Monday, June 15, 2009

Interleague Baseball

Interleague play between the Cubs and White Sox begins this week providing the city with playoff intensity, bragging rights, and an excuse for local face-punching enthusiasts to practice their art on unsuspecting drunks. All great sports rivalries are at root inconsequential, but the Cubs/Sox rivalry remains one of the most nonsensical rivalries in all of sports. Between 1906 and 1997, the Cubs and Sox did not play a single meaningful game against each other, yet the two fanbases share a pathological antipathy. In theory, the Cubs and Sox play in separate leagues and share a startling history of futility and a fanbase of mustard enthusiasts-- there is basically no logical reason not to root for both teams or at least maintain a benign indifference to the neighboring club instead the kind of searing, fist-shaking hatred practiced by French mobs against anyone in a powdered wig or a chocolate-guzzling monseignor. Then again, by this logic the Hatfields and McCoys should have realized their similarities as moonshine drinking, possum gobbling, rifle toting, buckskin wearing, toothless shitkickers and combined into a massive jugband, doubling up on knee-slappers, washbin scrapers, and gutbucket experts.

While the washtub is possibly more emblematic of the
classic hobo jug band, the gutbucket is a vastly
superior hobo instrument in terms of versatility,
required skill, potential stew earning power, and
ability to ward off railroad bulls

Like most great sports rivalries, however, the Cubs/Sox rivalry comes from some sort of primordial place that defies logic. Part of being a Cubs fan is taking shots at U.S. Cellular Field (which has evolved into an underrated ballpark) as bland and corporate while Sox fans follow Ozzie's lead by decrying Wrigley's monuments to failure, propensity to attack passersby with unexpected masonry assaults, and incubation of a swaggering vermin population. Therefore, Chicago baseball fans should choose a side and deal with opposing fans by puffing out their chests and displaying eye spots in the threatening manner.

BYCTOM fully supports the "when you're a jet, you're a jet all the way"
school of sports fandom, gangland activity, and grandes jetes.
On a
somewhat related note, a shark is so much better than a jet as a
gang mascot (are jets a killing machine made of nothing but
cartilage, teeth, and malevolence?) that it is not even worth discussing


The greatest interleague series between the Cubs and Sox was the 1906 World Series, the first and only postseason meeting between the teams. The "Hitless Wonder" Sox upset the Cubs with Hall of Famer Ed Walsh winning games three and five.

The 1906 White Sox (above) and Cubs. Both teams showcase an extremely
disappointing lack of facial hair, with the main difference coming from the
pictured executives' haberdasherment. The Cubs' C.G. Williams (mentioned here
as a club treasurer) prefers the Jack the Ripper suspect look while "The Old Roman"
Comiskey has the bowtie and more sporting hat allowing him greater mobility for
foreclosing on the dozen existing Spanish-American war widows and stabbing at
Dickensian orphans with a sharpened pince-nez

The modern interleague series has a more festive air. City officials celebrate the ballparks' connection by putting the game ball on the Red Line to be carried by a handpicked malodorous wino or a confidence man with an elborate rhyme taunting fellow patrons into challenging him at three card monte. The most recently indicted city official gets to throw out the first pitch to a mafioso-turned-state's witness.

Wednesday night is "Grand Jury Night" where a lucky fan will
be able to pull a crooked alderman's corruption case off stet, and
the verdict will be decided by fanometer, as the founding fathers

While the 1906 series featured Hall of Famers like Mordecai "Three Finger Brown," Tinker, Evers, Chance, Ed Walsh, and George Davis, the modern interleague series has been marked by mediocre players tormenting the Cubs, like Twins irritant and high priest of the unnecessary head-first slide into first base in blatant defiance of the physical laws of the universe Nick Punto. It's one thing for Carlos Lee to clobber the Cubs; the gelatinous devotee to the sloppy chin beard who loves waddling around the basepaths at Wrigley Field after inevitably assailing Waveland Avenue with grand slams so much that he now only plays for NL Central teams is an all-star caliber player. Surely the greatest White Sox player in this category is former shortstop Jose Valentin, the only batter who demanded a batting cape and was banned from Minute Made Field due to fears that he would tie helpless women to the railroad tracks in front of the orange train before escaping with a cackle and demanding that fans pay the rent.

