New York Yankees
Chicago White Sox
L: A. Pettitte
W: J. Quintana
U.S. Cellular Field
A-Rod is back. Today was a madhouse because the circus has come to town. After my lovely day at Wrigley yesterday, it was time to head south to see the White Sox take on the Yankees. Unbeknownst to me when I scheduled this tour, my trip to U.S. Cellular Field would include the controversial return of Alex Rodriguez. This was truly a unique experience and I have the amazing people of Chicago to thank for that.
Before today's game became the Alex Rodriguez show, the focus of my day was the fact that my parents are in town. They live about two and a half hours from Chicago in Kalamazoo, Michigan and I could not pass up the opportunity to take my parents to a game. After taking my mother to see the Dodgers in LA, I wanted to make sure that I caught a game with my father this summer as well. I am staying in my sister and brother-in-law's apartment, so this part of the tour is a bit of a mini-family reunion.
On our way to the field, my father and I reminisced about going to games at old Comiskey Park when I was a kid. I have not lived in the Midwest for quite some time, so I forget sometimes how “old” the new Comiskey (now US Cellular) really is. After playing their home games for 80 years in old Comiskey, the White Sox decided to build a new “baseball palace” right next door. That was 22 years ago. I am not as young as I thought I was. It is now the ninth oldest ballpark in the majors. There are still remnants of the historic stadium that saw Shoeless Joe Jackson, Nellie Fox and Carlton Fisk take the field including a shower stall in the center field concourse, and the pinwheels high atop the scoreboard.
Upon arriving to US Cellular Field, I was reminded at how little there is to do in the area. Luckily, a certain disgraced former AL MVP was making his season debut during tonight's game which turned out to be catnip for the local news crews. The streets were lined with news vans and reporters doing live remote segments around every corner. I watched as producers from all of the major networks frantically sought out that perfect “man on the street” interview from a broken hearted child or an indignant adult. This was going to be an interesting game.
I have very few complaints about US Cellular Field, however I do have one major one. The architects built it the wrong way. I do not mean that the stadium is build poorly, but rather it is facing the wrong direction. The Chicago skyline is nowhere to be seen once you reach the seats. You can get a great view of the Windy City if you walk up the ramps to get to the upper levels, but sitting in the stands I saw nothing in front of me but the sky. It is a very isolating feeling. The stadium is so divorced from the city that it feels like watching a game on an island.
Despite having won the World Series in 2005, the White Sox remain the second favorite team of the Second City. It is never more apparent than when sitting inside each team's respective parks. At Wrigley no matter what the Cubbies record is, there is always a packed house. The atmosphere is electric from the time you step off the train and enter Wrigleyville to the seventh inning stretch. It is not hip to be a fan of the White Sox. There are no social benefits to rocking the black and white. When you come to US Cellular it is because you are a baseball fan. As I am writing this I am beginning to realize that maybe the architects had it right. If you are looking for a party and to be a part of the zeitgeist you should probably overspend for a ticket to Wrigley. If you are a pure baseball fan who wants to watch the beauty of the game itself, head on down to the South Side where there are no distractions from the play on the field.
Before the game, my folks joined me for my stroll around the concourse. There are several statues throughout the stadium that pay tribute to White Sox legends of yesterday. I am always a sucker for a good statue and the ones they have at US Cellular are fantastic. Their placement in the outfield creates a great visual with the diamond in the background. The representations of Nellie Fox flipping the ball to Luis Aparicio makes for a great photo opportunity. Check out the gallery above for a look at just a few of the statues sprinkled throughout the stadium.
My favorite moment of today's trip to US Cellular was getting the chance to meet the White Sox organist Lori Moreland. Live organ music is becoming a rarity at the ballpark and access to the organist is almost nonexistent. In San Francisco the organist plays out in the open, but behind a rope. In Chicago I was able to walk right into Lori's booth and chat with her for a couple of minutes in between songs. She could not have been more sweet and I was very happy to learn about the White Sox commitment to honoring one of the treasured traditions of the ballpark experience. I have nothing against digital scoreboards, walk-up music or any other modern technological advance that teams integrate into the game. There are some aspects of the atmosphere however that should never be abandoned. Hearing the organ blaring over the sound system is as quintessentially baseball as hot dogs and peanuts. Thanks for keeping the tradition alive Lori.
Before we headed to our seats to watch the media engulf the Yankees dugout it was time for my pregame meal ritual. There is quite a lot of good food at US Cellular, but shockingly there was no authentic pizza to be found. For a city that prides itself in its deep dish delicacy I was incredibly disappointed that the only option for a slice was the same Digiorno pies I can get from the Duane Reade (or whatever your local convenience store is). With no pizza on the menu, I went for the next best thing, a Comiskey dog. For the uninitiated, a Comiskey Dog includes: kosher pickle, tomatoes, onions, green relish, celery salt, mustard, sport peppers and NO ketchup. It was tremendous.
