The best of the worst: The White Sox have plenty of company among Chicago teams with bad starts to their season

San Francisco Giants' Barry Bonds, right, crosses home plate past the tag of Chiacgo Cubs' catcher Scott Servais during the third inning, Thursday, Aug. 14, 1997, in San Francisco. Bonds scored on teammate Jeff Kents' double. (AP Photo/Andy Kuno) ASSOCIATED PRESS

Long-term residence is not necessary to recognize how bad times often overshadow the celebrations in Chicago sports.

So with the White Sox embarking on an especially awful start to the season, let's relive some bad memories and rank the 10 worst starts in Chicago sports history.

Please be aware, some of these stories have happy endings:

10. Sky, 2006

Expansion teams are supposed to be bad, but the Sky threw a curveball by winning the first game in franchise history at Charlotte, then losing the next 13 in a row. Ten of those losses were by double digits, and inaugural coach Dave Cowens was a one-and-done.

9. Cubs, 1981

This team started 3-17 but was saved from a horrendous loss total by a player's strike, which caused the MLB season to be split into two halves.

Another twist to this team is it included leftovers from the overachieving late 1970s teams (Bill Buckner, Rick Reuschel, Mike Krukow) and some key players from the 1984 playoff squad (Jody Davis, Leon Durham, Lee Smith).

8. Bears, 1968

This was more about frustrating circumstances than being awful. The Bears had gotten tired of having to wait for the Cubs’ season to end before they could play home games at Wrigley Field.

So they decided to play the 1968 season opener at Wrigley, without the huge temporary grandstand in right field. How did it go? They lost to the Redskins 38-28 as Sonny Jurgensen threw 4 touchdown passes, including a 99-yarder to Gerry Allen.

The Bears started that season 1-4 but finished 7-7 and just needed to beat the post-Lombardi Packers in the final game to win the Central Division. Somehow, though, they lost at home to third-string QB Don Horn 28-27.

Gale Sayers was injured late in the season, but the Bears blew their best opportunity to get Dick Butkus a playoff game.

Kansas City Royals' Vinnie Pasquantino, right, jogs past Chicago White Sox catcher Martín Maldonado after hitting a home run during the fourth inning of a baseball game Monday, April 15, 2024, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Erin Hooley) AP

7. Blackhawks, 1959-60

Back when Bobby Hull was 21 and Stan Mikita 19, the Blackhawks started 1-11-3. No worries, they recovered to finish third in the six-team NHL and lost to Montreal in the playoffs.

Fun fact from that era: The Hawks only had one goalie. Glenn Hall played every minute of every game for five straight seasons from 1957-62, according to

6. White Sox, 1968

One of the largely forgotten feats in South Side history was the White Sox posting 17 consecutive winning seasons from 1951-67. Then 1967 featured one of the all-time memorable pennant races, when the White Sox, Red Sox, Tigers and Twins all went into the final day of the season with a chance to win the AL crown. Spoiler alert: The other Sox won.

So expectations were reasonably high before the Sox opened the '68 campaign with an 0-10 record. There were similarities to this year's poor start because the '68 Sox scored more than 2 runs just once in those 10 losses, and they had a five-game stretch with just 3 total runs scored.

Remember, this was the Year of the Pitcher, when guys like Bob Gibson caused MLB to lower the mound, and the Sox were one of many teams with a weak offense. Pete Ward was the only player on the team to hit double-digit home runs, finishing with 15.

The Sox recovered from the slow start and were 15-17 at one point before finishing 67-95. Another interesting trait of that team was the bullpen, which featured legendary knuckleballer Hoyt Wilhem, who turned 46 that July and played four more seasons. He also taught his signature pitch to teammate Wilbur Wood, who set a White Sox record that still stands with 88 pitching appearances that season.

5. Bulls, 1976-77 and 2004-05

These campaigns go hand-in-hand. In 1976, Bulls started 2-14, despite adding Artis Gilmore from the ABA and No. 2 overall draft pick Scott May.

The 2004 Bulls sputtered to a 3-14 mark in Scott Skiles' first full season as head coach. It looked like Year 7 of the post-championship era would be just as dismal as the previous six.

Both these teams made the playoffs. By the spring of '77, the Bulls figured out the chemistry and went on a 20-4 tear to end the regular season, before dropping an epic three-game mini-series against eventual champ Portland and peak Bill Walton.

The ‘04-05 Bulls defied all logic. With four rookies in the rotation (Ben Gordon, Luol Deng, Andres Nocioni, Chris Duhon), they not only made the playoffs, but had home-court advantage against Washington. Alas, Deng was hurt, Eddy Curry had his heart issue and the Bulls lost that series in six games.

Chicago Bears head coach Dave Wannstedt looks out from the sidelines during the game against the Detroit Lions at the Pontiac Silverdome, Thursday, Nov. 27, 1997. (AP Photo/Jeff Kowalsky)

4. Bears, 1997

Groan. The Bears thought they needed an upgrade over QB Erik Kramer, so they signed Rick Mirer. He couldn't win the job and the Bears started 1-10.

And it was an especially dismal 1-10. Over a three-game stretch against Detroit, New England and Dallas, the Bears were outscored 90-13.

The saddest part of this sorry season? The Bears gave coach Dave Wannstedt one more year, but he was finally let go in '98 after a second straight 4-12 finish.

3. White Sox, 2024

Nobody expected the White Sox to be good this season, and losing Luis Robert to an injury in the seventh game didn't help. But the historic lack of offense puts this start high on the list. Friday in Philadelphia, the Sox were shut out for the seventh time in 19 games.

2. Bulls, 1999-2000

When the Bulls pulled off a shocking victory over Boston early in this season, Celtics coach Rick Pitino was peppered by a reporter after the game about it being a particularly galling loss. Pitino responded with maybe the best quote of the rebuild era: “Look, they're going to win more than one game.”

Pitino was right, but not by much. This Bulls team started 2-26. They didn't get their third win until January. Eventually, Toni Kukoc returned from a back injury and the Bulls went 10-12 for a stretch, then traded Kukoc to the 76ers.

Of course, this was all part of Jerry Krause's plan to snag a couple of high draft picks, then add two “full-boat” free agents. The plan delivered Ron Mercer and Marcus Fizer, so there was no payoff to all that losing. At least Elton Brand won co-rookie of the year.

Philadelphia 76ers' Theo Ratliff (42) goes up for a shot against Chicago Bulls' Chris Anstey (22) as Chicago's Elton Brand (42) watches in the first half Friday, Dec. 17, 1999, in Philadelphia. Injuries had kept Ratliff out of the last 11 games. (AP Photo/George Widman) Associated Press

1. Cubs, 1997

With all the losing in Chicago's past, nothing can top the '97 Cubs and their 0-14 start.

A tough early schedule is one explanation. The season began with road and home series against both the Marlins and Braves, the teams that ended up in the NLCS that year. So the streak included losses to pitchers Al Leiter twice (uncle of the team's current best relief pitcher), former South Sider Alex Fernandez twice, Greg Maddux, John Smoltz and even ex-Cub Mike Bielecki.

What role did Craig Counsell have in those wins over the Cubs, you might ask? He ended up as a World Series Game 7 hero for the Marlins that year. Well, Counsell was still at Triple A Colorado Springs, waiting to be traded from the Rockies to Marlins on July 27.

That Cubs team treaded water for a while before fading late to finish 68-94. Ryne Sandberg retired for good after the season, and the Cubs made the playoffs in 1998.

Hang in there, White Sox fans. Miracles do happen.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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