic changes at U.S. Cellular Field. (God, how I hate that name.)  Since the ballpark opened in 1991, fans complained about the upper deck and sterile atmosphere of the field.  Though I think changing the ballpark pales in comparison to fielding a contender, I also think it is significant the ownership began listening instead of getting defensive.  An attitude like that goes a long way in enticing people to spend hard-earned money to see the team.  Telling people to like something they don’t obviously didn’t work. 

Even more significant were recent remarks by Kenny Williams about winning now and not in the 22nd century.  This was in breaking with earlier statements he made this season about “being in it for the long haul.”  Finally, the front office seemed to understand that we weren’t Cub fans.  Telling us to wait an indefinite time for a championship that might not ever come was like Billy Koch throwing fuel on the fire. 

Trades.  Improving the ballpark.  Winning.  A new attitude about winning and turning the franchise around.  Even a cynic like me is impressed.  If this type of thinking and action continues, the White Sox can truly become a viable franchise, not a stepchild to a team that thinks gaining a wild card berth is winning a championship. 

Face it, White Sox fans.  We will always be number 2 in Chicago.  But for decades Avis has been number 2, and the company remains a true force in its industry.  The White Sox can do the same.  Hell, it beats contraction.

Editor's Note:  Dan Helpingstine is a free lance writer living in Highland, Indiana.  In the early 80's, he worked as a stringer for The Times, then based in Hammond, Indiana, covering business-labor news.  For six years, he worked as a part-time sportswriter for the Merrillville Herald, a weekly that was a part of a chain of weeklies in Lake and Porter Counties.  He covered high school football and basketball.  In 1995, Helpingstine had a short story published in a murder mystery anthology entitled Murder Is My Business.  He also has had articles on the JFK murder published in the Post-Tribune of Gary.  His new book is titled "Through Hope and Despair."  It is the story of one fan's roller coaster ride with the luckless White Sox.

More features from Dan Helpingstine here!

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