Only British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald could use his mustache more
effectively to cast aspersions upon his enemies

I cannot currently find a website that publishes hitters' stats against a specific team, and I am unwilling to manually sift through Valentin's game-by-game stats only to have my anecdotal assertions disproved by inconvenient data, but I clearly remember Valentin as a constant thorn in the side of the Cubs despite his slightly below average career 96 OPS+.


A recent article that caught my attention is David Kushner's piece for the Times about the use of semi-submersible submarine crafts to smuggle drugs. The vessels are assembled deep in Colombian jungles and are capable of traveling hundreds of miles with a cargo of thousands of tons of cocaine shrouded from military radar, a safer and more efficient way to haul a large amount of cargo than with go-fast boats or massive condom-swallowing operations. Kushner notes that the crews refer to the vessel as el ata├║d (the coffin) for its cramped conditions and rickety construction reflecting what one naval officer described as a Mad Max style, although the tight quarters dissuade a Road Warrior wardrobe as crew members are reluctant to inadvertently stab each other with unnecessary sadomasochistic spikes jutting out from leather chaps.

Lord Humungous demonstrates submersible fashion faux-pas with
studded vests and chain-link gimp tethering

The submersible technology has improved, with crews using lead and piping cool water to reduce the engine's heat signature. The Bigfoot II, presumably named to echo the creatures' impossibility to detect without the aid of moonshine or a Fox camera crew, remains the only semi-submersible captured intact by the U.S. This video shows the seizing of the vessel and gives a shaky tour of the inside of the boat.

The use of these crude yet sophisticated vehicles recalls the development of submersibles and submarines. The first working submarine dates all the way back to 1620 when Cornelius Jacobszoon Drebbel built an oar-powered sub for England's Royal Navy, a remarkable feat considering the alchemical scientific climate, where, according to his Wikipedia page, Boyle claimed that "Drebbel had a chemical liquor that would replace that quintessence of air that was able to cherish the vital flame residing in the heart."

Drebbel's submarine could travel for three hours submerged at 12-15
feet in an age of leech-driven medical technology

The American Civil War provided the first military testing ground for submarines. The first U.S. Navy sub was the Alligator, which did not actually undertake any military missions but was commanded by Samuel Eakins, who, even by lofty Civil War standards, sported an excellent combat beard.

Samuel Eakins oversaw the
Alligator's glorious puttering around
in Navy experiments before it was
scuttled in a storm or engulfed
in a mislaid pair of Civil War

The Confederate H.L. Hunley did successfully destroy the Union Housatonic with a spar torpedo as a punishment for naming a ship or any object not endorsed by Billy Mays"Housatonic," but the experiment was a mixed bag as its crews tended to drown. The H.L. Hunley sent 32 soliders to a watery grave during its career. The Hunley showed that submarines that did not kill crew members could be useful in combat, and submarines did eventually become the infernal tools of the hated Kaiser.

The Kaiser sends one six-footer Allied
shipping couldn't handle ladies let's have
a party

The Cubs and White Sox meet in this first series to torpedo each others' tenuous playoff hopes. Let us hope that the teams display the quintessence of air and the fans challenge the vital flame of competition residing in the heart but their reliance on chemical liquors could result in watery deaths or overly aggressive pas de basque.


Bad Kermit said...

I can't find his OPS+, but Valentin's career OPS against the Cubs is .948 and his career tOPS+ is 146.

So, yeah. Pretty lofty. Great stuff here.

Anonymous said...

"Between 1906 and 1997, the Cubs and Sox did not play a single meaningful game against each other, yet the two fanbases share a pathological antipathy." Not so. True Cub fans hate the Mets , dislike the Cards, and don't care about the White Sox. Apathy is not antipathy.

I agree that Sox fans have hated the Cubs pretty much since the founding of the American League.

John said...

I came to this country with no knowledge of baseball at all, outside a vague memory of Charlie Sheen and D.B. Sweeney in Eight Men Out, Major League, and a series of movies I don't recall that all featured the Cubs.

Despite this, or because of this, I irrationally support the Cubs against the White Sox. They just seem boring to me, except for their awesome coach.