When I ask my Godfather, David Fitzergald, resident northwest side Irish Cubs fan, why my entire family, who are also northwest side Irish natives, grew up loving the White Sox and not the Cubs, even though they grew up way north of Madison, he usually tells me the same story, in his typical northwest side drawl:
"You're great-grandparents were right off da boat, Irish. Back den work was about as easy to get as it is now, maybe worse, so when Charles Comiskey, an Irishman, owned the White Sox, he gave all the poor and infirme Irishman jobs; including some of the members of your family. So, being as the Irish are as good at loyalty as dey are at holding grudges, your grandmother wouldn't let anyone in dat house root for anyone other den doze south-side bums."
That encapsulates many White Sox fans: Loyal to the south-side, lovers of cornhole in the parking lot, and grudge-holding irrational types who love to hate the Cubs, even though their only reason for hating them is that Cubs fans drink white wine with their pinkies up, and their ballpark is a baseball shrine that encourages the hairs on your arms to stand on edge when you walk in, day-drinking tall boy can's of Old Style, frilly tank tops and different colored short-shorts.
Eric May is not your typical White Sox fan. Born and raised in Morgan Park and a graduate of South Shore High School, he worked what he called, "many peonic jobs" at the Chicago Tribune before becoming a City Desk reporter for The Washington Post.
He came back to the midwest and started a career that has spanned twenty years as a full-time faculty member in Columbia College's Fiction Writing Department (the Country's largest and one of few remaining actual Fiction Writing departments).He has a book coming out March 4th, 2014 called, "Bedrock Faith," from Akasic Books.
He is a lifelong White Sox fan that ironically maintains his mental faculties when discussing that team from the North Side.
The interview took place at Tripoli Bar on Armitage in Lincoln Park, near May's home. We sat at the bar as rain threatened and kept an otherwise wonderful beer garden empty. The bartender, Terri, kept shots of Jameson and $4 dollar Heinekens in front of us until it was well past my bedtime.
Here is an excerpt from May's musings about the state of the South Siders, problems marketing the game, and what is going on with this P.E.D. nonsense (as I was writing this up, I got the news that Braun would be suspended for the rest of the year).
When asked what he would do if he were able to play GM for the day: "You need good pitching and have to be strong up the middle. Keep Santiago, Quintana and Sale. Trade Peavy, but make sure you trust your scouts."
About trading most of the bullpen: "Trade Lindstrom, Crain, trade 'em all. No one is untouchable."
About trading most of the offense: "Everybody's gone. Maybe hold on to Beckham. Keep Viciedo."
About the future of the Pale Hose: "There is a serious lack of talent in the minors. This is the team they thought they would have last year. Now you just have to make some moves and trust your scouts know the talent they are trading for."
On how to speed up games and make baseball more appealing for a television audience: "The pitcher should have 20 seconds to pitch. There needs to be uniform consistency in the fields and with the sizes of gloves."
On the image of Major League Baseball with P.E.D. usage: "It becomes a P.R. issue. Is this the face of MLB, and at what point was MLB negligent for not changing policies until they did? Look at Jose Valentin. They got him from Milwaukee. Decent shortstop. He hits like 10 homers with 38 RBIs with Milwaukee the year before and then comes to the White Sox and all of a sudden he hits 25 and 92? You tellin' me they didn't know what was going on? They knew."
On his favorite Chicago pizza: "That's kind of like picking your favorite child. Deep dish, Gino's East. Thin Crust? Pat's Pizza on Lincoln."
On his favorite BBQ: "South Side? Lem's, but best in the city? Honey-1 BBQ on Western."
On the Cubs: "I am sixty years old, and I think they are finally going in the right direction, at least during my lifetime."
May went on to opine about Bill Veeck, the Lou Brock trade, the uniformity of field conditions, including grass heights and how hard or how soft the infield dirt is in front of home plate, Comiskey Park in 1967 and a million other things and no matter what he said, he was fair. He's a baseball fan and a rational one at that.
Make sure to check out the novel when it comes out. I know I will.
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