The Great Book of Chicago Sports Lists


By Dan McNeil

By Ed Sherman

Formats and Prices




$12.99 CAD




ebook $9.99 $12.99 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around September 17, 2009. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

Chicago sports fans are the most passionate, knowledgeable, and dedicated in the country. Now, the Windy City’s top sports-radio jock and a longtime native sportswriter engage this phenomenon with a compilation of informative and entertaining lists sure to stir up dialogue and debate within the buzzing Chicago sports scene. With original contributions from top Chicago sports and entertainment personalities such as Norm Van Lier, Bill Wennington, Dan Jiggetts, Pat Hughes, Len Kasper, John McDonough, Mike North, U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, and many more, this is a must-have reference and entertaining read for all jocks, wannabes, haters, dreamers, and died-in-the-wool Chicago sports fans.


Dan McNeil: Over the past 20-plus years, the most constant characteristic I’ve observed about Chicago sports fans is they have an unparalleled passion for their teams. I’d like to dedicate this project to them, with whom I have engaged in spirited debates over topics like these here.
Ed Sherman: To my favorite Chicago sports fans: My father, Jerry, and my sons, Matthew and Sam. From generation to generation. L’dor Vador.

Both of us cut our teeth on Chicago sports growing up in the late 60s and into the 70s. That was long before his Airness took flight, and before the Bears Shuffling Crew had its year of terror and glory. We were well into our 40s before our beloved White Sox delivered us a World Series title, something we never thought we would see in our lifetimes.
When we first started our obsession with sports, titles were something teams won in Los Angeles, New York, Boston, and other places. The Second City rarely was first-or even second-best in anything.
It was a bleak period for Chicago sports. Many of our teams were mediocre, and the good ones left us with heartbreak. There was the Hawks’ Game 7 loss in the Stanley Cup Finals to Montreal; the Bulls’ Mother’s Day defeat to Golden State in the playoffs; Kermit Alexander ending Gale Sayers’ greatness with one hit to the knee; and of course, the 1969 Cubs.
Yet we became hooked as kids because we learned early on that sports runs through our blood in Chicago. Win or lose, these are our teams. Our loyalty is unflinching. Our suffering made us appreciate the championships even more.
In our travels throughout this vast land, one thing is abundantly clear: Chicago is the best sports town in the country. We don’t buy titles here. We earn them.
This book is a celebration of Chicago sports. These lists are our boiled-up passion exploding on the pages. Stuff that made us glad, thrilled, irritated, frustrated, and downright pissed—it’s all in here.
These are many of the same lists that sports fans argue about at bars throughout the city. We recruited several of our town’s biggest sports personalities to contribute to the debate with their own lists.
And for fun, since sports conversation often leads to other topics, we spiced up the book with observations from McNeil on pop culture, ranging from the best pizza places in town and favorite local bands, to overrated things about Chicago. As listeners to his radio show know, McNeil is at his best when he gets on a rant. He is in his full glory in these pages. You’ll know his lists when you see the “DM” initials after the List Title. Lists with “ES” were penned by Ed Sherman. And our esteemed contributors’ lists are given complete bylines.
We hope this book sparks some brisk debate among Chicago sports fans. These are just our opinions. Do we think we’re right on everything? Hardly. Is there a chance we missed a name here and there? Perhaps. We don’t claim to be perfect.
Feel free to disagree early and often, and call us blithering idiots a time or two. However, always keep in mind that we have one thing in common: We’re all Chicago sports fans, for now and forever.

