ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) _ Mayor Robert Ulrich, who has promised the Chicago White Sox a ballpark if they move South, isn't popular with loyal team fans in Illinois.

Those fans bundled up their white socks and shipped them South - at least 128 socks, some white, some yellowed, some with holes, some already worn.

Ulrich keeps them in his office in a box marked: ''Dirty laundry from upstate Illinois.''

Accompanying some of the gifts were a few words from Sox fans.

''Dear thief,'' one letter began. ''I hope you don't get the Sox.''

It was signed, ''A true Sox fan.''

For a few, the symbolic gesture of disapproval wasn't enough.

''Pleae keep your nose out of the Chicago White Sox and stick it in these,'' wrote Matthew Lissy, adding that he wore the socks to Comiskey Park before mailing them to St. Petersburg. ''And that is the closest you are going to come to the Real Sox.''

There also were a few disgruntled fans rooting for the Sunshine State to lure the Sox from the windy city. One man enclosed $1 to help. Another wrote: ''Don't be misled by this newspaper hokum. The Trib owns the Cubs and they care less about the White Sox.''

The sock-sending campaign was suggested by the Chicago Tribune, a subsidary of the company that owns the rival Chicago Cubs.

Although Ulrich has only received 128 socks so far, at Tribune headquarters in Chicago, an estimated 1,000 pairs have been collected for a mass mailing, possibly next week.

Ruthellyn Roguski, the newspaper's public relations manager, acknowledged the Tribune had hoped more people would hop on the socks bandwagon.

Ulrich said all contributors will get a brief reply thanking them for their interest. Any salvageable socks probably will be given to charity, he said.