The late Jean Shepherd, who was a noted radio and TV personality, actor and the narrator and co- scriptwriter of the popular film, "The Christmas Story," was vocal about his passion for the White Sox.
He once talked about the Lou Gehrig Yankees and how big a deal it was when they came to Chicago to face the hometown Sox. To paraphrase Shepherd, it was the biggest moment of the summer for the Windy City, but the powerful Yankees didn't even know they were in a fight.
That was in the day of perennial Yankee world championships and consistent second-place finishes for the Sox. The Yankees had numerous All-Star caliber players and the Sox? It was pretty much future Hall of Famers Luke Appling and Ted Lyons and little else.
It's been decades since Shepherd made that observation. While the Sox have been markedly better through the seasons than they were in the 1930s, they are still the Yankees and the Sox are still the Sox. Don't misunderstand, we have had our glorious moments against the New Yorkers and even won season series, but for the most part it's been a one-sided dynamic.
After today's matinee against the Twins, the Sox travel to New York for the first of their 2012 home and home series with the Yanks. It's a four-game set Thursday through Sunday.
I have been particularly sensitive to the Yankee-White Sox rivalry since I moved to New York in the mid-70s, although I've hated and feared the Bronx Bombers since I was a child as I saw them dash my hopes of Sox pennant glory (except for 1959) in the 50s and 60s.
Because I'm not bashful about letting people know the identity of my favorite baseball team and I have many friends who are Yankee fans (despite that fact), it's never a comfortable time because, again, the Yankees are the Yankees and the White Sox are the White Sox and I take these games to heart more than the others.
While both teams are currently in first place, they're not exactly on even terms. The Yankees are 17 games over .500 with a .616 winning percentage for the top spot in the A.L. East and a four game lead over the Orioles. The Sox are four games over .500 with a .527 winning percentage in the A.L. Central and lead the Indians by a game and a half. Even if the Sox drop the rubber game today against the Twins, they will remain in first maintain at least a half-game lead.
Conventional wisdom would say that come Monday morning, the Sox and their fans could be shell-shocked. The Yankees feature a lineup of Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixiera, Robinson Cano, Raul Ibanez, Nick Swisher, etc.--in other words, hardly a breather for our pitching staff.
The Sox come into the series in an offensive funk. Adam Dunn is in a severe slump, Paul Konerko has slipped since his torrid start. On the positive side, Alex Rios is still on his game, Alejandro De Aza is excelling from the leadoff spot, Alexei Ramirez is coming around as he does when the weather stats heating up and, of course, there are high hopes for newcomer Kevin Youkilis, who is very familiar to the environs of Yankee Stadium from his Red Sox days. But the lineup has to perk up if they're going to compete with the Yankee bats.
Another White Sox who is familiar with the bright lights of Yankee Stadium is Sox skipper Robin Ventura, who was a Yankee player in 2002 and 2003. Ventura, who has handled his troops with a sense of calm since he took the managerial reins, may be the key to the series just by the tone he sets.
If Ventura can somehow get the message across to the Sox, even in his low-key manner, that Yankee Stadium is just another ballpark and the Yankees are just another team, perhaps our pitchers will pitch, our hitters will hit and we can throw that conventional wisdom out of the window. And come Monday morning, we'll look at the White Sox from a much different perspective.
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Tags: Adam Dunn, Alejandro De Aza, Alex Rios, Alex Rodriguez, Alexei Ramirez, Curtis Granderson, Derek Jeter, Indians, Kevin Youkilis, Lou Gehrig, Luke Appling, Mark Teixiera, Nick Swisher, Orioles, Paul Konerko, Raul Ibanez, Robinson Cano, Robn Ventura, Ted Lyons, Twins, White Sox, Yankee Stadium, Yankees