There are more White Sox fans than Cub fans in Chicago ...

The widely accepted notion that the North Side supports the Cubs and the South Side the White Sox is not entirely true, at least as far as the Cubs are concerned. I base this on personal observation. We live near Western and Addison, about a mile and a half west of Wrigley Field, and we see as many Sox hats, license plate holders, bumper stickers, flags, and window decals as Cubs, maybe more.

White Sox and Cubs hats

We visit the South Side often. I have rarely,  if ever, seen Cubs memorabilia south of Madison Street.

We participate in musical events at a social hall in the North Side's Edgewater neighborhood.  Just about everyone who plays an instrument there is a Sox fan. It gets so bad on some occasions that I find myself  completely excluded from baseball conversations.

I used to work with a guy who grew up near California and Montrose. Not only is he a Sox fan, but all of his neighborhood pals are likewise. The only sporting events we attended together were Sox games and Black Hawks hockey.

Then why do the Cubs draw around 3,000,000 fans a year to Wrigley Field while the Sox can't seem to do better than 2,000,000? Last season had to have been particularly painful at the Cell because the Sox were good and fun to watch while the Cubs bumbled their way to a 101-loss season.

Wrigley Field gate

Some blame the location of the respective ballparks: Wrigley Field in the middle of a vibrant entertainment district while U.S. Cellular is surrounded by parking lots, train tracks, and an expressway. But that's not it.

Take a look at Philadelphia. Citizens Bank Park is situated in a sports complex among parking lots and Interstate 95, approximately 3.5 miles due south of downtown, with little to attract people other than the sports arenas. And it's miserable to get to and leave, especially if you live north or west of the city. We lived in York, PA for seven years and went into Philadelphia to see the Cubs every season. We would add an extra 90 minutes of drive time just to account for the Schuylkill, the world's worst "express"way.

Yet the Phillies were the number one team in the majors last year in terms of attendance, drawing over 3.5 million.

Comparing populations, Philadelphia is roughly half the size of Chicago, both city and metro area. Thus last year the Phillies pulled from a fan base about the same size as the Sox or Cubs, with a .500 team. The Sox finished the year 85-77.

And finally, it's a popularly-held notion that Sox fans don't go to the games. This was supported in a New York Times piece written by Ben Strauss last August that stated, "White Sox broadcasts have generated higher ratings" in 2012, yet the Cubs outdraw the Sox by 50%. And the Sox hat, ranked number six in total sales by Cardboard Connection, outsells Cub hats by a lot.

(I have to say that this is no surprise. While living away from Chicago we saw Sox hats everywhere. Once while driving through Manhattan with a co-worker from Seattle, I made a bet that we would see at least one Sox hat before we reached the Lincoln Tunnel which was about 10 blocks away as we inched our way down 9th Avenue. I won the bet within moments.)

I would maintain that Cub fans don't go to the games either. I can't count the number of neighbors and fellow employees I talk to who have told me they are, or used to be, Cub fans but stopped going to games after the debacle of ______ (insert year here:  2007, 2008, 2003, 1998, 1989, 1984, or 1969). Or because it costs too much.

Then what's the deal? It's the ballpark itself, of course.

Along with Fenway Park (which drew just over 3,000,000 to see a team in total disarray: 69-93, last place), Wrigley Field is right at the top of every baseball fan's "must visit" list. In a Tribune article published last September Ted Gregory wrote that Cubs marketing officer Wally Hayward estimated that 40% of Cubs game attendees are from out of state. Subtract that number from the total gate and what do you get? About 1.7 million which would rank the North Siders below the Sox and near the bottom of all major league teams.

And, again, from personal experience standing at the top of Aisle 206, or sitting up in the 500s, we've met more people from out of town than locals.

The Cubs say they know this and understand how important Wrigley Field, among the top ten tourist destinations in the state on a variety of lists, is to their bottom line. Let's hope they demonstrate that understanding and avoid compromising the ballpark's attraction in the name of "enhancing the fans' experience" which is little more than a euphemism for "we want more advertising money."

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    I think, overall, the Cubs diaspora is certainly more national. I think the amount of transplants and college graduates who move to Chicago likely side with the Cubs. Considering the gentrification of the North Side of Chicago, it is probably not surprising that the Cub fans around (excluding old-timers, actual locals, and Chicagoland Cubs fans)...then the attendance of out-of-staters starts to make sense.