Jordan’s Best Games :: E S
Where to begin? You could pick any of 100 games that Jordan dominated, and you wouldn’t be wrong. I’m sure fans are going to look at this list and wonder why I didn’t include so-and-so game. Everyone has their list of Jordan’s best games. Here’s mine.
10. Broadway debut. This was Jordan’s statement game. On November 8, 1984, he made his first appearance at Madison Square Garden. He was incredible with one highlight move after another in scoring 33 points in just his seventh NBA game. In the ultimate sign of respect and admiration the jaded New Yorkers, who know a thing or two about basketball, gave Jordan a standing ovation when he came out of the game. A star was born.
9. 1988 NBA All-Star Game. Sure, nobody plays defense in All-Star games. Still, that shouldn’t take away from what Jordan did in his showcase game at Chicago Stadium. He scored 40 points, including 16 in the fourth quarter. He hit 17 of 23 shots from the field. It was quite a display from the game’s ultimate star.
8. Burning the Suns. The Bulls opened a quick 2-0 lead on the road in the 1993 Finals, but Phoenix abruptly changed the momentum with a triple-overtime victory in Game 3. Then it was Jordan to the rescue again. He took over in Game 4, pouring in 56 points, the second most ever in an NBA Finals game. Thanks to Jordan, the momentum was back in the Bulls’ favor again and they went on to win the title.
7. Welcome back to New York. Madison Square Garden always did bring out the best in Jordan. His biggest New York moment came on March 28, 1995 in his first game back to the Garden following his first retirement. Despite playing only four games, Jordan astonished Spike Lee and the other Knicks fans by pouring in 55 points. For the grand finale, he feathered a great pass to Bill Wennington for an easy game-winning layup.
6. The big 69. Jordan always managed to torture the Cleveland Cavaliers in so many different ways. He just bludgeoned them on March 28, 1990. Jordan scored a career high 69 points on 23 of 37 shooting from the field and 21 of 23 from the line. Poor Craig Ehlo, who must be having nightmares to this day about having to guard Jordan.
5. Raining threes. Even Michael Jordan astonished himself in Game 1 of the 1992 Finals. He couldn’t miss from beyond the arc, hitting an amazing six three-pointers in a 16-minute stretch in the first half. After the last three, Jordan turned to Magic Johnson, who was working the game as an analyst for NBC, and offered a shrug as if to say, “I don’t know how I’m doing this.” All told, Jordan scored 35 points in the first half and 46 for the game.
4. “The Shot.” Of all the clutch shots Jordan hit, the one against Cleveland in Game 5 of the first-round series in 1989 remains as the defining moment. With three seconds left, Jordan somehow got open and hit a 15-footer over Craig Ehlo (him again) at the buzzer to give the Bulls a 3-2 series victory over the Cavaliers. “The Shot” will be replayed for eternity.
3. The final shot. There was only one way Jordan should have finished his career—hitting the final shot to win an NBA title. Sure enough, the scenario was set in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals when Jordan canned the game-winner to give the Bulls their sixth championship. Perhaps sensing the history of the moment, he held his follow-through for a few seconds. It should have been the last shot of his career, but Jordan had to ruin it with that weird final two seasons with Washington.
2. Feeling sick. There was no way Jordan could play in Game 5 of the 1997 Finals. When he wasn’t throwing up, he spent the rest of the day of the game hooked to an IV moaning in bed. Miraculously, a half-dead Jordan played and made the Jazz feel sick. Somehow he mustered the energy to hit 38 points in leading the Bulls to a crucial victory. Afterwards, there was the memorable image of Jordan hanging on to Scottie Pippen for support as he walked off the court. Considering what he had to overcome, many people feel it was Jordan’s best performance.
1. 63 is not enough. For my money, Jordan’s best game occurred in Game 2 of the 1986 first-round series against Boston. This was a 1-on-5 performance against a Celtic team that had three Hall of Famers in Larry Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale. Boston, though, couldn’t stop Jordan, as he poured in an unthinkable 63 points at the Boston Garden. It wasn’t enough, as the Bulls lost in double overtime. But Jordan was the clear winner. Afterward, a stunned Bird said it all: “That was God disguised as Michael Jordan.”

