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|| News Item: Posted 2005-09-06

A View from the Sout Side of Chicagga
By Jonathan Daniel, Getty Images/Sport

Photo by Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images

Photo by Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images

Fans of the Chicago White Sox hold up a sign featuring character Alfred E. Newman during a game against the New York Yankees on August 20, 2005 at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois.
A couple of years ago, I wrote on this site about the first visit to Wrigley Field since the 1938 World Series by the hated New York Yankees, to take on the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs won the series 2 games to 1.

By now you all know what happened that year. The Cubs, up 3 games to 1 against the Florida Marlins in the N.L. Championship series, were five outs away from the World Series in game seven. Then fate, goats, karma, Bartman, and an Alex Gonzalez foof of a ground ball, conspired to send the team and the fans to Cubbie hell. And I had to suffer the indignity of shooting the victorious Marlins locker room. To no one's consolation in Chicago, the Fish went on to win the World Series. I went home that night too fried and too pissed to join the gang for late night drinks.

The Cubs have been in a rat bag at the bottom of the Chicago River, along with a couple of ballot boxes from the last mayoral election, ever since.

The baseball story this year in Chicago has come from "da Sout side of Chicagga" where the White Sox have held baseball's best record for most of the season. One-time Sox player and now manager Ozzie Guillen has supposedly gotten his team playing a "National League" style of small ball with the help of some new additions.

Scott Podsednik, stolen from the Milwaukee Brewers in a trade, and Tadahito Iguchi, a Japanese second baseman that Sox General Manager Kenny Williams signed without ever seeing the guy play live, have helped turn the team into a legitimate contender for the A.L. title.

Small ball, indeed. They still win games hitting home runs. So who cares HOW they win? They win. And they've been fun to watch all season.

I'm one of those rare Chicago baseball fans. Indeed, most baseball fans and media types in town claim people like me can't possibly exist. We like baseball and we like BOTH teams.

To be frank, my allegiance to both teams stems from my free-lance days. I never cared which team actually won, as long as one of them got into the playoffs. Yes, as it has been well documented, I'm a bandwagon jumping mo-you-know-whater. More games at home meant more work for me AND I could sleep in my own bed without travel hassles.

I just wanted a Chicago team to win and keep me out of airports and hellholes like St. Louis, Cleveland, Atlanta and Minneapolis, where I have been going to shoot playoffs for years.

OK...I suddenly feel bad. Hellhole is way too strong for Minneapolis. I actually like it up there, when it's not winter, which is nine months out of the year. St. Louis, on the other hand...sorry Cardinal a hands down, redbird, fried ravioli, gateway-to-nowhere, dead-peoples-hair-under-glass Midwest hellhole.

Photo by Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images

Photo by Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images

A fan of the Chicago White Sox wears a shirt disparaging the Chicago Cubs during a game on June 26, 2004 at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois.
For me, the 2005 baseball season at Wrigley has, once again, been one of "Love the House...Hate the Tenants." At Sox Park, for me the season has been laughing every single time the sound guy plays that wacky bite of the late Phil Hartman whenever an opposing pitcher or player delays the game.


So this year, I'm counting on the Pale Hose to keep me working baseball playoffs in my own town, sleeping in my own bed. For the first round anyway.

Now, make no mistake, baseball passions do run strong in Chicago. Cub fans can pretty much take or leave the Sox fans and their ballpark. They're just too busy calling their friends on their cell phones to tell them where they're sitting at Wrigley Field and simply don't have the time or energy to care about the White Sox or their fans.

White Sox fans, on the other hand, just HATE Cub fans and their cute little ivy covered ballyard. They hate their cell phones (even though their own ballpark is now named after a cell phone company); they hate their clothes; they hate their women; they hate their beer; they hate the lack of parking; they hate Dusty's stupid little kid; they hate the stupid f-in' goat...and they REALLY hate the all of the attention the Cubs always seem to get from all facets of the media, every year.

But there are Cub fans with stronger passions, like my buddy Mike Shayotovich, a Getty employee now living in New York, who's the biggest Cub fan I think I've ever met.

"The Cubs stink," I e-mailed him recently. "How about if I send you a Sox hat?"

