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Williams, Hendry abandon usual Sox-Cubs vitriol

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM



MESA, Ariz. — At last glance, they still hadn’t started construction on the Madison Street Border Wall.

Sorry Ken Williams, but the White Sox-Cubs crosstown ­rivalry will have to continue on this ­afternoon without it.

It was in June 2008 that the ­general manager became public enemy No. 1 on the North Side, expressing his feelings about the Sox and Cubs, and the status the two held at the time in New Gotham.

‘‘It is so different,” Williams told the Sun-Times. ‘‘You might as well build a border, a Great Wall of China on Madison, because we are so different. We might as well be in two different cities.

‘‘The unfortunate thing for me is it’s a shame that a certain segment of Chicago refused to enjoy a ­baseball championship being brought to their city [in 2005 by the Sox]. The only thing I can say is, ‘Happy Anniversary.’  ’’

The “Happy Anniversary’’ wishes were in reference to the fact that the Cubs were observing 100 years of futility. And if anyone was shocked by a GM speaking out like that, well, they obviously had no understanding of the Sox’ way of doing business, especially when the subject of that business was the Cubs.

It bordered on hatred.

Not from the players, managers or coaching staffs, but from the offices with the mahogany desks and leather chairs at 35th and Shields.

No one wielded that sword like Williams, once admitting that he couldn’t even watch the Cubs’ 2003 playoff run without feeling sick to his stomach.

That Ken Williams seems to be gone, however.

The “Just win, baby,’’ quivering-lipped GM that pounded tables like judges pound gavels was alive and well the first nine years of his regime.

Now?

Well, he’s in the restaurant business, and a good restaurant owner knows that Cubs fans have to eat and spend money, too.

Everybody loves a winner

His last outspoken interview about the Cubs came in 2010 on a local television station, and when the subject came up, Williams said: “I’m going to shock some people with what I’m going to say here, but if we don’t win the World Series in a given year and the Cubs are in it, I’m pulling for the Cubs to win the World Series. Why am I pulling for the Cubs? Because there are business owners in the town that will prosper, there are security people, there are vendors that work here that work over there who will prosper, everyone, the city wins. .  .  . I can’t ignore that just because the other team wears blue and red or whatever their colors are over there .  .  .  ’’

Don’t expect the rivalry to be stoked from the other side of town, either.

Heck, Cubs general manager Jim Hendry almost worked for the Sox, admitting recently he was offered a job by the franchise in the 1980s while he was still at Creighton. Instead, he took a job with the Marlins.

And before the Sox’ 2005 World Series odyssey, Hendry made a phone call.

“I have a good relationship with [board chairman] Jerry [Reinsdorf], same with Kenny, and it’s no secret that [manager] Ozzie [Guillen] and I have had that relationship for a while and he knows that. I talked to him before the World Series in ’05,’’ Hendry said. “I don’t like [the Sox] six days a year, that’s how I try to look at it.

“I wouldn’t be friends with the guys that I am with over there if it wasn’t legit. So no, I don’t have that [chip], and I don’t know what it was like before I was ever a Cub, maybe when Jerry first had it. Maybe it had to do with the fan base, attendance, maybe that ­perception of what the Cubs were before [with the spending]. I really don’t spend a lot of time on it or try to do something to match them in the headlines. I really don’t.’’

Sad, really.

A thaw in the cold war

Sure, Guillen will throw his “Wrigley rats’’ comments around when the Sox play in the Friendly Confines, but those have become harmless lawn darts.

So who’s left to keep the cold war alive and well? Unfortunately, just the foot soldiers — you, the fan.

That means Sox fans attacking everything Cubbie, and Cubbie fans pretending to ignore the South Side so they feel superior.

Yawn.

And there’s not even a wall to separate the two.



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