You can always count on the Crosstown Cup to draw viewers in Chicago.
No matter what side you’re on (disclosure: yours truly is a fan of the team in black), we can all agree: the real winners are the game of baseball and television in general.
After two daytime games at Wrigley Field, Wednesday night’s contest between the Chicago Cubs and the Chicago White Sox shifted to primetime at Guaranteed Rate Field on the South Side. The series has added juice this year as the Cubs are now defending World Series champions – winning the title for the first time in 108 years. Meanwhile, the White Sox – the 2005 World Series Champions,have embarked on a full-scale rebuild (there’s that word again.)
According to Nielsen via the Chicago Tribune, the nearly four-hour game earned a combined 10.4 rating over three channels, easily beating everything in primetime. Breaking it down, Cubs rightsholder WLS-TV finished with the largest share of viewers with a 6.5 household rating.
The White Sox telecast on CSN Chicago averaged a 2.4 Nielsen rating, their highest of the season. As the rebuild progresses (and the losses pile up), ratings for White Sox baseball has been abysmal so far this season, averaging a 0.8 rating at the All-Star break.
Finally, ESPN broadcast the game nationally with a 1.5 rating locally, and did a respectable 0.6 national rating, on par with recent Wednesday Night Baseball games. White Sox broadcaster Jason Benetti (who’ll assume full-time duties after Ken “Hawk” Harrelson retires in 2019,) handled play-by-play with former Cubs stars David Ross and Rick Sutcliffe in a fun and enjoyable telecast.
The Cubs took three out of four in the Crosstown Cup. The victory by the White Sox Monday was their only one in the last thirteen.
Numbers for the first two games, and Thursday night ratings results, were not available at press time. Cubs and White Sox broadcasts alternated between CSN and either WLS (for the Cubs) or WGN (for the White Sox.)
Despite the perceived animosity between the two clubs, the series has managed to avoid the bad blood experienced during the Los Angeles Dodgers-Anaheim Angels Freeway series last month, which saw both teams in a bench-clearing incident during the series and videos of fans of both teams fighting in Dodger Stadium and Angel Stadium – quite notable in laid-back Southern California.
But that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been controversy. During Tuesday’s game, Cubs pitcher John Lackey hit four White Sox batters while afterward, one White Sox player hit a Cub player in retaliation, drawing a warning from umpires toward both benches. During the telecast on WGN, Harrelson said: “That’s enough of that B.S. Let’s see which one of your boys is going to get drilled…or maybe you.”.
And speaking to the media Wednesday, Hawk did not back down: “I was hoping that they would drill his ass big time because he’s an idiot. At that point, the game was not the issue. It was Lackey. He’s in the pennant race. This is a big-boy game. There’s no bullshit here. He’s putting [Kris] Bryant and [Anthony] Rizzo in jeopardy.”
Hawk added: “He’s full of shit, and you can print that,” Harrelson said. “He’s full of it. He always has been.”
In an era where even the most minor NBA news is a big deal to the national sports media, It’s stuff like this that makes the Crosstown Cup always entertaining. And you can put THAT on the board.