"Send two," he replied. "One to (crap) in and one to cover it up."

Ey, tanks, Mike...sorry I mentioned it.

Things have looked great for the Sox most of the year. One big disappointment for me came when the "Big Hurt" Frank Thomas (or the "Big Skirt" as the Cubs fans like to call him) returned from a broken ankle in late June and began whacking the ball like we all knew he could. Then he broke the ankle again and was lost for the remainder of the season. Too bad...I think Thomas still had to have been one of the most feared designated hitters in the American League. No worries, however...we were told by Sox management that the Pale Hose still had enough "stick" to carry them through the season.

Unfortunately, Podsednik hurt his groin ('nuff said) and went on the D.L. in August after leading all of baseball in stolen bases this entire season. The Sox faced a tough few weeks on the August schedule with games in New York and Boston, returning to U.S. Cellular Field (say it five times real fast, I DARE YA) to face the Sox-killing Minnesota Twins and the Yankees again.

On August 1, the White Sox had a fifteen game lead in the American League Central Division. By the end of the third week, the lead had slipped to 8 1/2 games.

Oh no, here we go again. This damn town and it's sports teams...what's that flight schedule to St. Louis look like for early October anyway? How many "I'm sorry" drinks am I going to have to buy down there?

By the time the Sox had lost their seventh straight game, to the Yankees, on Saturday August 20th, the entire city glowed red at night from so many Sox fans pushing...the Panic Button.

Photo by Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images

Photo by Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images

Ron Vesely chimps from the team-photographer-only photo position know as "The Weasel Seat" during a game between the Chicago White Sox and the Chicago Cubs on June 26, 2005 at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois.
White Sox team photographer Ron "Formally Ten Aspirins" Vesely showed up in the photo transmit room after the Saturday game in quite a mood. As he walked in, we noticed he had one foot planted firmly on the Panic Button, the other foot dangling over a retaining wall at Lake Michigan with rocks in his pockets, ready to off himself.

Most of you who know Ves, and I've known him 20 or so years, understand that he's a bit wound up, just naturally. ALL THE TIME. "Tighter than a snare drum," as we used to say in high school band. This season, the poor guy's been on edge constantly.

His demeanor wasn't helped when, a few years ago, he married into a family of...yipes...CUB fans. His brother-in-law Artie, a devoted Cub fan, has been known to show up at Sox Park with an actual White Sox hat on since the marriage. But we know he spends half the time watching the game and the other half watching the scoreboard to see what his beloved "Boys in Blue" are doing, then bitching about them as they lose to the Reds yet again.

In Chicago, Ves has been known through the years as "The Photo Police" or the "Photo Cop," a reputation richly deserved. If you're a cheating, lying, rule-breaking sports photographer at any ballpark where Ves is working, YOU'RE BUSTED. And he has a memory like an elephant for any and all offenders. The guy shudda been a D.A.

Things didn't bode well for the Sox on Sunday August 21st. The Sox batters spent the entire week whiffing like little leaguers. "We stink at the plate," Guillen said to the media after the game on Saturday. To go with a lack of hitting, pitcher Orlando Hernandez, a former Yankee, committed not one but TWO errors...for the first time in six seasons. And, like a true homer, I gotta say neither one was his fault. He was robbed by horsebleep umpiring and teammates who couldn't figure out who was supposed to cover second base.

Ozzie didn't have to tell those of us who suffered through a 16-inning game against the Twins that week, that the Sox couldn't hit a bull in the ass with a sack of rice. They had ample opportunities to win the game until the Twins finally had had enough and scored five runs in the top of the 16th inning.

I HATE games where they play the seventh inning stretch TWICE. At least there was no traffic on my way home at 1:30a.m.

To top it all off, on Sunday old "Double Ugly," Randy Johnson, was taking the hill for the Yankems in the final game of the series.

Great. Just great. "Where's the Panic Button, honey?" Sox fans were saying as they entered the ballyard. "I KNOW I left the house with it this morning!"

Sunday in Chicagga was the day we had all been waiting weeks for. The brutal heat we've had all summer was breaking and the day was perfect. But with the Yankems up 1-0 it looked like another Panic Button pusher was on the horizon.

