My first experience with the Crosstown Classic was in 1997—the debut year for interleague play. There was a considerable amount of fanfare and hype for the series that essentially boiled down to:
“Watch a team six games below .500 take on another team twelve games below .500 to determine who owns bragging rights!!!”
Left unsaid, of course, was that the winner would be owning the rights to brag about a team that was still several games below the break-even point. Which was like boasting to everyone you know that thanks to your brand new Cleveland Browns PSL, you now own the right to purchase NFL playoff tickets.
Anyway, I went to the series finale at Comiskey Park in its pre-downward pointing arrow days back when it was still named for the human version of a mortgage lending company. The much-hyped game was pretty dreadful as the Cubs got shut out by Wilson Álvarez 3-0 to drop the Classic two games to one.
Once the game let out, the parking lot was jammed solid. While surveying the mass of motionless vehicles, in the row ahead of us was a car that I could tell was owned by a Sox fan. And the reason I could tell that was because every time someone walked past wearing anything with the Cubs logo, he leaned out his window and–motivated by his team’s resurgence all the way back to fourth place–bellowed at the top of his voice: “CUBS SUCK!!!”
Over and over. And over. “CUBS SUCK!” “CUBS SUCK!” “CUBS SUCK!” For 45 solid unending nightmare minutes.
Which was weird. Because you’d think Mayor Daley would have been able to get a better space than “General Parking.”
That night remains the first thing I think of every year when the Crosstown Classic rolls around. But that was 21 years ago at this point. Both teams have won actual championships since then so things surely have gotten better. Right, Jesse Rogers’ Twitter?
“Relievers say they saw plenty of fights in the stands yesterday: ‘A woman got thrown in the trash can. I’m not kidding.’”
Jesus. When the Sox have a sell-out, they find ways to stick fans everywhere.
If you’ve been to even one Cubs-Sox game, I’m sure you’ve got a similar memory. Just as I’m sure Sox fans have plenty of awful experiences with drunken bros in “Drunk Chicks Dig Me” shirts yelling heinous things at them outside of Yak-Zies—although, as we were reminded this week, you could just be a Cubs fan trying to enjoy a ballgame in the bleachers and instead end up in a viral video because someone yelled racist slurs at you. Shitty people are shitty people regardless of whose official merchandise they choose to purchase in lieu of a personality.
And the Crosstown Classic attracts them like no other event on the baseball calendar. So since we’ve been doing this for over two decades and we’re still at the point as a city where we treat the opposing fanbase like Todd Ricketts treats excess hot dogs, isn’t it about time to put an end to this abomination?
Interleague play was a Bud Selig innovation. Which is just a fancier way of saying it was a gimmick to distract us from something awful he did–in this case, forcing a players’ strike and canceling the World Series three years prior. And the argument for interleague play has always been something along the lines of, “Sure, the vast majority of series are Padres/Royals snoozefests but isn’t that worth it for the fun of seeing the Cubs battle the White Sox every year?”
As the city series demonstrates every single season, the correct answer is, “Actually, I prefer it when a baseball game in Chicago doesn’t turn into the 1968 Democratic National Convention.”
Whenever the Cubs and White Sox meet, it feels like the end result is one of two options: depression or head-thumping braggadocio. And in a sport where each game is 1/162nd of a season, both of these are ludicrous responses completely out of proportion with reality.
In other words: the Crosstown Classic is baseball’s attempt to turn the atmosphere surrounding the sport into that of an NFL game. And if you’ve never been to an NFL game in person, I can best describe it thusly:
You know the t-shirt that says “Packers can suck my Ditka and kiss my Butkus?” Now imagine that shirt were 70 thousand people. And you gave each of them a quantity of alcohol that can only be described as “a Nicolas Cage Oscar winning performance.”
And this is the kind of atmosphere Chicago baseball wants for two weekends a year?
(Glances at attendance figures, sighs loudly enough to be heard even in the part of space where no one can hear you scream…)
OK, but then there’s also this. The single best argument to bring the Crosstown Classic to a well deserved and ignominious end can be found in the words of one of the people who loves it the most…
“My last game is against the Cubs. I’m going to do all three of those September games. It’ll give me three more days of pissing Cubs fans off. I would give anything–anything–for us to sweep their ass.”
–Ken “Hawk” Harrelson
Yeah, that’s right. If you’re a fan of the Crosstown Classic, congratulations! The Sorting Hat has placed you in House TWTW. Because both Ken Harrelson and the Crosstown Classic have one thing in common above all else:
They both should have been retired 20 years ago.
Lead photo courtesy @Cubs on Twitter