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Rivalry shows no sign of flagging
A young boy dressed exactly like his father in a blue Cubs T-shirt and hat walked by White Sox fan Mike McGinnis' tailgate party in the southwest parking lot of U.S. Cellular Field before Friday's 7-4 Cubs victory.
South Side pride compelled McGinnis to perform what he believed was his civic duty.
"Somebody please call DCFS [the Department of Children and Family Services] right away so I can report these parents for committing child abuse," McGinnis shouted with the timbre of a beer vendor. "It's for the good of the child, before it's too late. What a terrible thing to do to a kid."
McGinnis, who lives in Tinley Park, was kidding, of course. But like many Sox fans, his contempt for the Cubs is serious.
Sox fans did plenty to display their disdain for the Cubs during the first of six games over 10 days between the city's two beloved baseball teams.
Across the lot from McGinnis, Jenny Cielinski of Niles rotated a stuffed bear dressed in Cubs garb over a faux rotisserie grill. A sign invited Sox fans to come enjoy a freshly grilled "Cubob." A few cars down, Cubs pitcher Mark Prior hung in effigy.
All over the park, more signs and T-shirts were spotted paying homage to Steve Bartman than praising Frank Thomas.
It was a summer day made for baseball when everybody at the Cell basked in the sunshineexcept for the fielders.
The late-afternoon sun made the term "routine fly ball" a misnomer, and several sure outs for both teams were anything but. The Sox committed two of their three errors on pop-ups and the Cubs allowed two hits on balls that likely would have been caught on a cloudy day.
Life in the outfield was as adventurous as in the stands.
Sox security officials reported no major incidents, but the usual array of squabbles among the sellout crowd of 39,596 packed more intensity into the ballpark than a usual Friday afternoon.
After Sox second baseman Juan Uribe flied out to Cubs center fielder Corey Patterson to end the game, for example, a security guard about 10 rows behind home plate separated an overzealous Cubs fan and a Sox fan in a Frank Thomas jersey, who didn't take the loss well.
"Overall, it was more civil than it has been the past few years," said Cubs fan Scott Rosenmutter, 19, of Northbrook, basing his opinion on the amount of abuse his costume received.
As Rosenmutter has at Cubs-Sox games for the last six years, he showed up Friday with the right side of his face red and the left side blue. Painted on his bare chest was the Cubs logo while the message on his back read, "If I say Ronnie, you say Woo," in a tribute to Ronnie "Woo Woo" Wickers.
"I've gotten a lot of stares and comments, and some guy tried ripping my Cub towel out of my pants," Rosenmutter said. "But it didn't get out of hand. What I saw, I think they did a pretty good job of controlling stuff."
Sox fan Joe Svec of Burbank would disagree. Svec, with his face painted silver and black and the old Sox logo shaved into the side of his head, planned to file a complaint with the Sox's security office.
A guard escorted Svec from his seat in Section 162 during the eighth inning after repeated warnings for using language he acknowledged "was pretty vulgar."
"Cubs fans were harassing me. Maybe I was yelling a little bit, but I didn't think they needed to tear up my ticket and act like they did," Svec said. "Emotions run high out here, so you can't expect [Sox fans] to make those [Cub fans] feel welcome."
Perhaps not, but the city's most famous Sox fan, Mayor Richard M. Daley, went out of his way to make the leader of the Cubs, manager Dusty Baker, feel at home.
In a pregame chat Baker expected to be brief and perfunctory, the mayor and the Cubs manager discussed the history of sports in Chicago, mayors of other cities both men knew and former Bears great Gale SayersBaker's childhood hero.
"It was a longer conversation than I thought we'd have, but it was enlightening," Baker said.
He resisted the opportunity to jab Daley, a lifelong Sox fan, about his baseball allegiance.
"He's the mayor, man," Baker said. "I'm not going to rip the mayor."
Sox manager Ozzie Guillen showed similar respect for Baker when speaking in nearly reverent tones about the man he first met as a batboy for Baker's winter-league team in Venezuela when Guillen was 12.
So respectful was Guillen of Baker that when a team official interrupted Guillen's postgame news conference to announce, "Dusty Baker's waiting outside," Guillen reacted: "Uh-oh."
"He was a big hero in my country," Guillen said of Baker. "It's a privilege to manage against him."
He gets another chance Saturday in game that, for a change, means as much to baseball fans in St. Louis, Houston and Minneapolis as it does to Cubs and Sox fans in Lakeview and Orland Park.
"A lot of people think it's big because it's Cubs-Sox, and it is," Guillen said. "But it's big this year because we're in a pennant race."
The records prove Guillen is right. But as Friday reaffirmed, the rancor between Cubs and Sox fans would exist if their teams were playing softball in a city park with nothing at stake but a case of beer.