Yesterday was the culmination of the interleague play among Major League Baseball teams, including the corresponding six White Sox–Cubs games. For 15 seasons, the two Chicago teams have been getting together in games that count to claim supremacy in the city.
So far, the 84 games has been filled with memorable moments such as the 2006 brawl between Cubs catcher Michael Barrett and Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski or the 2010 dugout skirmish between Cub players Carlos Zambrano and Derrek Lee.
There were few, if any, empty seats at Wrigley Field during the weekend as the White Sox traveled north to play the Cubs. Indicative of the lack of sellouts two weeks ago on the South Side at U.S. Cellular Field, there are some signs the edge has come off this annual series.
The people in Skokie seem to have mixed emotions on the subject, with some agreeing that the yearly matchup has grown dull.
On a sultry Saturday afternoon at the Village Inn on Lincoln Avenue, patrons at the Skokie sports bar had a lot of views about the continued worthiness of the series. Some say yes; others acknowledge the annual face-off has lost its luster.
Eddie Stoneberg, manager of the Village Inn for 17 years, said the excitement was still there for the six games when the baseball representatives of the South Side and North Side get together.
“It’s two home teams,” Stoneberg said. “The fans who want to see who holds the best record against each other.”
With the games on many TV screens throughout the venue on Saturday, the restaurant was sparsely populated, but Stoneberg attributed the low turnout to the holiday weekend as many people were out of town for the Fourth of July.
“Yesterday the place was packed,” Stoneberg said.
One person watching what would turn out to be a 1-0 Sox victory was Jim McGing, a project manager who likes the pizza at Village Inn so much that he travels all the way from south suburban Orland Park to get it. He is a White Sox season ticket holder he was joined at the restaurant with his friend, Heidi.
“I still get excited for these games,” McGing said. “I think Cubs-Sox will always be relevant. It’s not as important this year because both teams are not as good, but baseball fans get excited for interleague games.”
McGing added that the local rivalry would always add spice to these games. “Cubs-Sox fans are very competitive and bragging rights are important,” he noted.
Hanna Kurtycz, a Village Inn waitress for four years, was scheduled to attend her series finale on Sunday. Her attitude is somewhat more nuanced on what the game Cubs-Sox games mean to her today.
“I’m not as excited when I watch it on TV as opposed to when I am there,” she said. “When we are there with the atmosphere and the people, you really can’t describe it.
"I still think people get as excited as they used to be," Kurtycz said. "If you have a favorite team you still root for them.”
But there were people who did acknowledge the novelty of these games has faded.
Justin Draper, 22, a college student from Chicago, was chowing down on a stuffed sausage pizza with a friend as they watched the game. Draper is a Cubs fan, but says the “Crosstown Classic” doesn't interest him like it once had.
“It is overplayed,” Draper said of the six games. “It has been going on for so long and tickets are so expensive [that] it is not feasible to go to it.”
He said he began to lose interest in the games about three years ago. “It happens every year and I just got used to it,” the college student said.
The fact the Cubs are struggling this year--10 games behind in the National League Central Division--and the Sox are just below .500 in the American League has also lessened the appetite for the series, according to some.
Brad Brand, a computer executive who lives in Lincolnwood, is part of that crowd.
“With the Cubs being as lousy as they are, it is hard to get excited about any of their series,” he said. “If both the teams were contending it would be exciting. But playing the White Sox is no more exciting than [any] other team if they were contending. In the early part of the 2000s, when they were both contending, it was an exciting series. They were both good teams back then.”
Then there was the perspective of Dave Saxon, who hails from England, has been in the U.S. since 1989 and now lives in Wilmette. He was at the Village Inn but was not paying much attention to the game Saturday.
Saxon too has lost interest in the series because of the troubles of both teams, but he puts the blame for his disinterest in the lap of NBA player Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls.
“I can’t watch sports every weekend and I just got finished with a pretty good run by the Bulls,” he said. “Now I am staying away from sports.”