How can you raise your child without the trauma of picking sides in the Cubs-Sox rivalry? You may not believe it, but you can.
That’s the beauty of being a long-time sports reporter, covering both Chicago baseball teams. At times I may favor one over the other, but to outright hate the other team, well, that just goes against my grain.
It also went against the grain of the person most responsible for my love of baseball, my late-maternal grandfather. He was a native of Poland who delivered coal for a living – you can kind of figure out the era since anyone under 40 probably has no idea what that means. Suffice it to say, he brought his coal truck to both Wrigley Field and Comiskey Park, and he loved baseball – both teams. He taught me the ins, outs and intricacies of both the Cubs and the Sox.
I grew up without much money, so the only way for me to see a game was to go on a Girl Scouts’ field trip or as a reward for good grades. I cherished any game I got to see. As I got older, I could buy a ticket with baby-sitting money – that was pure gold. If I had a little extra money, buying a scorecard with a pencil was the icing on the cake. I went to both parks, experienced the pain of the 1969 Cubs and saw Dick Allen blast home runs for the Sox at Old Comiskey. As a baseball purist, seeing Pittsburgh‘s Roberto Clemente play in right field at Wrigley versus the Cubs is etched into my memory for all time.
Fast forward: My career has allowed me to cover both the White Sox and Cubs. It is my belief as a sports reporter that we should not tip our hand on the air regarding any preference. Why tick off opposing fans? Also, you may blind yourself by single-minded loyalty and miss some great baseball achievements or moments (or not appreciate them fully).
That’s why I raised my son to enjoy both Chicago baseball teams. When Jaxon was just a few weeks old, he was in the arms of the then-Cubs PR director Sharon Pannozzo in the press box. A few years later, he got to meet one of his favorite players, Cubs first baseman Mark Grace, in the dugout. When Jaxon was 6 years old, White Sox grounds keeper Roger Bossard invited him to U.S. Cellular, and unexpectedly gave my little boy a ball for the players sign.
There are two other interesting moments stuck in my mind: I remember when first year manager Ozzie Guillen saw Jax, put him on his lap and said, “I knew you when you were in your mommy’s tummy.” A look of puzzlement came across the face of this awe-struck child. Moments later, when Frank Thomas learned my son was outside the locker room, he ran out and brought Jaxon into the club house. It was a chance for this massive player to show his gentle side.
In 2003, Jaxon was at the Cubs-Florida game 6, (the infamous “Bartman game”) sitting in the bleachers. He was supposed to see history — a Chicago team going to the World Series. As the crowd directed its anger at a fan’s mistake, my husband smartly left the game – there are no emotional scars on them. My son did get to see the White Sox play in the World Series. Some snarky adults chided him for being too young to appreciate it. The next night there was a sign that read “I waited my whole life to see a World Series! (8 years).” Guess who held up the sign?
In a very rare occurrence in 2008, Jaxon saw both the Sox and Cubs play in the post season. Imagine if he only took one side?
These are special and unique circumstances for a kid to form an opinion. Nevertheless he has some nice memories without hatred or malice towards any baseball fans, Cubs or Sox.
Now, as a teenager, baseball is behind him. But I have no regrets letting him enjoy both the Sox and Cubs. He would have missed plenty otherwise.
Follow Cheryl Raye Stout on Twitter: @CRayeStout