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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

 

Chicago Proud
for Our Sox!

by George Bova

Home Field!

by George Bova

This week the 2008 White Sox are making the first of what will probably prove to be the two most-important road trips of the remainder of the season.  Having already taken two of three games in Detroit, they fly into Minneapolis to play a critical four-game set against the second-place Twins.  In September they'll make another road trip that almost certainly seals whatever fate the team is destined for:  four at Yankees Stadium followed by three in Kansas City and the final three inside the HumpDome against these same Twins. 

Thank God Jerry Manuel isn't the manager.

Whenever the situation called for action, you could be sure Jerry was fast asleep.  Who can forget Manuel putting in reliever Jose Paniagua in a key September game against Minnesota back in 2003 just to see how the newly-acquired pitcher would react, and nearly lost the game to the eventual division champs.  The Sox lost the next four games, Paniagua was cut and Manuel was fired.  And just as surely, whenever the situation called for steady nerves, you could be sure Jerry was busy tinkering.  Who can forget Manuel deciding winning the first two games inside Yankees Stadium was good enough, so instead of starting staff ace Mark Buehrle to nail down a sweep, he adjusts his rotation to "save" Buehrle for a start against last-place Detroit (a team destined to lose 119 games in 2003) who naturally steeled themselves to beat the flattened ace for what surely was the closest thing to a playoff game these cellar-dwellers were going to enjoy in their own lost season.

Is it any wonder Twins manager Ron Gardenhire openly-admitted Manuel as Sox manager was considered by his own team a key advantage in the division races of the early-00's?  His silence about Ozzie as Sox manager speaks volumes.

The nightmares of the Sox' early-00's road trips to the HumpDome has left permanent scars on the psyche of the lunatic fringe of Sox Fandom.  Many have been soiling their pants for weeks over these remaining seven games in Minneosta.  Yes, they're obviously games of great importance and given how the Twins are presently in second-place to the first-place Sox, each counts double in the loss column that ultimately decides the division champ and the also-rans.  Of course the other 50+ games the Sox must play loom quite large, too.  Is a bit of perspective too much to ask for?

At the center of the nervousness is always the HumpDome itself.  Mike Ditka always found the place a convenient excuse for why his Bears teams underperformed there, and the aforementioned Jerry Manuel only added to the nightmarish legacy with his loony ideas for "keeping the 25th man fresh" of paramount importance for not less than the first four months of every baseball season.

So it's a bit of a surprise for all you Sox Fans out there to have this ugly truth revealed about the home-field advantage enjoyed by the Minnesota Twins:  Our Sox have a larger one.  Entering Monday night's game, the Sox are 35-16 at home while the Twins can only manage 34-19. 

How can this be?  Well, the reasons ought to be obvious for any world championship-steeped Sox Fan to explain to his weak-knee brethren.  The answers are obvious for anyone to plainly see.

First there is the sky.  The White Sox made the sky above Sox Park a lovely shade of light blue, but it is often filled with puffy white clouds that blend quite neatly with the color of pop fly baseballs.  In fact it has been known for these clouds to sometimes spit water in tiny droplets, sometimes heavier ones.  The Sox also devilishly schedule games at 7:11 which means the blue sky turns black long before opposing ballplayers can get used to it.  The Twins have no such advantage.

Then there is the wind.  When the White Sox are at bat, the wind invariably is blowing from homeplate out towards whichever field is most advantageous to either the left-handed (right field) or right-handed Sox hitters (left field).  There are numerous occasions in Sox Park history when the wind has literally carried a Sox pop fly into the seats, most famously back in September, 1993 when Bo Jackson's sky-high pop fly "caught the jet stream" as even Bo himself flatly-admitted to, becoming the homerun that clinched the division title for the South Side.  The wind provides no such favors for the opposition, probably from the city's Streets & Sanitation Department reversing the traffic flow on the nearby Dan Ryan Expressway.  The City of Chicago designed it with 10 lanes of traffic, plus two sets of "el" tracks in-between, precisely for this reason.  When it came to matters of municipal governance, concrete infrastructure and his beloved Sox, boss mayor Richard J. Daley spared no expense!  The Twiins have no such advantage.

Finally there is the grass.  Not satisfied with the alleged advantages of the plastic variety, the Sox fiendishly installed what they cleverly deemed the "natural" variety but in fact is a huge advantage for the Sox.  This grass makes bunted balls slow down the further along the surface they must travel.  Batted balls that strike the natural grass simply lose their energy, deadened by the combination of turf, roots, loam, potash and phosphate.  The "Sodfather", Sox groundskeeper Roger Bossard, spares no expense in the devil's brew he created and he didn't even go to Purdue to learn how to do it!  The Twins have no such advantage.

Minneapolis and its less cosmopolitan neighbor, St. Paul, are two pleasant towns populated by pleasant and simple people too nice to devise anything as utterly fiendish as what big bad Chicago created for its Sox.  Granted it's a bit intimidating for visiting ballplayers on their jet airplane, making their final approach into Minneapolis International Airport, to look out the window and see within the haze of the far-northern horizon the faintest outline of the onion-shaped spires of the Russian Kremlin.  To those who've never seen it, such a realization of the remoteness of your destination can take you out of your game.  Or at least all those endless forests of trees and algae-choked,  mosquito-infested ponds the locals call "lakes".  Playing in Minnesota does have certain advantages.

The truth is plain enough.  Minnesota is ditching the HumpDome, soon to be replaced with an outdoor, natural grass surface playing field that ought to be simply a delightful place to watch the Twins play baseball on an April weeknight with single-digit wind chills nipping at your nose.  I'm guessing the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim ought to especially enjoy it.  The Twins simply want the same advantages the Sox have enjoyed for years now.

We Sox Fans always knew they would finally catch up with us. 


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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