Monday, June 10, 2013

Boston v.s. Chicago

                                    With the Boston Bruins about to take on the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup final, it got me to thinking about Boston/Chicago match-ups in baseball.  Since the Al and the NL merged in 1901, there has been only one World Series meeting between the Red Sox and Cubs, and that was in 1918.  For years, that number had been used as a taunt by Yankees fans, as it was the last year the Bosox won it all...until, of course 2004.  As for the series itself, Boston, led by their pitching ace Babe Ruth, won the series 4-2, despite only scoring nine runs the entire series, a record that still stands for a team that won it all. The 1918 series was the second ever played in Fenway Park, as the Red Sox had played their two previous series, 1915 and 1916 in the more spacious Braves field (they did play their in their the park's inaugural year in 1912). It was also the only World series that was played entirely in September, due to World War I.

                          One of the odd things about the 1918 series was that it followed the Chicago White Sox 1917 championship and predated the 1919 World series, which would have been won by the White Sox had a third of the team not thrown the contest ( Known as "The Black Sox scandal", the 1919 World series-along with Cleveland's Ray Chapman being killed by a pitch and the emergence of Babe Ruth- ushered in the "live ball era").  If you want to know more about the White Sox in 1919, there's a great movie called "Eight men out" by Jonathan Sayles, which does a great job at capturing the era.  Maybe the greatest hitter of all time, "Joe Jackson"- who Babe Ruth modeled his swing after- was the most famous of the players who were banned for life for his actions. (although, to be fair, he did have a good series, and he quite frankly wasn't smart enough to realize the consequences of his actions ).

                As for the Red Sox/Cubs, it would be another 87 years until they would play against each other, thanks to interleague play, and another 93 years 'til both would slug it out at Fenway Park.  However, if it weren't for a certain interference play by a Mr. Steve Bartman and a quick hook by Grady Little, the World series version of the Apocalypse may have happened in 2003.   I always thought Bartman got too much of the blame, as it's clear that there were at least two other fans going for the ball; seriously, if Moises Alou hadn't made such a big deal of it, then we wouldn't be talking about that foul ball so much.  As for trades involving both teams, the only one that comes to mind is when the Bosox traded a still alcoholic and seemingly washed up Dennis Eckersley for the Cubs first baseman Bill Buckner, who of course would be unfairly maligned as well a few years later.  Eckersley, eventually re-invented himself once he got to the A's and became a Hall of Fame closer.

              Other than the aforementioned late teen years, the Red Sox and White Sox were rarely good at the same time.  That is, until 1967, when four teams: The Red Sox, White Sox, Tigers and Twins were all within a game of each other with less than a week to go (spoiler alert, the Red Sox won the pennant).  This was back when there was no division play (division play would start in 1969), so you had to win the Pennant to go to the post season, which back then only meant the World series.  '67 has been called the last real pennant race in baseball, as both the Tigers and Cardinals won fairly handily in 1968.  The only time there was an all Sox playoff series was in 2005, when Chicago swept Boston in three games to move on to the ALCS and eventually win it all, and break an 88 year curse.  I always found it interesting how much of a big deal everyone made about the Red Sox breaking their 86 year curse in 2004, but no one seemed too ecstatic about the White Sox breaking an even longer curse the year after...I guess Chicago is more of a Cubs town...

As for former Red Sox players going to the White Sox, only one name comes to mind; Carlton Fisk.  Fisk of course, was a Boston mainstay from his rookie of the year season in 1972, until his final year in 1980.  Legend has it that BoSox GM Haywood Sullivan forgot to mail in Fisk's contract on time, making Pudge a free agent.  After much finger pointing and hurt feelings, Fisk signed with the pale hose in 1981, where he would spend the rest of his Hall of fame career as one of the greatest catchers of all time.  In recent years though, things were patched up, as Carlton went into the Hall wearing a Red Sox cap, despite playing the majority of his playing days in Chicago.  He was also the first Red Sox player to have his number retired despite having not spent his entire career in Boston.

                        And then there's Hawk Harrelson, who played for the Sox for a few years in the late '60s, leading the AL in RBI's in 1968, only to be traded soon after.  He eventually became the color man for the Red Sox on channel 38.  He was let go, apparently, because the Red Sox brass didn't like how often he criticized the team.  Oddly enough, when he became an announcer for the White Sox in the '80s ( a position he still holds), he became the biggest homer of all time, ... I guess money's a hell of a drug...

1 comment:

  1. Bruins four straight over Penguins, just great, although in the last seconds of the 1-0 pulled goaltender frenzie I did almost lose it, Now onto to Chicago to face another great team. As for Chicago baseball, the managers seem to steal the scenes along with steroid gulping homerun hitters from the Dominican.