Lance Tawzer has learned that the country’s oldest existing intracity baseball rivalry often provokes strong opinions.
“If you live in Chicago, you tend to find yourself on one side of the fence or the other,” said Tawzer, curator of the Elmhurst Historical Museum.
The museum’s current exhibit, “Sox vs. Cubs: The Chicago Civil Wars,” opened May 16 and runs through Sept. 28, to coincide with the baseball season. Several organizations have expressed interest in hosting the exhibit, he said, so it’s likely to travel once its run has ended in Elmhurst.
In piecing together the exhibit, Tawzer interviewed former broadcasters, journalists, players and fans, specifically looking for fans with a family history of rooting for the Cubs or Sox.
“Occasionally, you will get a rebellious teenager who switches to spite parents,” Tawzer said, adding that the legacy factor keeps most family members united behind one team.
Villa Park residents Don and Regina Enders and their daughter Darcy perused the display on a recent Sunday. Don Enders was a Cubs fan until 1970. He changed allegiances after the Cubs, who led the National League East for most of the 1969 season, were passed by the Mets, broke his heart and made him become a South Side supporter.
Regina Enders grew up in a house divided: Dad was a Cubs fan, mom, a Sox fan. The kids were split down the middle.
“I’ve always been a Sox fan because mom was,” Regina Enders said. “When I saw this, I was like, ‘We gotta go.’ ”
The exhibit features Cubs and Sox memorabilia and souvenirs — the kinds of things a fan might have brought home after visiting one of the ballparks, Tawzer said.
“We were looking for more of the true fan kind of things,” he said.
One case features items from the “fan caves” of two diehard fans — one Sox, one Cubs — including bobbleheads, a banner, a jersey and old stadium seats.
What Tawzer finds most interesting is the amount of shared history between the teams. In 1918, the Cubs played the Boston Red Sox in the World Series, and the Chicago games were held at Comiskey Park because it could accommodate larger crowds.
Tawzer said there are perceptions about the socioeconomic status of each team’s fans that at one time might have been true, but don’t hold up today. Now, supporters of both teams can be found around the city and suburbs.
“Elmhurst is one of the rare communities that has an exact 50/50 split,” Tawzer said.
Sox and Cubs players new to the rivalry might go into their annual crosstown series thinking it’ll be light-hearted, but quickly learn the fans take it seriously, Tawzer said.
“I think that’s really where the rivalry exists, in the fan base,” he said.
Regina Enders said the interactive features of the exhibit, such as casting votes for the greatest players at each position and seeing it plotted on a graph, should interest younger viewers.
“I don’t care how much baseball you think you know, there’s going to be something here that’ll catch you,” she said.
Tawzer said he hopes the display gives fans of one team an appreciation for their rival, too.
“I think it’s wonderful that it sparks the dialogue it does,” he said. “From a cultural history standpoint, this is a big part of people’s lives.”
Sox fan Elizabeth Dziedzic of Chicago — from the South Side, “of course” — said she enjoys picking on Cubs fans, but the rivalry is fun.
“I think it’s a part of Chicago and what Chicago is, and what baseball is to a Chicago fan,” she said. “And what would summer be without baseball?”