US Cellular Field

Why Does Chicago Have Two MLB Teams?

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The storied history of the Chicago Cubs and Wrigley field are well-documented among baseball historians, but the Chicago White Sox also have a rich history that can be traced all the way back to the early 1900’s.

The Cubs were a member of the National League and the White Sox were a member of the American League. When the two leagues merged into what we now know as Major League Baseball, both teams stayed in the city in which they began play.

Chicago is not the only two-team city in the MLB, but it is arguably the most coveted.

The Birth of the Two Franchises

The White Sox were officially born in 1901 when Charles Comiskey and his Chicago White Stockings joined the newly founded American League. Comiskey purchased a minor league team in Sioux City, Iowa that he immediately moved to St. Paul. He then moved that team to the South Side of Chicago in 1900 with plans to join the National League, the only major league baseball organization at the time. Their stint in the National League was short-lived as they joined the American League in 1901.

There is no team in Major League Baseball that has called one city home for longer than the Chicago Cubs. The White Sox’s cross-town rival was one of the original members of the National League. The franchise actually began as an amateur team in 1874 before joining the league in 1876.

The Birth of the Name

Believe it or not, the White Stockings was actually the first name of the team we now know as the Cubs. When star player/manager Adrian “Cap” Anson left the team, the Chicago franchise decided that the team needed to bring in the 1900s with a new moniker. That is when the Cubs were born.

When the White Sox first joined the National League, the team was not allowed any reference to the city of Chicago in their name, so they chose a nickname with which Chicagoans and baseball fans were already familiar: the “White Stockings”. Later, the name would be shortened to its current name, the White Sox.

The Crosstown Classic

Although mostly cordial, the two teams have developed a rivalry over the past several decades.

It officially began in 1906 when the two Chicago based teams met in the World Series. That series was won by the White Sox 4 games to 2. This gave White Sox fans bragging rights for the next 91 years as the two franchises only played against each other in exhibition games until 1997 when interleague play first began.

The South Siders (White Sox) currently own a 63-61 advantage over the North side team (Cubs) in regular season games since ‘97. This website, crosstownclassic.com, shares more information about the history of the rivalry.

The Ballparks

US Cellular Field

Chicago was close to becoming a one-team town in 1988 when White Sox board member Jerry Reinsdorf (also owner of the Chicago Bulls) demanded a brand new ballpark for the team. He threatened to move the team to St. Petersburg, Florida if his terms were not met. In 1989 the city broke ground on the new Comiskey Park which is now known as US Cellular Field.

While the White Sox decided to move into a bigger, better park, the Cubs remained in historic Wrigley Field. Wrigley is the home of the Cubs and is one of the most historic ballparks in the MLB. It first opened in 1914, and the first Cubs game was held in 1916.

Both stadiums hold just upward of 40,000 fans but offer a much different experience to them. The cost of building the newer US Cellular was $167 million compared to the $250,000 it cost to build Wrigley. Many fans would agree the history of Wrigley Field is what makes it a must-see for baseball fans, not its aesthetics. Fans who are looking for a modern game day experience would probably prefer a Sox game at US Cellular.

Other Two-Team Cities

While Chicago is the oldest city with two Major League Baseball teams, there are others that have been able to make it work as well. New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco are the other US cities to which professional teams call home.

New York

The Yankees are one of the most well-known brands in all of the MLB thanks to baseball legends such as Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Joe Dimaggio, and Derek Jeter. The franchise was born in 1903, first known as the New York Highlanders. They were mostly unsuccessful until 1920 when they made the famous trade with the Boston Red Sox to bring Ruth to New York, and the rest is history.

In the 1950s, New York’s Brooklyn Dodgers left the city for Los Angeles, and the New York Giants departed for San Francisco. Desperate to add another team to one of the largest cities in America, Bill Shea, along with Branch Rickey and a few others, proposed a third league called the Continental League that would feature another New York franchise. Long story short, that deal fell through, and in 1962, the New York Mets were created and added to the National League to satisfy Shea’s desire to bring another team to The Big Apple.

The rivalry between the two teams is much more intense than that of the two Chicago franchises. It is known among fans as the Subway Series as both stadiums are just within a subway trip of each other. The two teams met in the World Series recently in 2000 with the Mets winning that series 4 games to 1.

Los Angeles

The defending World Series Champions Dodgers did not call Los Angeles home until the late 1950s. As stated earlier, the team known for welcoming Jackie Robinson into the league originated in Brooklyn. Their migration to the west coast is notable for baseball fans as it was one of the first teams in the Major Leagues to venture west of the Mississippi River.

The Los Angeles Angels have played in Los Angeles ever since their birth in 1961. Changes in ownership throughout the years have brought about changes in the city/state after which the team would be named. They have gone from the Los Angeles Angels to the California Angels to the Anaheim Angels to their most recent name the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

There is not as much of a rivalry between these two franchises as the Dodgers have been by far the more competitive of the two. Perhaps the Angels claim to fame is being the subject of the movie Angels in the Outfield.

San Francisco (Sort of)

As previously referenced, the New York Giants originated in 1883 and moved to San Francisco in 1957. The team flourished with star center fielder WIllie Mays but did not see much success between his years and Barry Bonds’s prime.

The Oakland Athletics, while not exactly located in San Francisco, are considered by many a San Francisco Bay Area team. They are well-traveled having started in Philadelphia in the American League in 1901 before moving to Kansas City for 13 years in the 40s and 50s and finally making their way to Oakland in 1960. The A’s, the subject of the book turned film Moneyball, have experienced a lot more success than the team with whom they share the Bay Area despite being in a much smaller market.

There is no real rivalry between these two organizations although the A’s did sweep the Giants in the 1989 World Series.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who has more fans? Cubs or White Sox?

Most likely the Cubs because of their national audience thanks to their television contract with WGN. According to Bleacher Report’s “Tourist Guide to the Windy City Teams”, White Sox fans are stereotypically more diverse and more focused on the team’s success. Cubs fans tend to treat the Wrigley Field experience more like a party and are more willing to embrace underachieving players who make their fan experience more fun.

Why don’t more cities have two teams?

They just aren’t big enough. The top 3 US cities based on population are New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. They seem to be the only cities big enough to support two teams. San Francisco at 16 is the outlier, but some don’t even consider it a two-team city with the A’s being located in Oakland.

*A lot of the information in this article was found on baseball-almanac.com.*

See Also:
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