Crosstown series heats up in Chicago

Cubs, Sox hot entering series

CHICAGO -- Ernie Banks can't remember the last time he fielded this many ticket requests.

The Hall of Famer said he'd been asked for 50 tickets per game for this weekend's crosstown series -- and that was as of Wednesday night. Even if you're Mr. Cub, it's tough to get into the game.

The Cubs and White Sox meet for the first of two Interleague sets beginning at Wrigley Field on Friday. With both teams on the fast track to the playoffs, this might be the most important Cubs-White Sox series since Interleague Play began in 1997.

"This is the biggest of all that I recall," Banks said at a West Side Rooters meeting at Harry Caray's Tavern. "Both teams leading their divisions, two great leaders in Lou Piniella and Ozzie Guillen and two fine teams. It could be a preview of what's going to happen in October."

Wrigleyville will be jammed. Tickets for the sold-out games are going for $200-$300 per pair on eBay. Those who can't squeeze into Wrigley can drop by one of the esteemed sports bars across the street. In case you were wondering, they will welcome both Cubs and White Sox fans.

"They come in and razz each other, it's all in good fun," Cubby Bear owner George Loukas said.

If you're stopping by to catch NASCAR or the College World Series, tough luck. Just about every TV will be tuned to the ballgame.

"We're setting up like it's the biggest series of the year," Murphy's Bleachers owner James Murphy said. "If the weather can hold up, it's going to be a lot of fun."

The teams are deadlocked at 30-30 after the past 11 years of play. The Cubs took five of six in 2007, including a sweep at U.S. Cellular Field. The White Sox will certainly look to return the favor. How does that make Cubs fans feel?

"It's more important to the Sox fans than it is for us," said Cindy McGuire, who owns one of those sought-after tickets for Friday's game. "Should we lose, I have to hear about it [from co-workers who are White Sox fans], but we worry about the Cardinals. ... They [the White Sox] think they're our rival. They're not. St. Louis is our rival."

Schuyler Woods, 27, caught baseball fever this week on a vacation from Raleigh, N.C.

"For Chicago, it's huge," said Woods, who was born and raised in Chicago. "It's a yearly tradition. It signifies the summer. There's definitely a rivalry there."

Woods already holds a ticket for Friday's game, and he wouldn't mind being back for another Cubs-Sox series about four months from now.

"That's my wildest fantasy," Woods said.

McGuire is a little more cautious.

"Let's not talk about it," she said about a possible Cubs-White Sox World Series. "It makes me nervous."

Nick Zaccardi is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.