Thursday, July 10, 2008

E-mails, we get e-mails...

I got this e-mail the other day, and I thought some good questions were posed, so I thought I would answer it publicly on the blog. Here's the e-mail...

Hi, Rick - my name is Cliff in San Francisco. Technically, I'm not a die-hard Cubs fan, but my mother is (born in 1932 - raised in Chicago, but came out to live in SF - but all of our Chicago-Naperville cousins somehow became White Sox fans - go figure).

Anyway, it was one of our White-Sox fan cousins who mentioned this website back in early May when my mother went back to visit - and though I cannot make your website my homepage (sorry, there are other business interests that I just HAVE to look at first), JOBC is now prominent in my FAVORITE sites.

Now, for those of us (like me - West Coast - National Leaguer but not quite up on all the baseball rivalry history) who do not know enough of the Cubs-Sox rivalry, how about adding a link to explain the Cubs rivals, the start of the history, and why.

For instance, the Giants and Dodgers had their rivalry when they were in New York for specific, local reasons - however, TODAY's SF Giants and the LA Dodgers still have that rivalry, even though 400 miles apart, is mainly due to Northern California vs Southern California rivalry reasons - and nothing to do with New York tradition.

But what of Cubs-White Sox?

Same city (different leagues, yes) - both teams have a long baseball history without ever being relocated.

Is it the part of city and what socio-economic strata of whomever went to Wrigley or Cominsky that is a cause of the rivalry??

Also, Cubs-Cardinals rivalry - any specific reason for not only Cubs-Cardinals but also Chicago-St Louis rivalry? Chicago has the railroads, St Louis has the Mississippi for commerce - both cities can lay a claim as a "gateway" to the West. Any other reasons for rivalry?

And finally Cubs-Reds - both teams are part of the oldest in America - but I don't know if there is spirited rivalry between these 2 cities or not.

Finally, as I write this, I see the Cubs beat the Reds - hope you and your son had a fine time.

Thank you for your attention.......Cliff

Those are good questions, and I'll see if I can answer them. First of all, I've previously written about my own history with the Cubs/White Sox rivalry here, but I also got a good e-mail from a reader named Reed, explaining it from the perspective of the White Sox fan. He wrote:

"You have three sons. I can't believe you don't understand the psychology of the Sox fan. It's like the psychology of the little brother, feeling they never measure up to the Golden Boy, son number one. They feel kicked and spat upon, disrespected.

The Sox are the number two team in a two team town. They know this. They have deep-seated inferiority issues. Winning--and the Cubs losing--are the only ways they can attempt to prove their superiority. However, this is not enough. They are painfully aware that even if you do not win, you still have superior inherent value.
They do not understand why. They cannot stand the Cubs "having it all" by getting this unearned adoration AND winning, too."

As for the Cardinals rivalry, I will admit it's a very real rivalry (which is why our St. Louis toothless onesie is one of our big sellers).

My take on this rivalry is that it was born in downstate Illinois, where it is still strongest. Towns like Springfield, Champaign-Urbana, and Peoria are almost exactly equidistant from Chicago and St. Louis, and therefore, the fan loyalties of these towns are split. That leads to a natural rivalry--sometimes even within the same family.

In addition to that, until the late 50s, St. Louis and Chicago were the two Western-most cities in the National League. That meant that baseball fans from the entire Western part of the United States often chose one team or the other to root for (including a young Dick Cheney in Wyoming--who chose the Cubs), which made the rivalry even more widespread.

And finally, the two teams have been rivals simply because they have both been around forever and they played each other many times. In the 1930s, for instance, both teams were good at the same time, and fought it out for the pennant every season. In the 1960s when the Cubs made a resurgence, the Cardinals were the best team in the National League (thanks to a certain outfielder they acquired, but that's a painful story for another day), and they fought for the division title every year.

As for the Reds, although they played each other so many times, if you look back through history, they didn't really have good seasons at the same time. When the Cubs won the pennant, they often built up their record with lots of wins against the lowly Reds. When the Reds won the pennant, they built up their record with lots of wins against the lowly Cubs.

But more importantly for people my age (I'm 45), the Reds didn't play in the same division as the Cubs for many years. From the late 60s (when divisional play began) until the mid-90s when the divisions were re-aligned, the Reds actually played in the National League West, while the Cubs played in the National League East (which was always inexplicable geographically). The Cardinals, Mets and Pirates were also in the East, and those were the big Cubs rivalries during the divisional years. The Reds biggest rivals were teams like the Dodgers and the Giants, with whom they fought for the Western title every year.

On the other hand, maybe Marty Brennanman started a Cubs/Reds rivalry with his asinine comments earlier this season.

I hope that answers your question. Thanks for writing.