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Dave Reardon

Evening QB

By Dave Reardon

Monday, June 19, 2000

White Sox blow
lid off Windy City

YOU'LL be walking around Ala Moana, and you'll see it on the head of a sunburned, overweight, middle-aged tourist. Or maybe it will cover a local kid's flat top, backward of course.

Any day now, you will see your first Chicago White Sox cap in a long time.

And you will see many more, as long as the White Sox -- who had won seven consecutive games going into today -- remain in first place.

That's how it works whenever a big league baseball team that used to be nothing shocks the world by climbing to the top. Right around the middle of June, lots of fans of that team come out of the closet, and so do the caps.

The White Sox do have a bit of a loyal following in Hawaii, but it is composed mostly of transplants from the South Side of Chicago, or leftover Bo Jackson fans.

But there's at least one local guy who has been a fan of the White Sox for 30 years.

Maybe that's because he played for them.

In 1970, John Matias started the season at first base for the White Sox. The current Damien coach and Farrington graduate, who once hit four homers in a state tournament game, made it to the bigs at age 25.

His best game was when he went 3-for-4 with a homer off Mel Stottlemyre at Yankee Stadium. He also had two assists from the outfield that day.

Unfortunately, there weren't many others like that. Matias batted .188 in 117 at-bats, and never returned to the majors after 1970.

At the time, Matias expressed his unhappiness over a lack of playing time. But he got over it, and remained a White Sox loyalist over the years, even though there's been little to cheer about.

"They gave me a chance to play. It was great just being on the same field with great players like Luis Aparicio," Matias said. "(Late owner) Bill Veeck really made you feel like part of a family."

Matias said it's fitting that the White Sox are winning despite a lack of big-name players, since they are Chicago's blue-collar team.

"What's happening now is very exciting. The fans really deserve to have a team like that now," he said. "At old Comiskey Park, they were real close to the field. But they were mellow fans.

"That park was a tough place to hit. The wind would blow straight in from center field."

MAYBE if the wind blew out, the White Sox, like the Cubs, would be known for somebody like Sammy Sosa hitting an ungodly number of homers.

Instead, the franchise "highlights" include throwing a World Series, a stadium with an exploding scoreboard, hosting Disco Demolition Night, playing in shorts, and a 57-year-old pinch hitter (Minnie Minoso in 1980).

So how did the Cubs become the definition of loser-chic, when the White Sox were doing it with more style just a few elevated train stops down the line?

The Cubs have more fans nationwide because they turned mediocrity into an affectation -- an I'm-cool-because-I-like-a-lousy-team badge.

Over the decades, the White Sox have been just as consistently lousy. But they made it a lot more fun.

As a baseball fan who spent springs and summers in Chicago in the '70s and the '80s, I can testify to that. Ferris Bueller should've been at a Sox game.

Hopefully, we'll see lots of White Sox caps in October. And by then, maybe we'll be able to name more than 10 of their players without peeking at the box score.

Dave Reardon, who covered sports in Hawaii from 1977 to 1998,
moved to the the Gainesville Sun, then returned to
the Star-Bulletin in Jan. 2000.

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