After an 8-hour drive from Toronto, we made it to the Windy City and grabbed a couple of Jimmy John’s sandwiches on the way to the stadium. We got the basic Italian sub, but the meat was much better than most sandwich places around, and with some hot peppers to top it off it was a great pregame lunch.
We took the “L” (elevated train) from downtown, and got to US Cellular Field in just about 20 minutes. And the first thing we saw was a parking lot full of huge McDonald’s tents, where they were giving away free samples of new smoothies and mocha shakes – haven’t seen this in other stadium lots, but it was an awesome way to start off a day of baseball. The 20-year old stadium looked very modern, with the majority of the main entrance composed of a huge glass window. The rest is made of concrete walls, and to the right you can see the ramps that lead to the upper levels within the park.
We entered through a big gift shop which had some huge TV screens showing different Chicago sports channels (one of them was playing the 1992 NBA Finals between the Bulls and Trailblazers – a famous matchup between Michael Jordan and Clyde Drexler). Throughout the store were a bunch of display cases with different memorabilia signed by Chicago athletes, including current and former White Sox, and a basketball signed by 2011 NBA MVP Derrick Rose.
As you know, we’ve been exploring every ballpark inside and out, finding all the unique features and what not. But when we were finished checking out the store, we took the escalator to what we thought was the main concourse, but instead learned some pretty upsetting news… we were’t allowed to see the whole stadium!
We did get a good view of downtown Chicago from up here… but it doesn’t make up for the fact that the White Sox neglected us of our basic human rights… come on already, it’s the 2000s! Civil rights!
We actually went to guest services to convince them to let us down to the main level, and a nice guy named Jack told us he’d take us down there around the 7th inning. But I was still amazed at the rules they have here, why wouldn’t they allow all of their fans to see their favorite team’s stadium? Anyway, we went to our seats and they really weren’t as bad as what we were expecting from the 500-level title. They were actually about the same distance away as some 200-level seats at other ballparks.
In dead center field is an ivy-covered wall as the batter’s eye, with a big video screen surrounded by advertisements – very standard among baseball stadiums. But the unique part of this scoreboard was the 7 colorful lollipop-looking wheels on top, which light up, spin, and shoot fireworks with White Sox homers and wins. And over the left field bleachers were banners portraying the team’s 3 World Series championships: 1906 over the crosstown rival Cubs, 1917 over the (then) New York Giants, and 2005 with a sweep over the Houston Astros. 2005 ended the second-longest Championship drought for any major league team (the Cubs haven’t won an October classic since 1908, and are still waiting).
And I guess they didn’t leave us nosebleed-squatters completely without some cool stuff to see, because the entire wall of the concourse illustrated countless White Sox highlights since the organization’s birth in 1900. Here’s a section of it, showing Eddie “Cocky” Collins who helped win the 1917 World Series and hit over a .319 batting average in each of 8 consecutive seasons (1919-’26), and pitcher Ted Lyons who played all 21 big-league seasons for the Sox and holds the team’s wins record with 260. We could also see down into a little picnic area just on the other side of the right field fence, where you can literally spill a drink onto the warning track (but you’d probably be kicked out).
Before the game, I saw a cart serving Chicago-style hot dogs – beef franks topped with mustard, chopped white onions, a spear of a dill pickle, tomato slices, sport peppers, sweet relish, and celery salt, all on a poppy seed bun. I was planning on getting one a little later on when I was hungrier, but when I left my section with money in hand… the cart was gone. I stopped short, very confused, and people were looking at me as if I had the face of a baby who’s candy just got snatched away. I walked about 5 minutes down the concourse looking for the cart, and eventually asked somebody where I could find the Chicago dogs, who responded with “The cart’s on wheels, I have no idea.” I didn’t want to miss too much of the game though, so I settled for a normal beef frank with a little too many grilled onions. Not bad, but I still wanted my taste of Chicago.
We finally made it downstairs:
As promised, Jack gave us an all-access elevator pass which we used to get down to the main concourse. Scattered around were a bunch of life-size bronze statues of White Sox legends, including shortstop Luis Aparicio (13x All-Star, 9x Gold Glove, 1956 Rookie of the Year) and second baseman Nellie Fox (15x All-Star, 3x Gold Glove, 1959 MVP), who played together for 7 years. They’re portrayed facing each other, with Fox underhanding a ball to Aparicio, something very fitting since they were one of the best middle infield duos in the game’s history.
Other statues include Harold Baines, Billy Pierce, Minnie Minoso, Carlton Fisk, and owner Charles Comiskey who moved his Minnesota team to Chicago, becoming the White Stockings… then the White Sox (I like Sox much better than Stockings). Frank Thomas is also honored in bronze, showing him in his very fitting backswing pose. He leads the White Sox in 16 career batting categories, including homers (448), doubles (447), RBIs (1,465), on-base %, slugging %, runs, walks, and at bats per home run (15.5).
The White Sox’s old stadium, Comiskey Park (used from 1910 to 1990), had a very unique feature installed in its outfield concourse in 1976: a shower. Fans loved using it to cool off on the hot summer days… I wasn’t sure what they wore when they used it, though. It’s still operating, sponsored by The Plumbing Council of Chicagoland, so I decided to take advantage (but not really, I just stood in it).
We even got access to the basement of the stadium, where the 2005 AL Championship and World Series trophies are on display – along with a Championship ring and the 2011 Commissioner’s Award for Philanthropic Excellence.
Since being traded from Minnesota, Francisco Liriano was set to make just his third start for the White Sox – against A’s pitcher Travis Blackley (who we saw get the win at home in Oakland back in June). But today, neither one of them pitched very well. The White Sox scored 2 in the 2nd, and the A’s responded by scoring 5 runs in the 3rd inning – all with 2 outs – and another in the 4th (now up 6-2). But after an RBI single for the Sox in the 4th, a 2-run homer by Kevin Youkilis in the 5th (shown below), a game-tying solo homer by Tyler Flowers in the 6th, and an RBI single in the 7th, Chicago made a comeback and took a 7-6 lead.
But the hit-a-thon continued for the A’s too, with Jonny Gomes homering and Brandon Inge (who dislocated his shoulder earlier in the game) hitting an RBI-single in the 8th… and a 9th run in the 9th inning topped it all off. Reading this was probably a bit hard to follow, but if you didn’t catch it – a team scored at least a run in every inning except for the first. Classic American League game.
Final score: White Sox 7, A’s 9
Starting pitchers: Francisco Liriano (ND) – 3.1 IP, 7 H, 3 BB, 6 ER, 5 Ks; Travis Blackley (ND) – 5 IP, 6 H, 1 BB, 5 ER, 6 Ks
Homers: Kevin Youkilis, Tyler Flowers, Jonny Gomes
Next stop: Heading crosstown for the Cubs tomorrow 8/12 (vs. Cincinnati Reds)