Ominous clouds hover over Wrigley Field before the game between the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox on Friday, July 1, 2011. (Photo by Al Yellon)
These games used to be automatic sellouts. Not any more -- none of the first three games played between the two clubs, last week at the Cell, were sold out; in fact, they were about 5,000 short of sold out, each of the three nights. Friday's game at Wrigley Field had a crowd announced as 41,486, over Wrigley's listed capacity of 41,160, but there were hundreds of empty seats down the left-field line, and even the bleachers weren't quite filled.
A year ago, Cubs and White Sox marketing execs decided to drum up more interest in these games by creating the "Crosstown Cup" to be given to the winner of the most games between the clubs each year. Mainly, it was an attempt to get some corporate sponsorship dollars. They chose BP as their sponsor -- six days before BP's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Whoops. So they downplayed BP's involvement until this year, and even now it's very low-key. As is interest in the Cup.
Interest in today's 6-4 White Sox win over the Cubs seemed low, too. It never rained at Wrigley Field, but foreboding storm clouds hovered over the ballpark before the game as it rained hard on the South Side of Chicago; had the game been played at the White Sox' home park, it likely would have been delayed. Instead, a howling wind dropped temperatures and a forecasted high of 97 never happened. Game-time temperature was 70 degrees, and the biting wind sent long lines to gift shops to buy long-sleeve shirts.
Maybe that's where the two managers were, too; both seemed to have checked out at times during the game. Mike Quade admitted in a postgame news conference that he "overthought" changing pitchers in the White Sox' decisive rally in the seventh inning; he left Randy Wells in the game too long and Wells gave up a two-run triple to Juan Pierre, while Jeff Samardzija stood ready to go in the bullpen. Meanwhile, Ozzie Guillen steadfastly refused to use either of his left-handed relievers, Will Ohman and Matt Thornton, against a host of left-handed Cubs hitters. It was almost shocking when Ozzie left Jesse Crain in the game to face Carlos Pena, representing the tying run. Pena can't hit left-handers at all -- .095 in 63 at-bats this year. It didn't matter -- Crain struck out Pena on three straight sliders.
So hot weather never came, the managers mostly slept through the game, and even Cubs and White Sox fans in the stands had mostly civil arguments about the merits of their teams. What's this rivalry come to, anyway?