Then, BOOM-SHOC-A-LOCKA! The Sox bats woke up, Big Time.

Photo by Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images

Photo by Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images

Paul Konerko of the Chicago White Sox hits one of four White Sox home runs against Randy Johnson of the New York Yankees in the fourth inning on August 21, 2005 at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois.
Iguchi, Aaron Rowand and Paul Konerko hit back-to-back-to-back home runs in the fourth inning off old Double Ugly. The back-up catcher, Chris Widger, a baseball reject out of the game last season, hit a three run shot on a pitch that was so high and out of the strike zone that I swear the catcher would have missed it if Widger hadn't have swung. Suddenly it was 6-1 and the crowd was buzzing.

I trekked down to the crowded third base photo basket from the upper reaches of the park in the ninth inning with the hopes of shooting any Sox celebration.

"Feeling better now?" I said to Vesely.

"No," he responded sternly. "Long way to go."

"Can't you at least enjoy the moment?" I said.

"No," he said again, looking at me even more sternly.

"My advice to you, Mo" I smiled, "see a shrink and get some Prozac."

Then, just as White Sox outfielders Aaron Rowand and Brian Anderson began celebrating as they ran off the field, a local Chicago TV cameraman and reporter walked onto the field right in front of us, blocking every still photographer's shots.

Whew boy, the Chicago-style cussing and yelling really got going. Several Japanese photographers in the basket hit the dirt as the language flew. Ves and I were livid. We shot, we yelled, we shot. Then we yelled some more in case someone in the photo basket didn't friggin' hear us the first couple of times.

We got nuttin'. No shots. Blocked all to be damned.

Ves ran off down the tunnel with AP stringer Brian Kersey and me following.

"Hey PHOTO COP!!!," we yelled.

"What!!!???" he yelled back from the top of the stairs.

"Get your friggin' BADGE OUT," we yelled in unison. "That's BS!!"

"Come On Barney Fife," I chirped..."get the f-in' bullet outta your shirt pocket, will ya?"

"That's some language outta you, Gitty" the security guard said as we hit the exit.

"Oh, shut up," was my pathetic retort.

"The other guard writes my name down as Brain," said Kersey, trying to sympathize with my lack of comedic improvisation at the moment.

Shortly thereafter, The Photo Cop showed up back in the transmit room. Calmly, he said, "Just so you know, I told my boss about that TV crew...that won't happen again."

Photo by Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images

Photo by Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images

Tadahito Iguchi of the Chicago White Sox breaks his bat while trying to get a hit in a 16 inning game against the Minnesota Twins on August 16, 2005 at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois.
My money is on Ves that it won't, either.

Now here's a lesson, all you MLB team photographers...take a page out of Vesely's book and get that bullet in your front pocket NOW. That means you too, Steve "Mr. Cub" Green. We've been blocked by, and screamed at, more TV guys at Wrigley Field than anywhere else in sports. Well, except maybe on the sidelines at Notre Dame. I WILL give Steve some credit, however. A priest at Wrigley Field has never blocked me from taking a shot.

Now, the White Sox have a chance to run away with the Division. As of this writing, they have still had 14 games to go against Detroit and Kansas City. Aahhh...even without Gates or Arthur Bryant's Bar-B-Q, Kansas City never looked so good.

Of course, sports fans, I know what you're thinking. Its still August. I still live in Chicago, fer cryin' out loud. White Sox players THREW the 1919 World Series. We're all still a bunch of deep-dish pizza eatin' Italian Beef chokin' Blue State-how-bout-dem-85-Bears chumps with an entire eastern border of nuttin' but friggin' WATER with dead mobster's bodies floatin' around in it...and...we're stuck between Wisconsin and Indiana.

It's way too early to push the Panic Button and too late to say I'm sorry to the folks in St. Louis.

No less a baseball scholar than Rich Pilling, head of MLB Photos, has said to me that the Pale Hose don't have a chance. "No playoff experience," he said to me in an e-mail. His beloved Yankees are a lock, or so he thinks. Pilling and Vesely are best friends but I look for all of that to come crashing down by October 4th. There will be no golfing in funny pants together for those two until long after the World Series.