    I think the Sox have gained more popularity only because of the World Series. If they had not won the World Series and say were as competitive as the Minnesota Twins, who almost always are good and yet never win the World Series (excluding the last two or three years), then there would be more Cubs fans.

    But, that's just my take. A non-local. Moving to Chicago. A Cubs fan.

  • In reply to pjdalmasy:

    Good points! The Cubs built a national following largely on the strength of WGN the Superstation when it was the only baseball on TV for a lot of people across the country. Now you can watch any game you want no matter where you live, and the Sox are on WGN, too. So that advantage has disappeared and I submit that the national fan base will gradually disappear along with it. And if the Cubs start winning in, say 2017 as KT KC suggested in her comment to the previous Waiting4Cubs blog, then the lovable losers portion of the equation will go away, too, and all the Cubs will have left is the ballpark!

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    In reply to pjdalmasy:

    We see Cubs fans all over the Pacific Northwest. When asked, they say "We just like them". Don't see that many Sox caps like cubs hats.

  • In reply to Margie Gutierrez:

    There's definitely a national Cubs following, which I think will start to fade as the WGN factor continues to go away.

    And get this ... yesterday we took the L downtown to the Art Institute. I decided to do an informal survey of what kind of hats and other team clothing we saw: One Cub hat. One Sox hat. Two Mariner sweatshirts!! Ha!

    Tons of Bears, Blackhawks, and Bulls stuff, though.

  • In reply to pjdalmasy:

    Given the fact that it sounds like you are part of the gentrification generation, let me make a serious point about the Greatest City on the Face of the Earth. Anyone who says, idiotic things like, "Cubs or Sox--makes no difference. I support anything with Chicago on the shirt." Nice thought, but Oscar Myer doesn't have enough baloney to match that statement. Those who claim no real preference have either (a) never been to Wrinkley Field (and therefore had never had tires slashed by locals who guard their parking spaces) or had a relic of Wrinkley hit them on the head or smelled the urine wafting from the weeping wall toilets or even know how to spell Cubs, (b) are tourists from such "Got to See" places as Peoria, Normal, or even Rockford, (c) are from any other place but the Greatest City, (d) live in the suburbs and don't know anything about the city, or (most likely), (e) liars.

    You have no idea of the "joy" of Chicago portrayed incessently in films and on TV where "everybody loves the Cubs," or immediate efforts to link the Greatest City to the losers in Wrinkly Field (see the new bar in the rotunda at O'Hare); or recall the fact that the Sox got stuck with Drunken Harry for years before he literally stumbled down drunk one time in front of the owner of the Sox---that began his undying love for the Cubs; thinking that murders are committed hourly in Bridgeport and therefore, hide from seeing major league baseball; spending time with real baseball fans(not tourists, suburpanites, liars, or God forbid, young gentry class who like quiche); or remember the days when Jack Brickhouse got aroused by the thought of a two game winning streak on the north side. (Hey Hey attaboy, Ernie!")

    When you live here long enough, you will enjoy going to the new Rosemont wRinkly and see real live Chicago River rats prance through the ivy whilst sniffing jet fuel from ORD. Plenty of seats available since the afficianados of losing teams will desert the dump,complete with drunks on the roofs. Hey Hey! Shake me out to duh ball game ... (Hiccup) Let's play two (centuries without a winning season) today!!!!!

  • In reply to BridgeportJohn:

    Unfortunately, Bridgeport John is one the 'meathead' members of the fan base that often give the rest of the fan base a bad name. He is a great season why sox fans are often accused of having inferiority complex. Does Wrigley need improvements? Of course. But your description of the stadium and the surrounding area is ridiculous. You sound like a child. Just because someone roots for a different team than you doesn't make them stupid or not a 'real baseball fan.' Grow up.

  • Wrigley must be the magnet. It can't be the quality of the product.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    For sure. And last year the product was so bad that even Wrigley Field couldn't stop the erosion of fan support. Cubs drew less than 3,000,000 for the first time in what, eight years? But they're rebuilding! Again! It feels just like the late 1960s when Leo the Lip first hit town!

