Disclaimer: I am not a fan of baseball – at all. I couldn’t careless about it. My support of the sport starts and stops with my love for baseball hats and my brother-in-law Jason Bourgeois who plays MLB.
**This post was originally written at the start of the World Series but has been updated to reflect the outcome**
CUBBIES WIN! THE CUBS WIN! HOORAY!
Baseball lovers know that this year’s World Series was the first in a long time for both franchises competing: the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians – the longest and 2nd longest World Series droughts, respectively. But that drought has ended for one of those teams: after a historic comeback from a 3-1 series deficit, the Chicago Cubs won the 2016 MLB World Series in epic, game 7, extra innings, rain-delayed fashion! If you live in Chicago like I do, you know that all things leading up to this moment revolved around the Cubbies and their chance to break over 100 years of losing in baseball for the city of Chicago. Except that wasn’t true – but that’s how it was largely being reported.
You see, Chicago is one of 4 cities in the country with more than 1 MLB franchise, the Chicago White Sox being the other, and they won the World Series as recently as 2005 when they beat my home team, the Houston Astros. Nobody seemed to remember that though, including the media. Now that the Cubs have actually won, the victory is being hailed as a much needed “morale booster” for a city in despair, and some have even gone as far to suggest that an extra star be added to the official Chicago flag to permenantly solidify the Cubs’ win as a significant moment in Chicago history. Because the Cubs are the official baseball team of Chicago.
Well, I have my theory. It begins with Chicago’s long history of Redlining – the practice of arbitrarily denying or limiting financial services to specific neighborhoods, generally because its residents are people of color or are poor. Redlining is how Chicago became the most racially segregated metropolis in the U.S., where majority of its people of color reside on the south and west sides of Chicago, and majority of its white residents – north.
But what does this have to do with the baseball teams? Well, the home of the Chicago Cubs, or Wrigleyville as it’s affectionately known, is north. And the home of the Chicago White Sox is south.
Wrigleyville is within the Lakeview neighborhood which is 79% white, 7% Hispanic, 4% black, and 7% Asian; whereas Bridgeport, the neighborhood where the White Sox Stadium is located is 34% white, 27% Hispanic, 2% black, and 34% Asian (China Town is within Bridgeport). If you account for the South Side of Chicago as a whole, the racial makeup becomes much more disparate with 76% or residents being black, 20% Hispanic, and only 3% white with Asians being less than 1% of the south side population.
The fan base of both baseball teams generally follows that of its most proximal community, or at least that’s what I have observed in my 10 years living here, and there have been maps drawn based on polling to support this (see below). But even still this isn’t enough to explain why the Chicago Cubs are being hailed as Chicago’s team while the White Sox are reduced to a mere afterthought in the headlines. You’d have to actually know more about what it means to live on a certain side of town in Chicago as far as movement and stigmatization are concerned.
Simply put, people of color (namely blacks) who live south of 47th street rarely go north of Roosevelt St, and people who live north of Roosevelt street (namely whites), don’t go much further south than 35th street where the White Sox Stadium is the main landmark. The south side has been associated with poverty, and gang violence, and the African Americans, while the north side of the city is associated with tourism, upscale living, affluence and white people. So by default, the respective baseball teams take on these same unofficial characteristics of the poles of the city for which they inhabit.
So if you were in marketing and wanted to paint the best picture for your city as one of its 2 teams makes it to the MLB World Series, which team would you pick? Probably not the one on THAT side of town with THOSE fans. While the Cubs win appears to be a morale booster for the entire city of Chicago from the outside looking in, the reality is while Wrigley Field was the epicenter of the baseball universe, 17 people were being killed on the other side of town during those World Series home games, making it the deadliest weekend in Chicago in 2016. I don’t expect that reality to change just because the Cubs are World Champions now.
But YAY TEAM!