Nicky Delmonico ingratiated himself to White Sox fans Saturday at SoxFest by declaring Cubs fans the most annoying in baseball.
A young Sox fan posed the clickbait question during a Q&A session, and Delmonico responded “Cubs fans” like hitting a batting practice fastball.
It was a veteran move by a young outfielder. Delmonico knows his audience, and teammates Yolmer Sanchez and Tim Anderson quickly agreed with the sentiment.
Delmonico then doubled down by telling Sox fans: “Whenever the Cubs play (in) our home you all have got to literally give them hell.”
We’ll see whether Delmonico’s plea is taken to heart by Sox fans when the City Series comes to Guaranteed Rate Field on July 6. But for now it’s just another chapter in the never-ending war between North Side and South Side baseball fans.
Trolling Cubs fans is never a bad move for a Sox player, and it really was no different than Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant trolling Cardinals fans at the recent Cubs Convention, when he called St. Louis “boring.”
Bryant’s insult was greeted with heated responses from a few angry Cardinals’ players, including Yadier Molina, who called Bryant and ex-Cub Ryan Dempster “losers.”
Delmonico’s insult has so far fallen on deaf ears. Either the Cubs players aren’t paying attention to SoxFest, they don’t care what the Sox players think, or both.
Many fans don’t know this, but the Sox once owned Chicago, especially back in the 1950s and early ‘60s. But it’s been a Cubs town more or less since the Ernie Banks-Billy Williams-Ron Santo teams of the late 1960s, the era that patented their reputation as “lovable losers.”
Antipathy toward the Cubs is real on the South Side, as evidenced by a new Hyde Park joint, The Hyde, which set “house rules” that includes: “No Cubs fans.”
There are many theories as to why the Cubs came into dominance, but actor George Wendt, a Sox fan who played Norm in the TV show “Cheers,” once told me it was just the way Chicago evolved over the years.
“Maybe you could’ve put it on the free TV-vs.-cable TV thing a few years back,” Wendt said, referring to the Sox being the first to put its games on cable. “But now they’re on WGN sometimes, so I don’t know.
“It seems like emigres to Chicago, the post-graduates who settle here in the suburbs, north or south, become Cubs fans. It seems like to be a Sox fan, you have to be born and raised on the South Side.”
The lure of Wrigley Field has something to do with the Cubs’ popularity. Bill Veeck, the Hall of Fame executive who famously planted the ivy at Wrigley and later had two terms owning the Sox, wrote in his autobiography, “Veeck As In Wreck,” that former Cubs owner P.K. Wrigley instructed him to market Wrigley Field as a fan-friendly destination.
“We sold ‘Beautiful Wrigley Field,’” Veeck wrote. “We advertised ‘Beautiful Wrigley Field.’ The announcers were instructed to use the phrase ‘Beautiful Wrigley Field’ as often as possible. We sold it so well that when I came back to Chicago in 1959 as president of the White Sox across town, I found ‘Beautiful Wrigley Field’ my greatest single obstacle. Because ‘Beautiful Wrigley Field’ tacitly implied ‘that run-down, crummy joint on the South Side.’”
White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, who got the state to build him a new Comiskey Park, once said the difference between Cubs and Sox fans was simple.
“They’re very enthusiastic fans,” Reinsdorf said of Cubs fans. “Sox fans are more demanding. They’re more knowledgeable about the game. They don’t like to watch bad baseball.”
Sox fans still don’t like to watch bad baseball, but the rest is debatable. Former Cubs outfielder Brian McRae and former Sox slugger Frank Thomas once had a spirited debate at the Comiskey Park batting cage about their teams’ respective fan bases.
“Our fans are the drunkest,” McRae bragged to Thomas. “We’ve got the drunkest fans in baseball.”
“We have the working-class fans here,” Thomas responded.
Those stereotypes persist: All Sox fans are blue-collar types who are into every pitch. All Cubs fans are yuppie types, oblivious to the game on the field.
It’s lasted for generations, passed down from parents to their kids.
What’s indisputable is the Cubs still outdraw the Sox on an annual basis, whether the team is good or bad — as evidenced by the Cubs’ rebuilding phase from 2012-14.
Ozzie Guillen, an expert in trolling Cubs fans during his reign as Sox manager, once was asked during a Sox-Dodgers series at what was then nicknamed the Cell why attendance was so disappointing.
“Because our fans are not stupid like Cubs fans,” he replied.
Guillen added that Cubs fans were willing to watch any game at Wrigley because “Wrigley Field is just a bar.” He later said he didn’t mean to insult Cubs fans and was just having fun, just as Delmonico seemed to be doing at SoxFest. Cubs fans enjoyed the annual back-and-forth with Guillen, who made the City Series more interesting with his tall tales of spotting rats at Wrigley.
Few Cubs or Sox players actually grow up in Chicago, so their loyalties lie with whoever signs their paychecks. But the late Kevin Foster was the exception to the rule.
Back in 1997 when the Cubs faced the Indians in August with a chance to help the Sox in their division race, Sox fans were in a quandary. Could they possibly root for the Cubs? I asked Foster, an Evanston native who grew up a Cubs fan, if he’d root for the Sox if the shoe was on the other foot.
“No, I’ve never liked the White Sox,” Foster replied. “For me to sit down and root for the White Sox would be out of the ordinary. I would never root for the White Sox in any situation. Well, as a player, sure, I’d root for them. But as a Cubs fan, no, I would never root for them.”
That sentiment is widely shared by fans of both teams, most of whom have found their peers to be “annoying” well before Delmonico chimed in this weekend.
Some things will never change.