Most Defining Moments of the White Sox’s 2005 October :: DM
In Chicago, we are not steeped in memories of postseason baseball thrill rides. That changed, however, when Ozzie Guillen’s White Sox blitzed the pack and won the ’05 World Series. It was an improbable run after the Sox stumbled and saw their 15-game lead dissipate before getting hot in late September and winning the AL Central. The Sockos went 11-1 in that magical October, tying the ’99 Yankees for the fewest games required to win it all since baseball went to divisional realignment in ’95. These are the most defining moments of that October.
10. Chasing Roger Clemens in the World Series Opener at US Cellular Field. I’ve hated Clemens long before the rest of the world caught on to his act. And I do mean hated. Eventual Series MVP Jermaine Dye homered off Clemens in the first and, with the White Sox leading 3-1, Clemens limped off the mound with a bad hamstring after just two innings. He did not return. The White Sox won the game 5-3 to take Game 1 against Houston.
9. The 5th inning of Game 2 against Boston. Keyed by a Tadahito Iguchi home run, the White Sox scored all five of their runs in the fifth inning and muscled out a 5-4 win to take a commanding two-game lead in their best-of-five AL division series against the Red Sox. David Wells, who was a bust in his one year in a Sox uniform in ’01, took the hard-luck loss, due largely to an error by former Chicago utility man Tony Graffanino.
8. The famous dropped third strike. After dropping the opener in the ALCS against Los Angeles, the White Sox and Angels appeared to be headed for extra innings in Game 2. Knotted at 1-1, A.J. Pierzynski seemingly had struck out for the final out in the ninth. Home plate umpire Doug Eddings signaled strike three, but did not execute what he later called his “out mechanic.” Pierzynski recognized that and chugged to first after Angels catcher Josh Paul rolled the ball back to the mound. After a lengthy debate, play resumed. Pablo Ozuna pinch ran for Pierzynski and stole second. Joe Crede delivered an RBI double and the White Sox headed to Anaheim with the series tied.
7. White Sox shell Red Sox in ALDS Opener. It is uncommon for a Chicago baseball fan to relax during a playoff game. Not with this one. If it were a fight, they would have stopped it. To the delight of a huge US Cellular crowd on a sun-splashed day, the Sox hit five home runs, three of which were off Boston starter Matt Clement, a former Cub, and cruised to a 14-2 win to take the first game.
6. Geoff Blum’s 14th-inning HR in Game 3 in Houston. The game took more than five hours—the longest game in World Series history. The White Sox and Astros employed 17 pitchers collectively. Those pitchers combined to throw 482 pitches. My favorite was the one thrown by Houston’s Ezequiel Astacio, duck-hooked over the right field wall by pinch hitter Geoff Blum. Acquired in mid-season, Blum, my favorite sociology major in baseball history, parked a two-run job that gave the Sox a 7-5 lead, the eventual final score. Mark Buehrle, whose business card says “starter,” finished the 14th to earn the save and the Sox were only 27 outs away from their first championship since 1917.
5. Four complete games in the ALCS. Obviously, a four-game stretch does not constitute a “moment,” but it would be foolish not to recognize the collective contributions from the White Sox staff in the club’s four straight victories to close the ALCS. It marked the first time a staff rattled off four consecutive complete games in postseason play since ’56. Buehrle got it started with a five-hit gem in the Sox’s 2-1 win in Game 2. Jon Garland was a 5-2 winner over John Lackey in Game 3 in Anaheim. Freddy Garcia beat Ervin Santana 8-2 in the fourth game, and Jose Contreras closed it out with a 6-3 win over Kelvin Escobar on October 16th.
4. Juan Uribe’s catch in the stands. October 26, 2005. Game 4 of the World Series. In the eighth, Dye’s single up the middle scored Willie Harris to give the Sox a 1-0 lead. Big Bobby Jenks was working the ninth, gunning for another save and the most important one in his young life. With the Astros down to their final two outs, pinch hitter Chris Burke slapped a pop foul down the left field line. Both Crede and Uribe gave chase, but it was shortstop Uribe who left his feet and reached deep into the stands to snare the pop for the second out in the inning. Fittingly, Uribe would assist in the game’s final out on a lazy chopper.
3. Orlando Hernandez’s hocus pocus. Game 3 of the ALDS in Fenway Park. The Sox were gunning for the sweep and their first postseason series win since they won the championship in ’17. Boston cut the White Sox lead to 4-3 on Manny Ramirez’s second homer of the game. As the skies darkened, Guillen had a tough decision to make with the bases loaded and nobody out in the Boston sixth. He summoned “El Duke,” the right-hander who had been a starter all season. Hernandez came out of the pen and got Jason Varitek and Graffanino to pop up before whiffing Johnny Damon for the final out of the inning. The White Sox later added an insurance run and won the game 5-3 and the swept the series.
2. Scotty Pods’ walk-off HR in the World Series Opener. I know some will tell me I’m nuts for not making this the No. 1 moment, but this is my list. Podsednik was in his first year with the White Sox in ’05. He possessed no history here. He also frustrated Sox fans with his erratic play in the outfield. The little lefty got the job done, however, when it mattered most on this South Side Saturday night. With Houston’s Brad Lidge on the bump and the game tied 6-6, Podsednik belted one into the seats in right-center in the bottom of the ninth to give the Sox a 7-6 victory in Game 1.
1. Paul Konerko’s World Series Game 1 grand slam. Konerko was the most tenured Sox player on the roster. He had a big year in 2000 when the Sox won the division before being swept by Seattle. He always gave maximum effort and is the type of player who would bust somebody’s jaw to win a game. He also doesn’t go a day in his life without quoting Slap Shot, so that scores extra points with me. Houston was leading the Sox 4-2 in the seventh. Sacks juiced. The ’Stros sent 6-foot-7 Chad Qualls to the mound to challenge Konerko, who had put his signature on every post-season game the Sox had played and was the ALCS MVP. Konerko deposited Qualls’ first offering into the seats in left-center field. Grand slam. Sox led 6-4. The ovation was deafening. It was decidedly the most exciting single moment I ever experienced. I was sitting seven rows behind the plate. I was the first guy to stand and extend both clenched fists towards the heavens.

