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Will this man destroy South Side Sox?

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A wrecking ball of a writer lurks behind the jocularity and pithy prose

Turning a police sketch into can-do: Ballantini’s hed shot illustration for the left-wing TCU Daily Skiff outed him as an unconventional writer—and dirty hippie
Illustration by Rhett Pennell

So, we’re getting a longtime sportswriter—more than a decade on the Chicago White Sox alone, I’m told—to take over for Jim Margalus as managing editor of South Side Sox.

Margalus is a big loss, no matter how you dice it. Ballantini himself said it time and time again: There is no better White Sox site on the planet than South Side Sox, and that is almost exclusively a tribute to Jim and his tireless years atop the SSS masthead.

Replace the master with a former White Sox beat writer, a dude that has written a book on the White Sox, put a piece in the 2005 World Series program, broke into fandom with the South Side Hit Men, walked the tightrope between frisky factions in 2011 well enough to still garner fist bumps from Ozzie or Kenny, and it’s all good, right?

Not so fast. Any amount of responsible reporting would warn you of the danger lurking ahead. Beware the Ides of March, SSS.

***

A Landfill Stocked With Shuttered Pubs

OK, allow me to lead off with a weak-hitting, old-school speedster to start my case: Ballantini has left a landfill of defunct publications littered in his wake.

Associate editor of Basketball News—gone a year later, his goofy ABA basketball bouncing on the sidewalk behind him. Managing editor of Basketball Digest and Bowling Digest, oh so briefly associate editor of Hockey Digest and Wrestling Digest: Gone. Gone. Gone. Gone. Chicago stringer for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Can I have a cup of joe and a side of defunct with my delivery? Rinkside. Courtside. Inside Stuff. Wolf Tracks. Magic Magazine. It’s exhausting to tally up the sheer number of publications this man has put six feet under.

Hell, the position of NBC Sports Chicago White Sox beat writer doesn’t even exist any longer!

Yeah, yeah, is SB Nation or Vox Media gonna end up pawning all their office furniture because they hired some not-ready-for-sundown vampire to suck the life out of their White Sox blog? Probably not.

Fair enough.

***

The Curious Case of Comcast Sports Net

But let’s look a little more closely at those Comcast Sports Net Chicago years. After all, that’s how Ballantini came to be known to most of you.

I don’t have to point out one curious coincidence in the room: No sooner had Ballantini left CSN, the network changed its name to NBC Sports Chicago! That’s a bit more than a tomato juice bath to soothe a skunk’s spray, compañeros.

The most recent club to win a title in Chicago that any of us care about is the Chicago Blackhawks. Who covered the Blackhawks on their first Stanley Cup run, in 2010?

Ice Capade: One writer’s desperate attempt to mullet himself into a dressing room.

Who stowed away on one of the parade buses, hogging a spot that could have gone to John McDonough’s fourth cousin or Adam Burish’s first-aid kit?

Cloud of Confetti: The story’s getting closer to the end.

Therefore, who is responsible for the Blackhawks winning just two of the seven Stanley Cups since then?

This Guy: Wirtz can’t save you, bub.

But let’s dig deeper, apropos of the White Sox specifically:

Strange Bedfellows: #AudaciousBlueprintForACubsDynasty
Doomed to Be Together: Rapping freely, on field, without a care for greater Soxdom.

Huh? Chilling with fanboy Kap? Rapping with Mooney? C’mon, man, that’s #CubbieStink, plain and simple.

***

Exile Off Main Street

The third leg of this tripod of terror takes us to the present day, as Ballantini luxuriates in semi-retirement in Florida.

Semi-reliable reports have him dropping some 50 pounds, and more than a couple hair follicles, since those heady TV days. There’s a rumor that he has ditched his 30-year vegetarian diet, and as some sort of odd, Flat Earth Society—Kyrie Irving Chapter wannabe, has gone vegan.

Really, can you trust a vegan?

And then there’s this:

Right Size, Wrong Sport: Hiding in plain sight.
Jeff Bryan/Riverland News

Hiding in plain sight, captured on the pages of Florida’s Riverland News. Token White Sox hat on his head, throwing all of you a bone.

***

It’s a modest proposal, yes, that we reconsider propping this pithy paesano up onto the South Side Sox throne.

Am I questioning the wisdom of Vox Media, or SB Nation, or whatever South Side junta installed this goof? Yes. Wait, no?

OK, OK, I can imagine some cabal, none too pleased upon reading this, deleting me before my first check. But it’s the price I have to pay, to get the word out.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Year of the Hamster grew up north of the border, but quickly swapped Harvey’s Wallbangers for Winnin’ Ugly. Personally responsible for the 2005 title based on a 12-0 regular season record at U.S. Cellular Field. Prefers elotes, nachos, and a pregame dance for good luck.