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A recent typical Sunday in Chicago produced the sports page headlines: Washington Redskins 14; Chicago Bears 3. Cleveland Browns 31; Chicago Cardinals 0. Toronto Maple Leafs 7; Chicago Black Hawks 2. St. Louis Falstaff bowlers 24,801; Chicago Reserves 23,941. A dark overline on a Monday morning sports page lamented: "No one can expect to win all the time. But wouldn't it be nice to win once in a while?"
The plain truth is that the bitter ashes of defeat no longer sting in Chicago. They have sifted down too long and too often. For a Chicago sports buff to exist in tranquility requires the charitable feeling toward broad-shouldered ball fumblers and idiot base runners that St. Francis of Assisi reserved for the poor, the sick and the luckless. There are many vagaries of sport to contemplate in Chicago, few to admire. As Chicago Daily News sports editor John P. Carmichael put it recently:
" Chicago hasn't won a professional football title since 1947. The Cubs haven't won a pennant since 1945. The Sox haven't come close to playing in a World Series since 1919 and the Black Hawks last won a Stanley Cup in 1938. This is a record of futility unmatched by any other city with a similar number of representations going for it."
Carmichael is right. Chicago now has more major league professional teams than any other city in the country, including New York (a greatness it had thrust upon it when the Giants and the Dodgers belatedly joined the gold rush to California). But with all the clubs it has to watch, Chicago seldom sees a worthwhile victory.
The Cubs romp in season at Wrigley Field, but they have not been real contenders for a decade. The aging White Sox try hard, as they have for each of the 38 years since they sold out the 1919 Series, but their highest pinnacle of success was the 1957 American League second place. The ill-tempered Black Hawks, ice-hockey incompetents who have been rescued from deserved oblivion by television, have not wound up in the big time since that Stanley Cup of 1938. The best gauge of the Hawks' recent history is the fact that their programs omit all references to the past. The Cardinals last made a creditable mark in the football record books in 1947, when they led the Eastern Division. The Bears reached the same high mark in the Western Division in 1956, giving George Halas' crew the freshest locker room laurels to be found in Chicago. ( New York won the playoff match by 47-7.) Even in boxing, the sports fan gets about as much nourishment as the runt pig at chow-time, thanks to television and the International Boxing Club's James Norris and Arthur Wirtz (owners of the Chicago Stadium and the Black Hawks). The boxer's fistic accomplishments seem to count less in Chicago than, his relationship with the IBC; the fan who buys one of the Stadium's 12,500 "ringside" seats might justly conclude that the fight is not to the swift but the favored, and anyway he can't see very well from his seat in the 47th row.
Chicago's pathetic results on the gridiron, diamond, ring and rink caused one sportswriter to cry: "Mention New York to a sports fan and what does he think of? The Yankees. Mention Milwaukee and he thinks of the Braves. But mention Chicago and what does a sports fan think of? What is there for him to think of?"
The answer, of course, if you leave out the fine horse racing at Arlington, and Washington Parks, is: Not very much.
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