Andrew over at the White Sox blog 35th Street Review asked me to guest post at his place in advance of tonight’s hot Sox-on-Sox action. As a special treat to you, and due to my hangover-induced laziness, I’m re-purposing it into a post over here as well. Bon appetit!
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I have to be honest.
With all due respect, I hate the Chicago White Sox.
It’s not because you guys prevented my beloved Red Sox from repeating as World Series champs in 2005, dismissing us in a quick and painful ALDS. It’s not because of your manager, Ozzie Guillen, the human irritant. It’s not even because I hold a grudge over that whole Black Sox scandal thing.
It’s because of one man.
I grew up in a Red Sox-loving home, where dinners were “earned” by responding correctly to extensive rounds of BoSox trivia. Where my sisters and I learned to score a game before we learned the alphabet. And where a photo of Tony Conigliaro hung next to a painting of Jesus.
And my favorite player, above all, was Carlton Fisk.
I had the shirt. The baseball cards. The poster. Even the puffy hand, which was exceptionally cool since, back then, they hadn’t even been invented yet. I charted the man’s every move and tried–haplessly–to emulate his moves on the Little League diamond (particular interesting since I typically played second base).
He was the Commander. He was Pudge. He was the guy who took shit from no one, especially no one named Thurman Munson.
Well, we all know how that one turned out. After the 1980 season, management forgot to mail Fisk his contract (yet, tragically, remembered to mail Luis Aponte his). Fisk, sensing the dis, jumped ship to Chicago for a cool 3.5 million.
As a kid who loved all things Fisk, I was devastated. Watching Fisk come back to Fenway in some of those godawful White Sox unis (including the lovely number-around-the-balls get-up pictured above) was bad enough. Seeing him always seem to come up huge against us with a key hit or home run was even more painful. It was like he’d been born again, enjoying some of his best seasons and actually logging more time with the White Sox than the Red Sox.
It was like seeing your Dad leave you for a cooler family. Or watching your favorite uncle take his other nephew to the county fair, the two of them giving you the finger as they motored down the street, leaving you in a cloud of exhaust and shards of cotton candy. I tried to embrace Fisk’s replacement, Rich Gedman, but it just wasn’t the same. Geddy looked a little too much like the guy who comes to fix your dishwasher. Fisk was the warrior. And he was having much fun with another team. Entertaining some other kids. Pledging allegiance to a whole new city.
At least the man had the good sense to enter the Hall of Fame in a Red Sox cap. But in my eyes, the damage was done. I’d been robbed of a chance to watch one of my favorite players play out his career with the hometown team. And it leaves a void that won’t ever be filled, despite my best hooker- and alcohol-fueled efforts.
So please understand that, beginning tonight, I’ll be heartily rooting against you guys.
And, somehow, somewhere, I have a feeling that my man Pudge will be doing the same.