The journey begins on the platform of the Addison Street El station, a block from Wrigley Field. "Here lie the Cubs. July 10, 1977—St. Louis 8, Chicago 3," reads graffiti scribbled across a platform billboard. Beneath that, someone else has written, "Have patience and hope, there's a little Don Young in all of us." All aboard.
The B train winds noisily among the red brick apartment buildings and the green parks of the North Side, then plunges underground before it reaches the Loop. At State and Lake you change trains and board the Dan Ryan Express, which slowly grinds away from the Loop and works south past the railroad tracks and warehouses before reaching the stop called Sox-35th, a block from Comiskey Park. All out, please.
Traveling in either direction, the trip takes 25 minutes and costs 50�. In their wildest dreams these days, Chicago's long-suffering baseball diehards see themselves shuttling between Addison Street and Sox-35th in mid-October to watch the Cubs play the White Sox in the first all- Chicago World Series since 1906. Don't laugh. When the major leagues broke for the three-day All-Star Game recess last Sunday, the amazing Cubs and the amazing White Sox both were in first place, the Cubs holding a two-game lead over defending champion Philadelphia in the National League East and the White Sox maintaining a 2�-game margin over defending champion Kansas City in the American League West.
Not bad for two teams that once again were supposed to stagger through their annual "rebuilding" seasons. Instead, they have turned Chicago into the Disney World of baseball. Up at Wrigley Field the bleachers are filled by 10:30 a.m., and the mere appearance of a Cubbie—be it star Relief Pitcher Bruce Sutter or backup Catcher Steve Swisher—through the doors in the left field corner generates a standing ovation. Down at Comiskey Park the Sox fans, hyped to a frenzy by volcanic broadcaster Harry Caray, stand up and cheer slugger Richie Zisk even when he strikes out, and they routinely scream long and loud until home-run hitters emerge from the dugout for bows. "Superstars have that happen to them maybe once in a career, and I, Jim Spencer, had it happen to me twice in one game," marvels the White Sox' first baseman.
Baseball fever has seized the city. "Can't I hear anything but baseball baseball baseball?" a man asks his wife in Gritzbe's restaurant. The
attributes a circulation jump of almost 10,000 newspapers a day mainly to the city's baseball lunacy. White Sox attendance is up 5,840 a game, the Cubs' 5,441, and at their present rate they easily will combine to attract more than the Chicago-record 2.67 million fans who watched them in 1973.
"What's happening here in Chicago is a phenomenon wilder than anything I could have imagined," says White Sox owner Bill Veeck. "People naturally love underdogs, but even more important is the fact that the people of Chicago are starved for a winner."
Over the years both the White Sox and the Cubs have played cruel tricks on their followers. Both Chicago teams were in first place in their respective divisions on June 29, 1973, but at the first mention of an intracity World Series they collapsed, both finishing with losing records. In 1969 Leo Durocher's Cubs did a complete El Foldo for the New York Mets, and in 1967 Eddie Stanky's White Sox managed to lose their last five games and blow the pennant to the miracle Red Sox. The White Sox won their last pennant in 1959, the Cubs their last one in 1945, and neither team has won a World Series since the White Sox beat John McGraw's New York Giants in 1917.
On paper, at least, there seems little enough reason for Chicagoans to dream of a Series this October. The Cubs' four All-Star selections—Second Baseman Manny Trillo, Center-fielder Jerry Morales and Pitchers Sutter and Rick (the Whale) Reuschel—have reputations that until the last few weeks were confined solely to the North Side of Chicago. And the White Sox? Well, swear on a stack of Veeck—As in Wreck books that you knew Pitcher Francisco Barrios had six straight victories and a 9-3 record until the Red Sox beat him Saturday night, that Shortstop Alan Bannister is third in the American League in base hits, that Designated Hitter Oscar Gamble has 18 home runs and that Pitchers Chris Knapp and Ken Kravec have a combined record of 14-6.
"I guess people look at the Chicago box scores and keep asking, 'Who are these guys?' " says White Sox General Manager Roland Hemond. Veeck says, "I think our fans especially love this team because, by today's standards, it seems down and out, unsung and lower class." Told of Veeck's thoughts, Spencer said, "You can say that again."
On the field there is little difference between the two Chicago teams. Both function with patchwork pitching staffs, renovated infields, surprisingly deep benches and without high-salaried free agents. Talentwise, both teams should finish no higher than fourth place. So why first place now?