A Tale of Two Teams; A Comparison of the Cubs and White Sox in Chicago

By Sherony, Keith; Knowles, Glenn | Nine, Fall 2009 | Go to article overview
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A Tale of Two Teams; A Comparison of the Cubs and White Sox in Chicago


Sherony, Keith, Knowles, Glenn, Nine


The White Sox's appearance in the 2005 World Series reminded Chicago baseball enthusiasts about "the other drought." The White Sox's previous World Series championship was 1917, a level of futility eclipsed only by their cross-town rival Cubs, who have not won a championship since 1908. While the Cubs' troubles have taken on mythical proportion during the century of ineptness, the White Sox suffered through their incompetence in virtual obscurity. Unlike the Cubs, the White Sox had no Billy goats, August day games, or Bartmans to blame, nor a conspicuous Wrigleyville fandom to promulgate their plight. Rather, the unassuming White Sox quietly slipped to a secondclass status within the Windy City.

Curses, sunshine, and booted balls aside, there is some mystery to the dissimilar way the Cubs and White Sox are received in Chicago when one considers that they share such similar history. Both teams are charter members of their respective leagues. Unlike any other pair of teams in the same city, only this pair has spent its entire history in that city, and Chicago is the only city to always have more than one team. (1) Both teams have been owned by baseball luminaries and played in parks considered the grandest of their day. And both teams' on-field futility extends beyond the dearth of World Series championships. For example, out of the 150 chances for a first-place finish during the past seventy-five years, the Cubs and White Sox have a combined total of 9. (2)

As similar as their histories may be, the perception is that the Cubs and White Sox are not similarly accepted in Chicago. The conventional wisdom is that Chicago is a Cubs town, an idea so pervasive that even White Sox players buy into it. For example, as the White Sox ramped up for the World Series in 2005, first baseman Paul Konerko declared, "As far as the Cubs, we know mainly it's a Cubs town." (3) White Sox catcher A. J. Pierzynski surmised, "There's a lot of teams that have gone a long time with out winning anything ... with the Cubs, it's always fun when you have curses and stuff like that to talk about. It makes it much more compelling." (4) Even White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen got into the act: "This is a Cubs town. ... You go to Niketown, you only see Chicago Cubs stuff, and I don't blame them, because we haven't done anything yet to make that step." (5) This impression was bolstered by the 2005 attendance figures: the White Sox completed a wire-to-wire finish in first place, but a Cubs team that was out of the playoff picture in August outdrew them by 800,000 fans. (6)

This study examines the strategies and exogenous actions that would explain different outcomes for the Cubs and White Sox in Chicago. Since Chicago is a duopoly rather than a monopoly, strategies that may yield an advantage are considered. (7) Although the Cubs and White Sox have rarely competed on the field of play, they have nonetheless competed in an economic sense. (8) This economic competition is investigated in this study. Specifically, the study answers the questions:

* What kind of baseball town is Chicago?

* Is Chicago a "Cubs town"?

* Has it always been that way?

* What factors determine whether Chicago is a Cubs or White Sox town?

This study identifies factors that explain attendance trends for the Cubs and White Sox over the 1901 to 2005 seasons. The factors under consideration are categorized into two groups: baseball-related and economic-related. The baseball-related factors include the impact on attendance of player quality, team position in the standings, and post-season appearances. The economic-related factors include the impact on attendance of ballpark construction and renovation, and media utilization. (9) The results indicate that Chicago is a Cubs town today, but it has not always been that way.

WHAT KIND OF BASEBALL TOWN IS CHICAGO?

There are caveats associated with using season attendance statistics for MLB games played in Chicago to size up the kind of baseball town Chicago is.

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