Hawk Harrelson’s Five Toughest White Sox
Note: Ken “Hawk” Harrelson has been in the White Sox organization for more than 25 years. The former Red Sox slugger was in the broadcast booth when the Sox won the American League West in ’83, and later served as the team’s general manager. He returned to the television booth in the early ’90s and is beloved by Sox fans because of his no-BS, straightforward approach. We asked him who he thought were the five toughest White Sox since he’s been in the organization. These were his thoughts.
5. Ed Farmer. Farmio was a tough sonuvabitch. He’d battle your ass off. At one time, Ed held the Sox record for most saves in a season.
4. Bobby Thigpen. Shit, I’ve seen him go out there with nothin’—I mean absolutely nothin’—and hang on. That’s how you save 57 games in a season. He’d sometimes be at 35, 40 pitches in an inning, and we’d say, “C’mon, Thiggy, try a strike. Throw one of those in there.” He was a battler.
3. Jack McDowell. You talk about a guy who would compete, that’s Jack McDowell. There were times when it was obvious he didn’t have his best stuff. He’d be around the plate, gettin’ behind guys, walkin’ guys, then you look up at the scoreboard in the 7th inning and we’re up 2-1. His hips would be bothering him and he couldn’t walk after the game, but he’d battle. Some players just don’t connect (with the media and fans) and it’s because they don’t care to. Jack was one of those guys. He wasn’t an asshole, but he didn’t play up to the media. Jack and I didn’t get along that well off the field, but if I was playing behind Jack McDowell, you can bet I’d be playing my ass off for him. I faced Don Drysdale. I faced Bob Gibson. Jack was right there. He was one competitive sonuvabitch.
2. Bobby Jenks. What he’s done, at such an early point in his career, is amazing. Bobby is one of the more impactful players this club’s ever had. In ’05, we had three closers: Shingo (Takatsu), Dustin Hermanson, whose back was so bad he could-n’t walk by the end of the summer, and Bobby. Then, all of a sudden, it was just Bobby. As a rookie, he was just phenomenal. What other manager or GM would allow a rookie to come in, during a pennant race, and take the ball? That shows you the kind of balls that Ozzie (Guillen) has, that Kenny (Williams) has, to say “We’re gonna give the ball to the kid.” And nobody that year had bigger balls than Bobby. It’s been one of the greatest things I’ve seen in baseball for many years.
1. Jerry Reinsdorf. You start with him. He’s gone through guys like [Jay] Mariotti [former columnist who waged war with Reinsdorf]. He withstood it. Behind the scenes, if you would ask anybody who’s been here more than 10, 15 years, guys like Ozzie, guys like [hitting coach] Greg Walker, they would tell you he’s the toughest. He got off to a bad start with the fans, largely because of that SportsVision thing. That was Eddie’s [Einhorn] brainchild. It was the first pay-per-view outlet after people had been getting the games for free on over the air stations. He took a bad rap for the building of that new ballpark. They weren’t going to move to St. Petersburg. He wanted a new place. And we needed a new place.
He’s gotten terrible publicity and Mariotti exacerbated that. Mariotti took a page out of [New York sports columnist] Mike Lupica’s book. Lupica had gone from Boston to New York and his readership was down. So he started ripping the shit out of [George] Steinbrenner. And people read it. But like Mariotti, most of it was lies. Jerry is the most misperceived person I’ve ever seen in sports. All he’s done is bring seven championships to our city. I mean, what the hell? And we’re gonna get another one or two in the not-too-distant future. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets 10 world championships before he’s done.

