Lincicome: Are the White Sox ready to go from side dish to main course?

  • Associated Press/June 11, 2021Chicago White Sox closer Liam Hendriks reacts after striking out Detroit Tigers' Niko Goodrum during the ninth inning in Detroit.

    Associated Press/June 11, 2021Chicago White Sox closer Liam Hendriks reacts after striking out Detroit Tigers' Niko Goodrum during the ninth inning in Detroit.

 
Updated 8/27/2021 2:16 PM

What's that sound? Is that the rattle of a bandwagon? Hard to tell because it belongs to the White Sox. Softly. Softly.

It seems the White Sox are ready to give us a September packed with portent and promise, and more calendar to come.

 

"There's an old saying," said manager Tony La Russa, "if you want to play in October, some of the best wins are the toughest wins."

Huh? Not to dispute old sayings from old Tony, or to even understand what they mean, but the key word is "October," spoken aloud if not taken for granted.

There is no mystery as to why it has taken so long for the White Sox to be taken seriously. They are the White Sox. Never beloved. Never agonized over. Never cherished. No heartbreak. No heartache.

The Sox are Garfunkel not Simon, Garth not Wayne, Ethel not Lucy, or ... well, I could go on and on. You don't believe me. OK. Watson, not Holmes. Luigi not Mario. Barney not Fred. Or Barney not Andy.

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It works in food groups, too. Fries not burger. Kraut not brat. Cheese not mac. Popcorn not movie. Enough. Try your own.

Here's the point. The White Sox are a side dish, an end table, the stool, not the chair, the chest not the treasure, the lint on the sweater vest. Wait. Let us not go there again.

The Sox live with this without much complaint, and every, oh, decade or two, remind the world that there is another baseball team in Chicago, though to identify themselves on game uniforms as "Southside" limits them not only geographically but ambitiously.

Off and on, the White Sox offer no designation at all that identifies them with Chicago, not on their shirts or caps or luggage. They are merely the Sox, relentlessly rooted, widely unappreciated and defiantly OK with it.

They play in a joyless clone of a ballpark. There is no "lyric bandbox" as in Boston, or "Friendly Confines" up the road. Old Comiskey Park had as much charm and more beauty than either.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Classic old Comiskey, as leaky and inadequate as it certainly was, met its end without regret or tears, demolished along with McCuddy's tavern where Babe Ruth used to nip into between innings. Now The White Sox function in comfort and utility, OK for efficiency but death to romance.

Yet, here they are again, with a Hall of Fame manager, an astute front office, genuine pitching, timely hitting, good defense, shrewd tactics, alert base running, all the ingredients that baseball teams tout but hardly ever sustain. Thus are the Sox on the precipice of possibility and all that can stop them is themselves.

The Cubs could make a list of their curses, from Billy Goat to Bartman -- the wasteland since 2016 to be named eventually -- but the White Sox have only the one -- the curse of lack of respect, from civilians, from strangers, from themselves.

This is the sort of thing the White Sox must endure, greater stories than their own, larger legends than any they have spread, less celebrity support, fewer tales told around the glow of last call.

Whatever happens will belong to the South Side of Chicago, and it will be kept there, like a local landmark, but the rest of the world will not stop by to gawk. Guaranteed Rate Field will not suddenly become a required selfie.

For this time and for this job, this carefully gathered collection of the young, the eager and the ancient have been very nearly perfect, and if their achievements do not resonate with strangers, surprise is as useful as suspense.

Ozzie Guillen is still around and Frank Thomas, too, cashing in. The cornfield game was needed to remind us of Shoeless Joe, but you will need to ask an uncle about Minnie and Nellie and Luis, about Bill Veeck, the hustler with the ashtray in his wooden leg.

The Sox have toiled in privacy for years, for fans who, honestly, never ached as much as failure should demand. As always the White Sox will have to do this for themselves, for possibly several neighbors and only incidentally for a city that will always think of them as the bun and not the dog, the string and not the shoe, the stone and not the wall, the net and not the flix, the muck and not the rake ... oops, I think I've gone too far.

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