It was now time for the prodigal son to return. Would the fans in Chicago forgive him? Nope. The crowd of nearly 30,000 were waiting in anticipation for A-Rod to step out of the dugout and when he did the boos came raining down before he even made it to the on deck circle. The White Sox have had a rough season. I feel as if their collective frustration with their own team was channeled into mercilessly attacking the disgraced Yankee. I have never been a fan of Alex Rodriguez dating back to his days as a Mariner through his first $250 million contract with Texas and his second $275 million payday in New York. I never blamed him for the money, I was simply never a big fan of his play on the field. The numbers he put up always felt artificial even before the steroid accusations came into play. He was putting up monster numbers in games that did not matter in Texas and when he came to New York I just felt that he never really cared about the game. These are obviously my own issues and projections, but now when I see the rest of the baseball world unload on Rodriguez I wonder why exactly we are so mad at him. There are dozens of superstars who have tested positive, had mountains of circumstantial evidence levied against them or flat out admitted they have used performance enhancing drugs and we do not spit nearly as much venom at them as we do to the Yankee 3rd baseman. I am not saying that he does not deserve this vitriol, but it was fascinating to see the glee in people's faces at the chance to tear him down as the game progressed.
During his first at-bat he promptly hit a bloop single that Casper Wells could not quite reach, but that did nothing to silence the crowd. My folks and I were sitting on the third base side so we had A-Rod in our sights the entire game. Every time he took the field our section would voice their displeasure quite loudly and creatively. The loudest and most consistent chant was of course “A-Roid” which may not be very original, but it is just as effective.
The White Sox jumped out to an early lead on Yankees starting pitcher Andy Pettitte's and his utter lack of control. The box score may say that he only walked one, but he threw 75 pitches in 2.2 innings of work. The Pale Hose did the majority of their damage with Pettitte on the mound scoring seven runs on eleven hits. Jose Quintana for the home team took care of the Yankee bats himself allowing just one run on eight hits over 6.2 innings. Due to Pettitte's early struggles, the first three innings of play took nearly an hour and forty five minutes to play. It was almost 9 PM by the time the top of the fourth came around. Luckily both bullpens were solid giving up a combined four hits and only one run over 7.2 innings which sped the game up considerably.
Rodriguez ended up going 1-4 with a strike out much to the delight of the fans. This was an interesting day for me. When I planned this tour I put zero thought into when I wanted to be in each city. My only priority was to create a path that would include the least amount of driving, as few backtracks as possible and that put me back on the road every third day. With the Hank Aaron sighting in Milwaukee and now being in the stands the day Alex Rodriguez comes back while appealing his 211-game suspension that had just been announced was just a lucky coincidence.
I had a phenomenal time at US Cellular Field. This may not have been the typical day at the ballpark for most Southsiders, but they showed my parents and I a great time. If you have enjoyed any of the photos I have uploaded throughout this tour it is solely because of my father Krishna Jain. My dad is a tremendous photographer and taught me everything I know about how to use a camera. I was able to watch him work a little today as he brought his camera to the game as well and we both took some shots. Being with both my mom and my dad made me regret not bringing them both along for more of this trip. While these past few months have been the most fun I have ever had, sharing it with family makes it so much better. Tomorrow I will be coming right back to this stadium, but this time I will be bringing my sister and her husband. Her husband has never been to a professional baseball game. Tomorrow I remedy that.
Next up: US Cellular Field: Game 2
Game Time Temp: 68
First Pitch Time: 7:10 PM
First Pitch: Robin Yount
National Anthem: 3 Men in Kilts
Seventh Inning Stretch: Take me out to the Ballgame
Total Pitches Thrown: 324
Total Hits: 23
Total Singles: 18
Total Doubles: 5
Total Triples: 0
Total Home Runs: 0
Total Walks: 9
Total Strike Outs: 16
Total Errors: 0
Game Time: 3:13
Attendance: 27,948 (68.8% full)
Home Plate Umpire: Hunter Wendelstedt
Miles Traveled: 0 miles
Time in Car: 0 hours
Sleep Time: 7 hours 30 minutes
Bottles of Water: 4
Food Eaten: Grapes, blueberries
Ballpark Food: Comiskey dog, ice cream helmet
Scoreboard Cap Game: Under Cap #2
Money spent on parking: $0
Money spent on ticket: $76.00
Cost of Program: $4.00
Money spent on food: $11.25
Total money spent on Merchandise: $21.46
Total Money spent at stadium: $108.71
Total Money spent today $108.71