  • Any popularity the Sox have gained from the World Series has pretty much subsided.

    As for your observations. Could it possibly be that the reason you don't see Cubs gear on the Southside is because more Southsiders move up north than Northsiders move south? Without looking at the population figures, just making an educated guess, I'd say that the city's most desirable, amenity-filled neighborhoods are north of Madison. The best access to mass transit is north.

  • In reply to Mikethoms:

    I think you have a good point about more South Siders moving north than North Siders moving south. I just completed a project whose subject was old Comiskey Park. I talked to lots of Sox fans who used to live in the Jackson Park Highlands, or South Shore, or Roseland etc. who have since moved north to either the North Side or the suburbs beyond.

    But there are still those North Side neighborhood guys that I mentioned. Born and raised around Montrose and Western/California, but Sox fans and Cub haters every one. And I don't think they're alone on the North Side. I found it a strange phenomenon when I first ran into it.

  • In reply to Mikethoms:

    Yeah, Mike. Never saw CTA painted on a single bus south of Madison. I'm 65 and have yet to be murdered anywhere on the south side. Giveit a try, Mike. Connie's pizzas, people who work like they mean it, Shallers Pump, y'know.... we're not so bad. But we don't earn money by using other folks's cash as do the "investors" up north.

  • As a south side Cubs fan, I agree that you can't simply look at attendance as a basis to support an argument that there are more Cubs fans than Sox fans in Chicago. If you include all of Illinois, however, I definately think there are more Cubs fans. I think Sox fans go for the baseball, while many Cubs fans go for the bars and other stuff. I'm more like a Sox fan in that I don't support a losing team and realize you can watch it on TV and save your money. Games cost way too much, especially if you have kids.

  • Another observation is that Sox fans tend to hate the Cubs much more than the other way around. For some reason, many continue to be jealous of what they feel is more coverage for the Cubs and the whole Wrigley Field "experience", even though we are the ones that should be jealous since they won a WS and we have not.

  • In reply to Bob Warja:

    Thanks for your comments, Bob. There seems to be that perception among Cub fans that Sox fans more actively hate the Cubs, and enjoy needling Cub fans, while Cub fans pay little or no attention to the Sox and kind of just shrug them off. I have certainly articulated that opinion on occasion. It would be interesting to try to quantify it some way with some casual research. Maybe the subject of a future blog!!

  • While I do agree that the "ballpark factor" is in the favor of the Cubs, I don't think it tells the entire story. If the Cubs only outdraw the Sox because they play in Wrigley Field then how do you explain that the Cubs consistently rank in the top 10 for road attendance figures while the Sox consistently rank in the bottom 10? (http://espn.go.com/mlb/attendance/_/sort/awayAvg)

    Also, the Cubs have dominated the attendance standings in the Cactus League and will continue to do so once the new ballpark is complete. HoHo is a dump compared to the Sox new park. (Can't wait until the Cubs contend for something more than attendance trophies!)

    I'll accept the 40% out of town figure that Wally mentioned, but just like the example in the article....just because they are from out of state doesn't mean the aren't die-hard Cubs fans. I'm a season ticket holder and know plenty of people that live in NW Indiana or southern Wisconsin that are also season ticket holders and contribute that number.

    Understand this article is about fans in Chicago (not sure if that means city limits or "greater Chicago"). I think a nice test would have been having the Cubs play in the Cell for a season while they completed renovations at Wrigley. I would put money on the Sox seeing a bump in attendance figures, but the Cubs still outdrawing them.

  • In reply to cowboy2024:

    There's no doubt that Cub fans attend a lot of out-of-town games. We can vouch for that personally. We lived in OH and PA for ten years and used to drive everywhere to see the Cubs, from Chicago to Miami. We'd go to several games a year in Pittsburgh and there were times when the Pirates fans would be amazed, and a little intimidated, by the fact that Cub fans seemed to outnumber them. I think that's in large part because of the Cubs' national visibility via WGN. The Braves have a similar national following because of Turner. That will gradually fade as cable and the Internet make more and more teams available on a more regular basis.

  • No WGN effect anymore?

