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Open Letter

Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf
Guaranteed Rate Field
35th and Shields
Chicago, IL

Dear Chairman Reinsdorf:

So far this season your decisions and patience clearly are paying dividends as the White Sox are a vastly improved team. No doubt you feel a sense of accomplishment and optimism for the first time since trading away your star players for a group of prospects like Yoan Moncada, Eloy Jimenez, Lucas Giolito and many others. You took risks that are beginning to bear fruit for years to come.

At Wrigley Field last Tuesday night Jimenez, who most assuredly is destined for stardom, launched his ninth-inning home run to beat the Cubs in what will occupy a prominent place in White Sox history for years to come. Being there to feel the exhilaration and excitement was a unique experience. We all know the depths to which the crosstown Cubs sunk before righting their ship through a rebuilding process much like the Sox are presently enduring.

However, aside from wins and losses and real and potential championships, the comparison of the two sides of town are as different as oatmeal and huevos rancheros. I sincerely hope that a few years from now, the differences will remain as visible as they are now.

Going to a White Sox game today means that we see a grand mix of people of different backgrounds, races, ethnicities and histories which reflect our city's composition. Families can still afford a Sunday afternoon at your ballpark. Many bring infants and toddlers to the games. You're almost as likely to sit next to someone speaking Spanish as English, and the team on the field reflects the same diversity. You serve a variety of concessions reflecting this mix: barbecue, tacos, pierogis, Cuban sandwiches, and much more.

White Sox Park, or whatever you call it, remains a place where people from many economic backgrounds exercise a ritual that's existed for more than 120 years. You don't choose the person sitting next to you, and more often than not, the man, woman, or child comes from a background quite different than your own.

This may be true on the North Side as well, but not to the degree that it occurs when the Sox play at home.

The neighborhoods of Bridgeport, Pilsen, Back of the Yards, Bronzeville, and Chinatown all are located close to the park while suburban people from Tinley, Orland, and Bedford Parks drive in along with the faithful from towns like Lemont, Lisle, and Northwest Indiana. I'm sure your marketing department is well aware of the zip codes of every fan who enters the ballpark.

The White Sox have a rich history since the Days of Comiskey when workers could exit their jobs at the Union Stockyards and still catch a night game at the old Grand Dame of the South Side. I'll bet you recall the Sox Supporters, the fans in the left field seats with their banner hanging over the wall until the PA announcer reminded them, "Will the fans in left field please remove your banner from the wall."

Maybe we were chagrined at the time, but that's all in the past. We might have been annoyed when Andy the Clown became persona non grata when you entered the scene almost 40 years ago. A clown has as much chance of leading cheers today as Ronnie Woo has of sipping a beer at the 1914 Club at Wrigley. Not that we have a choice, but we can certainly live with that.

What would be difficult to digest would be an ignorance and betrayal of the past. Attending last Tuesday's thriller on the North Side highlighted how that works. Aside from the highest ticket prices in major league baseball - an average of more than $58 per admission - there are sections with padded seats for the club members who are outfitted with wrist bands to set them off from the rest of the crowd. Please, no vendors in these sections. All food and beverage have been prepaid. Sit next to a tradesman or laborer? Not likely.

And the fans formerly known as the Bleacher Bums now pay $48 to pass through the turnstiles. If those are bums out there, the economy is doing a lot better than previously thought.

You come from a modest background, growing up in Brooklyn, so you know what we're talking about.

Of course, the rationale is that higher prices are required to put a contending team on the field year after year. But tell that to the people in Tampa-St. Pete who stay away in droves even though tickets are far less than half of what the Cubs charge. Last we looked the Rays were having a pretty good season. Same with the Oakland A's who, despite a slim payroll and low attendance, have qualified for the post-season nine times this century. Only five teams have been there more often.

Mr. Chairman, you and your people have done a masterful job of cutting payroll - your tab is 25th out of the 30 teams - the past few seasons so that your operating income is topped by only five other franchises. Despite playing second fiddle to the Cubs and drawing about 21,000 spectators a game, you've amassed a tidy trove. In addition, you and your group bought the Sox for $20 million, and today you could sell for as much as $1.6 billion. Of course, this is merely a number on a piece of paper, but it's impressive.

So once your team becomes a legitimate contender, what can we expect? The announcement last week that you will extend the protective netting from foul pole to foul pole is safe, reasonable and fan-friendly. Can we expect similar moves once the team is fighting for a championship?

We understand ticket prices will rise although we ask that you don't price the middle-class fans right out of your stadium. A beer already costs $10 - and you're selling much less than years ago - even though Wrigley has taken over as the city's largest beer garden. We don't anticipate your bolting from NBC Sports Chicago now that the Cubs will depart in favor of their own network. We're going to pay more for cable because of it whether we watch the Cubs or not.

My guess is that Sox fans won't crave a fancy food and beverage club or two to satisfy corporate tastes and to pad your bottom line. You'll be tempted to sell $200 tickets, but we trust you'll use restraint. You have spent wisely, and your coffers reflect this. We suspect that you clearly comprehend that you have a core of fans who are sticking with this team just as they have for generations.

It boils down to this, Mr. Chairman: Don't be the Cubs.

Respectfully,
Roger Wallenstein
The White Sox Report
The Beachwood Reporter

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Former Bill Veeck bar buddy Roger Wallenstein is our White Sox correspondent. He welcomes your comments.

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