Acting Frisky At Comiskey

The Chicago Cubs used to be the team of the trendy. Celebrities, an ex-president included, did play by play. Bryant Gumbel and George Will were avid fans. Even the ballpark was perfect: with its ivy-draped brick, it had a certain collegiate panache. But no longer. The hot ticket in Chicago this season isn't the fifth-place Cubs, it's the White--hot Sox. That's right, the White Sox--the humble team from the South Side, the team that once took the field in shorts, for God's sake--last week grabbed the lead in the American League West.

Since approximately the Pleistocene Epoch, Chicagoans have been split: North Siders favor the Cubs, South Siders the Sox. But the rift is about more than just turf. It's also about attitude. White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf explains, "The North Siders always tended to look down on South Siders." The White Sox were shots-andbeers. The Cubs were martinis, very dry. Says Reinsdorf, "Part of being a White Sox fan is you hate the Cubs." The fact that for the last few years the Cubs have been contenders while the Sox have been little more than also-rans hasn't eased the tension.

Experts predicted more of the same for this season. But the White Sox had quietly developed talent in their minor-league system, giving manager Jeff Torborg a strong combination of defense, speed and youth. With an average age of 26.7, the Sox are the youngest team in the majors. But hurlers like Eric King, 26, and Scott Radinsky, 22, have been veteran-cool, helping the staff compile the league's lowest ERA in the majors. Now they're unnerving even the world champion Oakland A's. After losing three in a row to the White Sox in a recent series, the A's muttered and sputtered about the upstart Sox. Normally calm A's ace Dave Stewart called them "a secondrate club."

Maybe he was thinking of the Windy City's other team. Not even stellar seasons by Ryne Sandberg and Andre Dawson have been able to spark the injury-racked Cubs. Do the Cubs still have a chance? Says Harry Caray, the team's legendary broadcaster, "This year? No, I really don't think so." Even the Cubs Diehard Fan Club seems to be on a respirator. The group's phone has been disconnected, and a Cubs staffer sheepishly explains, "I think they're in a state of limbo."

Already Chicago's allegiances are changing. "Winning is fashionable," says White Sox exec Terry Savarise. Sportmart, a local retailer, says it normally sells twice as much Cubs garb as White Sox; this year the two teams are neck and neck. The Sox's TV ratings have nearly tripled. Next year the Sox will play in a stunning new Comiskey Park. (The club will help ring out the old by playing a "Turn Back the Clock" game next week in period uniforms, shutting down the DiamondVision and PA.) But if young trendies are thinking about jumping on the bandwagon, they might want to consider the banner recently spotted in Comiskey. It read: YUPPIE SCUM GO BACK TO WRIGLEY.