Sunday, August 19, 2007

Game #17: On the South Side


Well, I saw a record tied in Chicago. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the big one that was dominating the news recently, but it was impressive nonetheless. Bobby Jenks, the White Sox closer, matched the major league record by retiring 3 batters in order to reach a string of 41 consecutive batters retired. While that’s spread over the course of a large number of appearances, it is an equivalent number of outs to over 1 ½ perfect games. Pretty impressive no matter how you cut it. Unfortunately, neither I, nor the people I was at the game with, were aware that he was close to this record, and they certainly didn’t announce it while he was pitching. As such, the jubilation of the crowd as he recorded each out in the 9th inning of a 6-0 loss was quite perplexing. But it made for great theater nonetheless.


Unfortunately, that was about all the home team had to cheer for, as White Sox really didn’t put up much of a fight in a complete game shutout by Jeff Weaver of the Seattle Mariners, a pitcher who still carries the dreaded Dodger taint about him in my eyes. But in many ways, he simply coasted through the Sox lineup. This looked every bit like a playoff-bound team (Seattle, for now at least) against a last-place team (the White Sox). While the youngest member of our group (more later) was probably unfazed by this performance at her first ever baseball game, it was probably a disappointing first introduction to the second first-ever baseball game person in our group.


The White Sox did come quite close to putting runs on the board. With one on in the bottom of the 1st, slugger Jim Thome hit a ball off the top of the wall that 36,629 umpires immediately declared a home run. Unfortunately, the 4 on the field didn’t agree.

The game was also very short, with the Mariners needing only 2:13 to dust off the home team. This bested my previous shortest game of the trip, which rang in at 2:22. Interestingly enough, both games were ones in which I had people come to the ballgame with me. Hmm... We’ll see if that trend continues.


US Cellular was one of the last stadiums built before the Camden Yards / Jacobs Field renaissance in ballpark design. As such, it’s received a fair bit of flak for not being particularly appealing. Perhaps it’s because we were able to grab seats on the lower deck, thereby avoiding the poorly reputed upper deck seats and their significant distance from the playing field, but between the reasonable proximity of the game and the baseball-dedicated construction of the stadium, and a cooperative bit of shade, we greatly enjoyed our vantage point. The overall effect was therefore far improved from the impression I’d been given, and quite a decent ballgame experience. While the park was again a little short on unique character, it did provide well with good sight-lines, all the amenities needed for a modern ballpark, and a positive crowd atmosphere.


Mind you, our tickets weren’t actually meant to get us a field-level vantage, but were 18 rows up into the upper deck, in a stadium in which they don’t allow movement between decks. That said, we had ourselves a magic go-anywhere-you-want pass. Her picture’s to the right. It was, really, quite impressive to see the ushers wave us on through with her in hand.

Chicago being Chicago, I was also able to make an enjoyable evening after the afternoon game. After a tour around the Navy Pier, I put my best tourist face on and went for a deep-dish pizza at Pizzeria Due, Uno’s cross-street brother. I finished off the night by stopping off first at what might well have been (myself included) the whitest blues bar in all of Chicago, and then a rather more authentic place, which was great fun, and had plenty of character. And, for that matter, which was free, it being “college night”, much to my great amusement, and the skepticism of the ticket taker at the door.



Off to Detroit…

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