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Emma: Buzz Is Back In Crosstown Classic

By Chris Emma--

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The buzz is back to the Crosstown Classic, or so it seems.

Once again, the rivalry between Chicago's two baseball teams felt real Friday. The excitement was genuine, not fabricated by a corporate-sponsored trophy or the Blackhawks showing up with the Stanley Cup.

The Cubs are in Year 1 of being competitive, with their seasons of restocking a previously depleted farm system now done and a young core pushing the team to playoff contention. And while the White Sox are 40-44 and in last place, their season appears to be at a crossroads at Clark and Addison, where success over their North Side neighbors could mean going for it this season rather than selling.

"We realize the position we're in," White Sox skipper Robin Ventura said. "We are the underdog. We kind of embrace it, play that way and not give anything away. Every out counts. All that stuff you hear that might be a cliché, it's the truth. It's where we put ourselves."

With that, it's game on at Wrigley Field.

Game 1 of the half dozen went to the White Sox, who manufactured the contest's only run with a hit by pitch, stolen base, sacrifice bunt and run-scoring sacrifice fly to earn a 1-0 win.

Let's go, Sox! chants swept through the Friendly Confines after the game's final out, a Carlos Sanchez diving snag of Chris Coghlan's would-be single. Sure, the South Siders are in last place and have endured a year of misery, but the rivalry brings bragging rights that matter to both fan bases, no matter the circumstances.

Still, games between Chicago's clubs haven't been a draw before this 2015 season. The Cubs and White Sox were largely unwatchable for completely different reasons the past several seasons, but baseball felt meaningful again Friday.

"It's special," said Cubs pitcher Clayton Richards, formerly of the White Sox. "There are very few places that have this type of situation. It's great for the city when these three games come around and we play them again later. It's really neat, it's unique, it doesn't happen very often and it's a lot of fun to be a part of."

All that's missing from the Crosstown Classic is bad blood -- but don't expect any to come. While the images of Michael Barrett punching A.J. Pierzynski linger through the series like vacant Wrigley Rooftops. Ozzie Guillen isn't here to bash Wrigley Field, and the locals aren't selling T-shirts requesting Guillen to mow their lawns.

The rivalry is in the stands, where Chicago neighbors become enemies for a pair of three-game series.

"I don't hate any of those players over there because they play for the White Sox," Cubs ace Jon Lester said.

Added White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers: "I don't know if there's a hatred, but there's a little more to the game than a regular game."

Indeed, there's a little more to these games. After years of narrative crushed by bad baseball, the Crosstown Classic feels fun again.

Every game matters to the Cubs, who are fighting for that playoff berth they've been building toward. And the White Sox are winners in eight of their last 10 games and could become buyers at the trade deadline with more success.

Heck, two more wins for the White Sox over their rivals changes the tale of their otherwise miserable first half. It sure would be sweet for their fans who left Wrigley Field on Friday with loud cheers.

"These are different games," Ventura said. "You can feel it in the crowd."

Baseball is finally meaningful again in Chicago, and the buzz is back in its crosstown rivalry.

Follow Chris on Twitter @CEmma670.

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