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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

 

Chicago Proud
for Our Sox!

by George Bova

The Missing Praise For Baines

by George Bova

There is no doubt Harold Baines is uniquely a hero of Chicago's Sox Fans and Sox Fans alone.  We at White Sox Interactive can attest to this.  It was 1999, long before WSI moved to Rivals, that online voting for our Sox Fans' Hall of Fame made Harold Baines an overwhelming choice as the starting designated hitter. 

Mind you, this was a full year before Baines made his triumphant return to Chicago for the second time, having previously been traded by the team in 1989 and again 1997, too.  Baines had a retired Sox number but no kind of loyalty from the front office was there to match what the paying fans filling the seats showed for Harold.

Harold was ours in a way Carlton Fisk never could be.  There was never any real question of divided allegiance.  Harold never waved fair a World Series home run for Baltimore.  He wasn't obstinate like Fisk either.  In fact Harold pretty much kept quiet and out of the headlines except for what his hitting achievements demanded the media cover.  He never called out Sox management like several of his teammates on Sox teams of the 80's and 90's either.

Maybe there was less competition for Sox Fans' Hall of Fame DH, but nobody won their starting position by a wider margin -- and he had already been traded twice.  Those statues placed along the Sox Park outfield concourse are the greatest tribute any Sox player can receive and nobody deserves it more than Harold Baines.  The attention and praise he has received is 100 percent earned.

Maybe even more than 100 percent earned.

What the wider Chicago media fails to understand -- and to this day refuses to report -- is just how much has changed in the relationship between the Sox and Sox Fans since the days Harold Baines was virtually the only ballplayer worthy of being chosen to wear the uniform.  The differences are obvious and yet it simply isn't news.  How come?

In the days when Harold Baines played for the Sox, a complete renovation of the ballpark (1982), hosting an all-star game (1983), and 75th anniversary ballpark celebration (1985) were followed immediately by a public campaign to tear down the entire edifice in the name of modern amenities and increased skybox revenue (1986-88).  With attendance sliding to match the team's place in the standings, the Sox nearly made good on the threat to leave town entirely.

In the days when Harold Baines played for the Sox, a hugely unpopular trade of the team's only true star (Baines) was followed by a nearly-invisible ballpark ceremony to retire his number.  Many Sox Fans didn't even knew there was to be a tribute made to Harold when his new team, Texas, visited Old Comiskey Park later that same summer.  The Sox marketing department hadn't made much public notice of the event  using the lame excuse that to do so would be construed as a cheap publicity stunt.  Come again?  If not for cheap publicity, why hold the tribute to a ballplayer you just traded away in the first place?

In the days when Harold Baines played for the Sox -- or more accurately, the period when he was re-signed, traded, and re-acquired again -- the obvious flaws in the new Sox Park's design were simply ignored or stonewalled by Sox management as if their denying the sky was blue would prove to all Sox Fans that in fact it was pink.   

Harold Baines remained a huge hero to Sox Fans even as the Sox seemingly did everything possible to screw up their relationship with the team's fan base.

My how times have changed.  Denials of ballpark design problems have given way to more ballpark improvements than I care to recap here.  Suffice to say the ballpark looks completely different than it did back in 1999 when all those Sox Fans at WSI voted Harold their overwhelming choice as DH.  "Cheap publicity stunts" on behalf of other deserving luminaries like Nellie Fox and Luis Aparcio, Minnie Minoso, Billy Pierce, Fisk are opening embraced by not just Sox Fans but the Sox marketing department who dreamed up the idea in the first place.

The Sox were even smart enough to follow WSI's lead and in 2000 bring back the Soxogram (a year after it first appeared here) and the highly-original polka fight song by Captain Stubby and Buccaneers in 2005 (the official fight song of White Sox Interactive since 1999 when the audio file was first added to this site for the entire world to hear).  We're glad to have been of assistance!

And of course in the ultimate P.R. move, the White Sox went out and won the World Series.  We're glad to have been here both to bask in the warm championship light and, too, when the light at the end of the tunnel more resembled that of an oncoming train.  We Sox Fans are Sox Fans after all, through both thick and thin.  Our team be damned, but most of all Our team.

And who could possibly argue that Harold Baines is the best first base coach the team could ever have hired, if only so half of every game Sox Fans can see him standing there and remember just how far Our team has come.

Harold Baines may well be the ultimate ballplayer to define both what the White Sox once were and what the White Sox have now become.

Cheap publicity has nothing to do with it.  Both the Sox and Sox Fans agree.


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

More features from George Bova here!

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