McClelland: Should the White Sox leave Chicago?

From Edward McClelland at Chicago Magazine on August 9, 2019, with mention of SABR member Sam Pathy:

As the White Sox work on their seventh straight losing season, in whatever they’re calling that ballpark at 35th and Wentworth these days, the team is practically giving away tickets. Currently, you can sit in the upper deck for $5, less than you’d pay to sit on the lawn at a Kane County Cougars game.

Despite this, the Sox are drawing half as many fans as the Cubs, whose cheapest tickets cost more than twice as much. With the Sox so desperate for wins and attendance, it’s worth asking: Can Chicago still support two baseball teams? And if it can’t, would the White Sox be better off with a city of their own, instead of soldiering on in the ever-expanding shadow of the Cubs?

At the beginning of the modern major league era, in 1901, there were five two-team towns. By the end of the 1950s, Chicago was the only one left. In Philadelphia, St. Louis, Boston, and New York, the less popular franchises moved to new cities. In every case, they were more successful than they’d been in their old homes.

But the White Sox had no reason to leave Chicago. In the ’50s, they were a bigger deal than the Cubs, winning more games (and even a pennant) and drawing more fans. Back then, the South Side was a political and economic powerhouse. Bridgeport, the team’s home neighborhood, was the duchy of the Sox fan Daleys. The stockyards fed America, and the steel mills built its skyscrapers. Plus, Wrigley Field didn’t have lights, so the city needed a team for people with day jobs.

The balance of popularity between the two teams began to shift in the late ’60s, for reasons related both to baseball and to the diverging fortunes of the North and South sides. “The Chicago White Sox, 1968-70: Three Years in Hell,” an article by Sam Pathy for the Society for American Baseball Research, pinpoints when and how things went south for the South Siders.`

Read the full article here:

Originally published: August 12, 2019. Last Updated: August 12, 2019.