  • In reply to son of admin:

    It's fading. Too many other baseball options on cable and the Internet. Plus the Cubs may dump WGN in a couple of years. They may create a Cubs Network, like the Yankees. They would be nuts to do it, but they seem to believe that there are all these die-hard Cub fans out there that will be willing to pay more to see them on TV. That's not how marketing works. You get more customers when you make it as easy as possible for them to access your product. That's how the Cubs built their national following -- by being literally the only game in a lot of towns coast-to-coast on the "Superstation." They're putting the cart before the horse.

  • If the Cubs win a WS in the next 5 years the number of Cubs fans will just explode. Right now the White Sox fan base is still high because of their WS win. But as you like to say, that will fade and many will become Cubs fans as the Cubs performance improves with the Epstein effect.

  • I've lived on the south side my entire 32 years on this planet and know more cubs fans than I do Sox fans. Not sure how often you venture "south of Madison" but your claim that cubs gear is not seen on the southside is completely inaccurate. I proudly wear my cubs shirts, hats, etc. and never feel out of place while doing so. While the south side is most definitely the center of Sox fandom there are large pockets of Cubs fans interspersed throughout both the south side and southwest suburbs.

  • In reply to Dr Gonzo26:

    You're no doubt right. We head to the South Side pretty frequently, but don't hang out all that much. A restaurant on South Morgan in Bridgeport offered to host a book signing when Waiting for the Cubs first came out, and assured me that there were plenty of Cub fans on the South Side. I believe it, but my point is that there seems to me to be about as many Sox fans on the North Side as Cub fans. I see them everywhere! My basic point is that the Cubs shouldn't make too many comfortable assumptions about their fan base. It can disappear quickly. The WGN Superstation found new fans for the Cubs, at the same time the Sox were making it more difficult for their fans to watch them. It's basic marketing. Make it easy for the most people to access your product the most times. Don't assume your existing customers will work too hard to find you if you change things around.

  • Sounds good, but I doubt it.

  • In reply to Curtis Shaw Flagg:

    Because of attendance figures and popular assumptions, I have assumed the Cubs had more Chicago fans than the Sox for years. Since I've been blogging and writing about both teams over the past few years, I'm not so sure anymore. I'm convinced that if Wrigley Field is no longer an attraction, and the two teams' broadcast reach is about the same, the Cubs and Sox will each draw about 2,000,000, depending on how well they play.

  • In reply to Floyd Sullivan:

    I think it is a safe assumption that Chicago has more Cub fans than White Sox fans. Attendance at home parks prove it. Attendance on the road proves it. Attendance at spring training games proves it. I think WGN reach is the big reason for this. The Cubs have had more or equal exposure than the Sox for most of the last 50 years. The Cell or Wrigley field has some but little effect on the number of fans. Most Sox fans I talk to say Wrigley field is an old dump with big rats with poor parking, bad food and bad sight lines.

    I envision the Cubs lead in number of fans growing in the coming years because of Ricketts and Epstein doing a very good job of building a winner. Winning will energize the embedded Cub fan base that is already there that was built in the last 50 years. And if the Cubs win a WS in the next 5 years, their popularity will explode.

  • In reply to John57:

    I used to assume the same thing, but not any more. The attendance dominance is very much fueled by Wrigley Field's status as one of the top baseball destinations in the country. And one of the top tourist destinations in Illinois. I had friends from PA who wanted to come to Chicago for a vacation, but when their schedule didn't line up with the Cubs' schedule, they cancelled. They're Phillies/Orioles fans but didn't care whom the Cubs would be playing as long as they went to Wrigley Field. They had zero interest in seeing a Sox game.

    Talking about beer? Everyone in Chicago likes beer. There was a time when Comiskey Park was known as the biggest drunk fest in town, much worse than Wrigley Field is now. When the current Sox owners took over, they made a point of changing that, and did an excellent job of cleaning up 35th and Shields.

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    In reply to John57:

    How does attendance at home parks prove it? You don't get it do ya? Wrigley Field is one of the top tourist attractions in the state and sorry but using home park attendance to come up with the theory that Chicago has more Cubs fans than Sox fans is a terrible way to determine which team has more fans. Games aren't only attended by fans from the inner city, a lot of those fans come from the suburbs and out of state. And attendance on the road does nothing to prove anything, the Cubs can't take credit for attendance in another teams ballpark, that's fans of the road team going to their teams home games. Attendance at Spring Training games is high for all teams. So you just got through saying that attendance proves it but then say that Comiskey and Wrigley have little effect? Make up your mind. And what most Sox fans have told you is true.

