Some housekeeping, if I may, before we get down to business. First: if you're interested in taking a peek at my growing collection of photos from The Baseball Road Trip Of A Lifetime, you now can, at: http://picasaweb.google.ca/vaswani.navin. While I'd love to post higher quality photos online, I am unfortunately shackled with bandwith restrictions.
Secondly: about halfway through this ridiculous journey, I have been left humbled by the many e-mails I have received from baseball strangers far and wide, who have taken the time and effort to be in touch. Some have shared their own personal baseball stories, while others have written that I have rekindled their love for the game. Each and every piece of correspondence has been appreciated. It's these e-mails, from people bound to me only by their passion for baseball, that make what I'm doing that much more worthwhile. Thank you. Stay in touch. You know where to find me: by email, at Sports And The City, and on Twitter.
Alright, let's do this; we're headed to the south side of Chicago.
Destined to Disappoint?
I'll be honest, I was a bit apprehensive about the Chicago White Sox experience. How could U.S. Cellular Field possibly top Wrigley Field? Especially considering Wrigley was arguably the most anticipated stop on #TBRTOAL. I was genuinely looking forward to watch the Cubs. The White Sox? Not so much. I knew it would be impossible to not compare Chicago's two ballparks, especially since I also knew that, in another life, if I hailed from Chicago, I'd have been a Cubs fan.
To make matters worse, annoying Canadian sensation Justin Bieber - he of the music that makes your ears bleed and the hairstyle that makes you worry about our society's future - was throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. A little payback from the baseball Gods, I imagine, in what has been a blessed trip so far. Fair enough.
I did have something to look forward to, though, as I headed south on Chicago's Red Line to Sox-35th station. A meeting with the man, the myth, and the legend known as @AnswerDave; Dave Brown, one of the contributors over at Yahoo! Sports' wildly popular baseball blog Big League Stew.
At the recommendation of Mr. Brown, we met at Schaller's Pump, a few blocks southwest of U.S. Cellular Field, on South Halsted Street. Alright, wait a second. I've got to get something off my chest: U.S. Cellular Field is an awful name for a ballpark once fondly known as Comiskey Park. And I know Charles Comiskey was a real piece of work; a real jerk. But there really ought to be a moratorium on company-sponsored ballparks. God damn capitalism.
Where was I? Schaller's Pump, right. I'd suggest checking the place out. It's your local south side White Sox pub. And by local I mean really, truly old school. Schaller's Pump oozes character. And it should. It's been catering to White Sox fans for over 125 years; it's Chicago's oldest tavern, and opened its doors back in 1881.
Cheap homemade food (I went with the cheeseburger), Miller Lite in those red cups you play beer pong with, and baseball. What else could you ask for? I'd have never found the place if it wasn't for Dave, so, thank you, Dave. Was a pleasure talking baseball, Justin Bieber, and life with you at a historic place like the Pump. Thanks for making the trek to the south side to make it happen.
From Schaller's Pump, it's a good 15-minute walk to the ballpark. Like Wrigley Field, the White Sox ply their trade in a residential neighbourhood; Bridgeport/Armour Square. Where Comiskey Park once stood, across the street from The Cell, you'll now find a parking lot. It's where White Sox faithful now practice the American art of tailgating. I picked up a seat in the bleachers for $17. On any other night, that ticket would have cost me $34. But I was in luck; it was half-price Mondays. A solid promotion, I must say. Because Mondays traditionally suck.
David and I strolled through the concourse, and headed for the outfield terrace, where you can walk around underneath the scoreboards and massive billboards. It's out there where you'll find Legends Plaza: sculptures of White Sox legends Carlton Fisk, and Nellie Fox and Luis Aparicio turning two. There's also a sculpture of Harold Baines and, upon looking it, the awful memories came rushing back, and I remembered just how much I hate Harold Baines.
Hating Harold Baines
It's true. I hate Harold Baines. Never liked him. And for good reason. In 221 career games against the Toronto Blue Jays, the most games he played versus any opponent, Baines's line reads: .298/.356/.493. An OPS of .849. At the SkyDome, Baines's line is even better: .325/.400/.482. An OPS of .882, in 58 games. Harold Baines hit more home runs - 38 - against the Blue Jays than he did against any other team, and I was always afraid when he came up to the plate. Baines feasted on Toronto Blue Jays pitching. And I haven't forgotten.