The Bartman Game :: ES
The name of poor ol’ Steve Bartman has lived in infamy ever since that fateful moment during Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS against Florida. Bartman might have been a convenient scapegoat, but the reality is that many other factors cost the Cubs a trip to the World Series that year. Here are the top ten reasons why the Cubs really lost the series.
10. Carlos Zambrano. Big Z was a big zero during the 2003 playoffs. He was staked to a 4-0 lead in the first inning of Game 1 and things looked rosy. Then Zambrano gave up 5 runs in the third and the Cubs went on to lose 9-8 in 11 innings. He also suffered a 4-0 defeat in Game 5. All in all a forgettable playoff for Zambrano.
9. Failing to win Game 5. Speaking of Zambrano, there didn’t have to be a Game 6. If the Cubs take care of business in Game 5, Bartman remains just another anonymous Cubs fan. However, with a 3-1 series lead, the Cubs bats come up empty against Josh Beckett. They muster only two hits in a 4-0 defeat. So it’s on to Wrigley Field for the supposed clincher.
8. Ivan Rodriguez. The Marlins catcher had a huge series. He hit .321 with two homers and 10 RBI in the seven-game series. He delivered one clutch hit after another, including a single during the 8-run eighth in Game 6, scoring Juan Pierre with the first run of that inning. Rodriguez provided the veteran leadership that was much needed with the young team. Don’t discount his contribution.
7. Prior losing his composure. OK, you’re the supposed ace of the staff. You’ve got a 3-0 lead in the eighth with one out and a runner on second. And Luis Castillo just hit a flyball into foul territory in leftfield. The ball could have been caught, but it wasn’t. No big deal, right? Instead, Prior snapped. He walked Castillo and ball four was a wild pitch, allowing Pierre to take third. The downfall had begun.
6. Where’s the hook, Dusty? Incredibly, Baker must have been chained to the dugout during the eighth inning of the infamous Game 6. How else to explain why he left Prior in so long? Prior clearly lost it mentally after walking Castillo, and he had to be tired physically from what would be a 119-pitch effort. Yet Baker let Prior pitch to three more batters. He finally took him out after Derrek Lee’s double tied the game at 3-3.
5. The Cubs bullpen. Perhaps Baker didn’t want to lift Prior because he knew what he had in his bullpen. If the Cubs relievers stop the damage with only three runs, perhaps they come back in the eighth and make Bartman a nice footnote to the NLCS clincher. Instead, Kyle Farnsworth and Mike Remlinger threw gasoline on the fire, allowing the Marlins to score five more runs in the inning.
4. Kerry Wood folds. Even after the heartbreaking defeat, the Cubs still had Wood going in Game 7 against Mike Redman, a journeyman at best. The Cubs should have been celebrating, especially when Wood himself hits a three-run homer. But Wood had nothing, giving up seven runs in a 9-6 defeat.
3. Cubs fans panic. Once the Bartman play occurred, the mood in the ballpark changed. All the sudden, a century of doubt and misery overtook the fans. They started to think about the “Goat” and everything else. You know what they say: Bad vibes lead to bad things. The sudden shift in atmosphere in the stands did have an effect on what happened on the field.
2. Alex Gonzalez’s error. Gonzalez should be forever grateful to Bartman for letting him off the hook. The Cubs’ shortstop butchered a grounder off the bat of Miguel Cabrera for what should have been an inning-ending double play. If you’re looking for the real goat, look no further than Gonzalez.
1. Alou never would have caught the ball. It took him five years, but Moises Alou finally admitted he couldn’t have caught the Bartman ball. The ball was headed towards the stands, and a fan’s natural reaction is to try to catch it. What was Bartman supposed to do? Let the ball hit him in the head? If Alou keeps his cool and returns to his position, who knows what would have happened? Instead, he slammed his mitt on to the ground and the wheels of history began turning against the Cubs again.