    Ricketts and Epstein haven't proven anything. Your nuts.

  • In reply to Floyd Sullivan:

    Another comment I frequently get from Sox fans is that people just go to Cubs games to drink beer. I will agree that there is a segment of the population that know little about the Cubs but do like to drink. I would assume that the density of those type of fans is higher near the park because that is where the drinking is occurring, according to Sox fans. Your unscientific poll of asking people in the neighborhood to name any current Cub pitcher or catcher tends to back up that theory. They don't know much about the current Cub team. I say let's not cater to beer drinkers but to actual Cub baseball fans. Let Ricketts do what is best for the team. He wants them to become a winner. That will undoubtedly increase Cub fan enjoyment and their number.

  • In reply to John57:

    There are a large segment of fans on both sides of town who know nothing about the teams. I know a lot of sox fans who still think that Frank Thomas won the cy young award, and I am not joking nor embellishing that story. Sox fans like to use day drinking as the reason the Cubs draw so many fans but they are just as guilty of having an ignorant fan base.

  • In reply to Dr Gonzo26:

    No doubt the "guy you know" had a C on his cap.

  • Dr Gonzo,
    Are you kidding me? A Sox fan thought Frank Thomas won the Cy Young. That is too funny. I know you can't make up stuff that good. :)

  • In reply to John57:

    That is hilarious. But don't underestimate the potential for Cub fans to be just as ignorant. Then again, who cares? Every level of being a fan is fine, from barely knowing first base from third to actually understanding all the stats from WAR to ... I forget all those other metrics and eWOKs and .... I still just look at W-L, ERA, AVE, RBI, HR, SO, BB Much more than that and it begins to feel like the last math course I took, which was Probability and Statistics senior year of high school. Nobody in class understood it, except for one guy who misplaced a decimal point on his final but would otherwise have gotten 100% for the term. The rest of us were around 34%.

  • I wouldn't put too much stock in counting Sox caps either, especially in places like NY. There's a fashion thing going on there - don't ask me why. But it doesn't mean the person wearing the cap is actually a Sox fan, or even knows the Sox are a baseball team. However, if you see somebody wearing a Cubs cap, they are a fan, and willing to take the grief (and sometimes the fraternal nod) from strangers that comes with it.

  • In reply to LIexile:

    I've heard the hat thing has something to do with either a) street gangs, or b) kids changing the O to an E, or both. Additional evidence of dubious fashion/gang tastes is the fact that Cincinnati Reds hats rank 4th, while Reds attendance ranks 16th. And they have the Brennamans doing their broadcasts so you know their media ratings gotta be ... also dubious.

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    Two issues;

    1. Maybe there is another factor why you see Sox caps more in the last five years. No, not the World Series...but the fact that the President of the ENTIRE United States is a Sox fan and wears a Sox cap.

    2. Give Wrigley, Tribune credit for building a brand that has staying power. What is Wrigleyville? It is a fantasy that the Cubs invented. That is not the name of the neighborhood. Back when, the area was also a dump. The Cubs invested in the area, worked with the city (Tunny) and built something. The Cubs had the foresight to know that baseball won't be worth the price in the 2000's. So they created a "Circus". Now, it is an all day event and delivers better value for the money.

  • In reply to Randy Michelson:

    The Obama factor for Sox hats could be very real indeed. Sox hat popularity goes way back, though. The bet I made while driving through Manhattan happened over 10 years ago!

    I agree that the Tribune was very successful in building a national Cubs brand. The question is, will the new owners be as successful at brand building? Through WGN the Tribune found new fans/customers. Millions of them! I fear that current Cubs management believes they already have a dedicated base that they can further exploit. That's a dangerous attitude if it's true. Fan/customer bases can disappear in a hurry, or at least become complacent or even resentful. You can look at both Cubs and Sox histories for examples.

    You gotta make your product as accessible as possible to the most people, and if your priority is not to continue to grow your fan base, you will start to lose it.

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