Chicago rivalry at new level with BP Cup
White Sox, Cubs to duke it out for trophy in Interleague series
CHICAGO -- The six Interleague games played between the White Sox and Cubs already have the yearly feel of a regular-season championship due to the crazy passion shown by the fans on each side of town.
Now, there will be an official structure to one of baseball's greatest rivalries, with a trophy awarded to the winning side.
During a news conference at Millennium Park in downtown Chicago on Monday, it was announced that the previous Crosstown Classic now will be known as the BP Crosstown Cup. Under these new rules, the team with the most wins in the yearly series will be formally awarded the rivalry's namesake trophy. If the annual series is split 3-3, the BP Crosstown Cup will be awarded to the winner of the series' last game.
A formal presentation will take place to award the trophy following the final game between the two at U.S. Cellular Field on June 27. Executive chairman Tom Ricketts, president Crane Kenney, manager Lou Piniella, outfielder Marlon Byrd and pitcher Randy Wells represented the Cubs on Monday, while White Sox vice president and chief marketing officer Brooks Boyer, catcher A.J. Pierzynski and second baseman Gordon Beckham were there for the White Sox.
Both sides began the Cup competition with winning predictions.
"Marlon and Randy will do everything they can to ensure the Cubs win this trophy this first year and please Cubs fans all over country," Piniella said.
"Sorry, Lou. We'll get the cup and hopefully the Blackhawks bring another one home," countered Pierzynski, during his brief remarks at the podium. "This will be great for the fans and the city. I can't wait."
According to Boyer, this BP Crosstown Cup literally came together one month ago and represents a rare partnership between Chicago's two competing Major League franchises. BP was looking to make a significant splash with sports in Chicago and found the right fit through these six games, beginning with three at Wrigley Field from June 11-13.
"A lot of times, you sponsor the Cubs and miss a significant segment of the market with White Sox fans, and vice versa," Boyer said. "These two series are when people are most adamant about their fanhood and this was a great way to tie right into it.
"When you start listing great rivalries in sports, certainly this one is in there. The passion of the Chicago fans mean so much, it only made sense to have something. Hopefully, it's something recognized by all Chicagoans."
BP will remain a presenting sponsor of the Crosstown Cup through 2012. For the players, an official prize wasn't needed to underscore the importance of these six games. As Pierzynski mentioned, some fans would view a 6-156 record as a success for the White Sox if those six victories came over the Cubs.
"Those six games are really fun. There's a different electricity in the air when you go to play the Cubs for six games," Pierzynski said. "The whole city is buzzing and talking about it and everywhere you go during that time, someone is coming up to you and saying they hope you win or they hope you lose."
"Our ballparks are full, fans have a lot of fun -- no matter what team wins -- and that's what it's all about," Piniella said. "It's exciting for the city, exciting for the fans and good for baseball. That's really the best way to describe it. People get into it."
Clearly, the meaning of the rivalry changed with the White Sox winning the World Series in 2005 and the two teams reaching the playoffs a combined five times since '03. No longer is having a good regular season an acceptable benchmark of success with Chicago baseball.
But to say the intensity of these games has been reduced clearly wouldn't be played out by witnessing just one of these games in person. Just ask Pierzynski, who was involved in one of the more notable moments in this rivalry from May 20, 2006, when then Cubs catcher Michael Barrett punched him after a collision at home plate, leading to a bench-clearing fracas.
Entering 2010 competition, the White Sox hold a slim 37-35 series edge and would have won the Cup if it was in existence last year by taking that season series, 4-2. Both sides hope bigger celebrations are ahead, but want to start by bringing this trophy home.
"[Heck], yeah. I want that thing," said Wells of winning the Cup. "Both teams are going to want to take a picture and send it across the clubhouse to rub it in."
"I've been part of this classic now for three years, so I know what it means to the city of Chicago and to the great sports fans," Piniella said. "Obviously, my focus is to win games on the field, but it's going to be hard not thinking about winning this trophy for the first time. We know the fans will be excited about it."
"We wish the White Sox well and hope they have a great season," Ricketts said. "We hope sometime soon we are not playing six games and instead playing the best of seven for a different kind of cup."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.