HAWL IN: 20 years later, the Crosstown Series still counts

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May 20, 2006; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs Michael Barrett against Chicago White Sox A.J. Pierzynski in Chicago, Ill., at U.S. Cellular Field on May 20, 2006. The White Sox won 7-0. (Photo by Jay Drowns/Sporting News via Getty Images)

CHICAGO – With throwback uniforms on from 91-years earlier on a 77 degree day, the perceived rivalry became real for the first time.

Tensions between the Cubs and the White Sox – outside of six games in 1906 – we’re always played out during a year exhibition game. It didn’t count in the standings and since it featured only a few regulars, it really held only a bit of pride for each of the teams.

This exhibition game was a way to the teams from the same city to toss on uniforms once a year and pretend like it was real even thought it wasn’t.

That changed on June 16, 1997. Interleague Play was established by Major League Baseball and this was the first time the Cubs would visit the White Sox with more than a bit of bragging rights on the line. It meant something, even if it wasn’t as much as it did nine decades earlier when the teams met in the fall.

With throwback uniforms to that 1906 series, the Cubs scored five runs in the first two innings en route to a 8-3 victory. The White Sox, however, took the next two games to win the first series between the two teams and grabbing the first true bragging rights for the Red Line series.

A lot has gone on since then. In 1998 the Cubs swept away the White Sox and then in 1999 the South Siders returned the favor in a series at Wrigley Field in June. The Cubs came back with 2-of-3 at Comiskey Park in the first year of the team’s playing a pair of three-game series.

In 2005 the White Sox won the World Series and the following year delivered the iconic moment of the rivalry when AJ Pierzynski ran over Michael Barrett, who then slugged the White Sox catcher which triggered a brawl.

Two years later the teams were on even footing in the standings as each would go onto win their respective divisions. Naturally, they each pulled off a sweep on their homefield in two series played in back-to-back weekends.

In 2010 a ceremonial trophy was created for the winner and three years later their meetings were trimmed to four a season. That’s how it remained with the exception of 2015, when the teams met again in six games.

That year along with 2016, the teams finished with an even number of wins. Overall the advantage belongs to the White Sox, who’ve won 10 series compared to the Cubs’ four with six years finishing in a draw.

No matter what the finish nor the fortunes of the team in the particular year, one fact remains about this Crosstown Classic: It still counts. The appeal remains long after its novelty could have worn off, still producing memorable games and moments that remain in the conscious of fans for years to come.

Whether it’s three games, four games or six, fan’s desire to knock off the team on the other side of town remains one of the highlights of the season. In 2017 when the teams meet on Monday for the first time at Wrigley, the Cubs will hope to finally get a Crosstown Cup for the first time since 2013 as they attempt to keep their second half momentum going towards a second World Series title run.

Meanwhile the rebuilding White Sox are playing what could be the final four games in which their fans are really concerned about wins or losses. After all, the team is in a rebuilding project where losses might actually be victories when it comes to the future.

Either way, the tradition that began 20 years ago remains strong. Now, like then, these games count as much as ever.