Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Since 1906, White Sox have dominated Cubs
Cubs win! Cubs win! Cubs win!
Today the Cubs captured Game 7 -- in dramatic fashion -- in their Ultimate Rivalry series against the White Sox, which makes them Windy City champions.
For a day, anyhow.
This is far from the first time these clubs have matched up with something on the line, though. Sometimes it's been for pride. Sometimes it's been for important wins and losses during the regular season. And once, it was for the World Championship.
In 1906, the Cubs went 116-36, which to this day is the best record in modern major league history. Meanwhile, the White Sox went 93-58, which was good enough for the American League pennant. For any number of good reasons, the Cubs were massive favorites to beat the "Hitless Wonders" -- the Sox finished last in the league with a .230 batting average -- in the World Series.
This wasn't the first time the Chicago teams had faced off in October. In 1903, when the Pirates and Red Sox challenged each other in the first American League vs. National League World Series, there were other inter-league postseason series in Philadelphia, St. Louis, Ohio (Cleveland vs. Cincinnati) ... and Chicago. These "city series" would become a staple for decades, and nowhere more than in Chicago, where the teams and the fans took the games seriously. In 1912, White Sox pitcher Ed Walsh started four of the Series' seven games (and relieved in two others). The Sox won, but Walsh was never the same. According to one source, "The fans saw the city series as a genuine championship event, and the clubs responded by playing all out."
That first Chicago city series, in 1903, wound up deadlocked at seven games apiece (the 15th game wasn't played because the players' contracts expired a day too early). Two years later the Cubs would win the second city series, and in 1909 they would win the third.
But for the next few decades the White Sox would dominate the Cubs. From 1911 through 1942, they played 22 city series and the White Sox won 18 of them. Their run included a seven-series streak from 1911 through 1921, and an eight-series streak from 1931 through '42. It's possible that 1942 marked the last city series because of World War II. It's also possible that 1942 marked the last city series because the Cubs were tired of losing every year.
Which isn't to suggest the teams stopped playing one another. I don't have the research at hand, but I suspect they played occasional exhibitions in the ensuing years. I also suspect those games weren't particularly competitive. For that, Chicago's baseball fans would have to wait until regular-season interleague play.
But while the results have been closer than in the city series, the White Sox are, once more, leading the way. In 14 seasons of interleague play, the Sox have won 41 of 78 games. Their lead is bigger in terms of the season series, winning 11, tying four and losing only three.
So, it's been a long, dominant run for the White Sox over the Cubs, going on more than a century now. And one series -- even one as important as the Ultimate Rivalry -- can't change all that history.