Sour Farewells :: ES
Some of Chicago’s greatest athletes and coaches had some of the worst fallouts with their teams. In many cases, the split damaged relationships for years. It always made you wonder why, after such a beautiful long run, it had to end so ugly.
8. Frank Thomas. Despite being the team’s greatest star, Thomas was never fully embraced by Sox management and fans. After the Sox won the World Series in 2005, allowing an injured Thomas to still get his ring, he was released after the season. Thomas was upset that owner Jerry Reinsdorf never called him personally.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for Jerry Reinsdorf, I do. But I really thought, the relationship we had over the last 16 years, he would have picked up the phone to say, ‘Big guy, we’re moving forward. We’re going somewhere different. We don’t know your situation or what’s going to happen.’ I can live with that, I really can,” Thomas said. “But treating me like some passing-by player, I’ve got no respect for that.”
White Sox General Manager Kenny Williams fired back at Thomas calling him an “idiot.” Williams also said, “If he was any kind of a man, he would quit talking about things in the paper and return a phone call or come knock on someone’s door. If I had the kind of problems evidently he had with me, I would go knock on his door.”
Now that’s an ugly ending.
7. Dick Butkus. Long after his playing days were complete, Butkus still remained one of the faces of the Bears. But it didn’t end well for Butkus. Despite signing a big contract in 1973, knee injuries forced him to retire after the season. In 1975, Butkus filed suit against the Bears, claiming the team knowingly kept him on the field when he should have had surgery on his knees. He alleged team doctors gave him painkillers so he could play. The rift between Butkus and George Halas lasted for years, although Butkus eventually did return to the fold as a radio analyst.
6. Mike Ditka. Take your choice with Ditka. He had two bitter endings as a Bear. In 1992, GM Michael McCaskey ended Ditka’s 11-year run as Bears coach following a 5-11 season. The fact is, the Ditka act had grown old and McCaskey wanted to bring in his own man. Nearly two decades earlier, Ditka and McCaskey’s grandfather, Halas, clashed over money. Ditka got off his infamous line about how Halas “throws around nickels like manhole covers.” Halas got his revenge by shipping Ditka off to a terrible Philadelphia team.
5. Phil Jackson.


On Sale
Sep 17, 2009
Page Count
256 pages
Running Press

Dan McNeil

About the Author

Dan “Danny Mac” McNeil has held the prime afternoon-drive slot on both Chicago sports-talk radio stations, WSCR The Score (AM 670) and ESPN (AM 1000) since 1992. In May 2001, he joined ESPN Radio and took the station to unprecedented ratings success. As of May 2009, McNeil will rejoin The Score as the afternoon host. He writes a weekly column for the Chicago Sun-Times. He lives in Chicago.

Ed Sherman was a sportswriter for the Chicago Tribune for twenty-seven years, covering everything from the White Sox to the Bears 1985 Super Bowl team to professional golf to local high-school athletics. If anyone knows the Chicago sports scene, it’s Ed Sherman. He lives in Chicago.

Learn more about this author