Monday, April 28, 2014

Chicago Yankees? Not as ridiculous as you might want to think it sounds!

I rooted for the New York Yankees when I was a kid (back in the era of Billy Martin vs. Reggie Jackson vs. Thurman Munson, all up against George Steinbrenner), and even today can’t count myself amongst the types of fans who claim “Yankee Hatred.”

Back when Bucky wore 'red' socks
I just don't see the point. Apparently, I’m not alone. Not even in Chicago.

THE NEW YORK Times last week gave us a graphic based off a Facebook study that determined how big each major league baseball club’s fan base was geographically.

It’s not the most scientific of methods – people who indicated they “liked” the Facebook page of a particular ball club were counted as “fans.” It's about as scientific as an Internet poll asking people if they're a "Brittney" or a "Christina." But the graphic literally makes it possible to see – by zip code – which team dominates the local baseball fans.

Guess what?

The White Sox dominate on Chicago’s South Side and surrounding suburbs going down to Kankakee County, while the Cubs rule/drool in the northern part of the metro area. And yes, the Cubs have a regional fan base that extends into the rural Midwest, while the White Sox are purely an urban phenomenon.

LOOK AT A national map, and you see a swath of baby blue across northern Illinois, eastern Iowa and northern Indiana. With a big black blotch right in the middle – that blotch being the White Sox fandom that screws up the Cubbie perception that they prevail over all in their path.

'Joey Pep' in baby blue
None of this should be a surprise. It fits in with the commonly-accepted, and century-old, idea of the South Side/North Side split between the ball clubs.

But what caught my attention while going through the zip-code through zip-code breakdown of Chicago was that there were also stray out-of-town teams that get some fandom here.

And in most cases, it really is the hated Yankees.

Half a season in 'other' pinstripes
RIGHT IN THE zip code where U.S. Cellular Field is located, 5 percent of the locals are Yankees fans. Just as in Beverly and in 60601 – the heart of downtown Chicago.

In Hyde Park, that figure of Yankees fans boosts to 8 percent. Although it should be noted that that one South Side neighborhood was the lone Cubs outpost to the south of Roosevelt Road – albeit by only 35 percent for the Cubs and 34 percent for the White Sox.

A native Chicagoan Yankee
Of course, this shouldn’t be a complete shock. Anybody who ever attends a ballgame when the Yankees make their annual trip to Chicago knows there is a contingent of fans root, root, rooting against the home team.

It’s like the Yankees have become the default favorite team – a trend that makes sense in parts of the country that have no other ball club locally to root for.

ALTHOUGH THERE IS one other thing I noticed – it seems to be limited to the South Side, where the Yankees are “Team Number Three” across the region. But to the north, it seems fans who don’t want to root for either black and silver or baby blue root for the Detroit Tigers or the Boston Red Sox.
It ended for Sparky at Comiskey

Go to Lincoln Park or Old Town, and it’s the Red Sox who are the next favorite team – 4 percent. Which might be all the more reason for a Sout’ Side Yankees fan to look down on the tawny set who reside there. While those living around Wrigley Field consider the Tigers their next ball club (4 percent) to root for.

For what it's worth, my favorite ballplayer as a kid was Yankees outfielder Lou Piniella -- even with that notorious temper. But my adult self always thought that his temper and Yankee ways just contradicted that Cubby blue.
NY "Louuuuuus" were Chi "boooos"

With all the on-field gaffes he had to cope with, it's a wonder he survived the experience to go back to New York as a part-time baseball broadcaster.
FOR THE RECORD, Cook County as a whole roots 40 percent for the Cubs, 38 percent for the White Sox and 4 percent for the Yankees, as opposed to 47 percent of Will County residents rooting for the White Sox, 37 percent for the Cubs and 3 percent for the Yankees.

Sound pretty contrarian? Perhaps it is. Although there was another figure I noticed that showed me the real malcontents of Chicago baseball fans. It’s 28 percent.

It is both the number of Wrigley Field-area residents who root for the White Sox AND people surrounding U.S. Cellular Field who root for the Cubs. Talk about people whose houses likely get egged every Halloween.

And those who spark a civil war each summer that only ends when the Chicago Bears pull their annual sports uniting act of the city each autumn.


EDITOR'S NOTE: My own Facebook page doesn't indicate my "liking" of any particular major league ball club. But if anyone ever does a study of defunct professional sports teams, I'll turn up as a fan of the Chicago Sting.

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