On the Monday after the Yankees series, the Chicago Tribune ran a story written by one of my absolute favorite baseball writers, Dave Van Dyck. The headline read "Pushing Chicago's Button" and it featured artwork showing a long arm with a finger resting on a king-sized Panic Button with the White Sox logo on it. I'd like to quote from the article at the risk of someone in "the Tower" coming down on me, which they probably will after the "rat bag" comment.

Under the sub-head "Five Reasons NOT to panic: The Cubs. The supposedly cursed North Side team has ghosts, goats and gobbleygook keeping it from winning. South Siders don't believe in any of that garbage, meaning they have no psychological panic hang-ups."

Dave, leave the psychological stuff to professionals like my wife. The fans are just as nuts on the South Side as the North Side. Perhaps for different reasons, but JUST AS NUTS.

Under the sub-head "Five Reasons TO panic: The Cubs. One of the most memorable collapses of all time came in 1969, when the upstart Mets overcame an eight-game deficit after 121 games to become part of Cubs infamy. Sunday was the Sox 121st game. It has happened before."

Jeez, tanks, Dave. The wife could use some new patients. From either side of town. Maybe even some patients with completely repressed memories that only reach the surface after some stinkin' sports writer reminds us about them.

One thing Van Dyck didn't mention. He didn't talk about the Giant Panic Button that looms above the city of Chicago, fat as hell, like a Goodyear blimp the size of New Jersey.

The Panic Button hovers over the city, waiting to explode in "the humanity of it all."

That Panic Button doesn't know a Cub fan from Sox fan. It doesn't know a Bears fan from a Fire fan. It's leaked so much Panic Button goo into the eyes of Bulls and Hawks fans the last six years that it's a wonder they can still find the United Center.

Photo by Jonathan Daniel

Photo by Jonathan Daniel

This photo, taken in July of 1991, shows that in their playing days for the White Sox, third base coach Joey Cora (R) and Manager Ozzie Guillen had a "special" relationship.
With the exception of ONE Bears season, in 1985...20 YEARS AGO...and the Michael Jordan years, the ONLY thing Chicago sports fans know about is the damn Panic Button. (In '85, the 13-0 Bears went to Miami for a Monday night game and by 10pm central time an ENTIRE CITY had LEAP onto the friggin' PANIC BUTTON. The ones who couldn't fit onto the Button were sent screaming to Lake Michigan where they filled their pockets with rocks and dangled themselves over the retaining wall, ready to off themselves.)

After years of living here, there's one thing about Chicagga sports I understand.

The fans here just know how to push the Panic Button. They know how to push it too soon, too late and how to push it just at the right time. In fact, ANYTIME is the right time. We Chicago sports fans have PhDs in Panic Button pushing. It's what we know; it's who and what we are. We're a city of neurotic sports misfits just waiting, hoping, need I say begging, for some intensive therapy.

My wife should be so booked with Chicago sports fan losers that she hasn't got time to breathe. Then again, she has ME to listen to. So why isn't she booked all day and all night? Week after week?

One answer is the 24-hour availability of sports talk radio. It's become an outlet for the rants, raves and repressed sports memories of this cities' fans. It's where the sport nut jobs have free reign to say whatever they feel, at every moment of every day...without coherent thought, complete sentences, proper grammar or liquor getting in their way.

If waiting for the other shoe to drop is what we do best in this city as sports fans, fine. In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy the 2005 Chicago White Sox as long as I can.

Hopefully, we Chicago Sports Shooters won't have to see the inevitable meltdown of the Photo Cop until the Sox win the World Series guessed it...the St. Louis Cardinals. Then, it will be a meltdown of JOY.

St. Louis...time to push the Panic Button. The Cubs recently beat you 3 out of 4. THE CUBS!!! Bring your shrinks and your Prozac and your Panic Buttons. Something tells me you still haven't worked out the last World Series in therapy yet.

Those of us in Chicago hate to pile on...but...we've got baseball issues. 1906, 1919, 1938, 1945, 1959, 1969, 1984, 1989, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003...and all the years in between.

Hey Chicagga! Dump the Panic Buttons! COOOMMMEEE AAAWWWNNN!

(Jonathan Daniel is a sports staff photographer for Getty Images based in Chicago.)

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