Milwaukee Brewers fans’ perceptions of the Chicago White Sox, in 2012, lean toward ambiguity. Is it slow-burning animosity, general loathing, or warm, fuzzy compassion? When the Brewers switched to the National League in 1998, the rivalry between the Brewers and White Sox was lost, aside from the occasional interleague matchup. The latest clash begins Friday at U.S. Cellular Field, or “The Cell”, on Chicago’s South Side.
Many Brewers fans remember years past in the American League during which the Brewers battled the Pale Hose in the original I-94 Series (unless you count the days of the Milwaukee Braves going down to Wrigley? I-94 was in its infancy). Prior to the inception of the Brewers themselves, the Sox even played home games at County Stadium in 1968 and 1969. Those games drew large crowds, enough to be a significant chunk of overall White Sox attendance during those years.
The heated rivalry from the Brewers’ American League days has cooled off over the last 10-plus years, as the Crew and Sox have played only one regular-season series since 2001. It’s amazing and unfortunate that teams with such a history and proximity to one another would not meet on the playing field, other than spring training, in such a long time. Of course, the Brewers and White Sox have been busy with their “regional” rivals, the Minnesota Twins and Chicago Cubs,
respectively. Still, it’s a shame that it’s been so long and that the old AL rivalry between the Brewers and White Sox has been allowed to stagnate. Perhaps in
years to come, with increased interleague play, we’ll see this matchup more frequently.
The Brewers are 174-199 all time against the White Sox and 112-116 against the Cubs. They have had some memorable games against each Chicago team over the years, including the famous 25-inning slog of 1984, when the White Sox beat the Brewers 7-6 in what stands as the longest American League game. It was also the longest major league game by innings that resulted in a victory rather than a tie. Kurt Ehlert ofChicagosidesports.com recently mused on whether the Brewers and Cubs have a “real” rivalry, and while he makes some valid points, I think the proximity and the ill feelings of the teams’ fans towards one another are enough to breed a true rivalry between the Brewers and Cubs. Is it a rivalry on the level of Yankees-Red Sox, or Cardinals-Cubs? No. Those are ancient divides. Brewers-Cubs is in a fetal stage. But, at least from the Milwaukee side, any time a team from Wisconsin goes up against one from mighty Chicago, it’s on.
In recent years, it seems as if the old antagonism towards the White Sox has been replaced with softer feelings towards the South Side in general. Perhaps it’s the tendency of the South Side to be seen as consisting of more “working class” regular folk who may have more in common with Milwaukee residents than the more affluent Northsiders. Cubs fans often get a rap for being trendy, belligerent or representative of a side of Chicago that is very self-interested (and who can blame them, it’s a fabulous city) and who couldn’t care less about Milwaukee, whether it were 80-some miles north or on the moon. Most likely, though, it’s just the simple fact that the Brewers and White Sox no longer play in the same league, much less the same division. The White Sox are out of sight and out of mind. Perhaps geographical proximity means less when a rival team isn’t doing regular damage to yours in the standings. Brewers-White Sox has been dormant. That changes this weekend.