Recap : White Sox 6, Mariners 5 (11 inn)
After an early morning walk through a deserted and questionable Milwaukee neighborhood to get to the Greyhound station and a short 2 hour bus ride (sitting next to a pretty strange dude who was mumbling to himself the entire ride and occasionally giving me the 'stink eye'), I was back in Chi-Town for my 2nd time this year.
Unlike my first trip which was brisk, long sleeve May 1st weather, today was a picture perfect 82 degree late August Sunday.
Since my room wasn't yet ready, I had some time to kill, so I walked up Michigan Avenue and stopped for breakfast at my favorite French Cafe on Washington Street right across from the Millennium Park. The park had a healthy crowd as you'd expect it to be on a gorgeous Sunday morning, looking at the cool attractions like The Bean, The Music Pavilion and The Crown Fountain. I then walked up Michigan avenue up through the Magnificent Mile waiting to get a text that my room was ready
Around noon, I headed back to the hotel to check in then over to the CTA stop where I took the red line to US Cellular Field. It's the same line that goes to Wrigley, but to the South Side instead of the North. For those bold enough to drive in Chicago, the park is just west of the I-90/94 Dan Ryan Expressway .
The neighborhood is decidedly different than Wrigleyville. The South Side of Chicago isn't known for its charm and ambiance (Remember "Bad Bad Leroy Brown" ?)
The stadium itself isn't very old. Opened in 1991 (in their first game ever played in the stadium - they were drubbed on Opening day by Detroit 16-0) it was one of the first in the new wave of parks replacing those hideous concrete monoliths of the previous two decades. But the park seems much older than its years. It's certainly clean and comfortable and a nice place to watch a game and the fans were pleasant if not terribly enthusiastic, but there really aren't any remarkable characteristics or features. The scoreboard looks like a early '90s Nintendo video game screen with super low tech graphics. The top of the scoreboard is adorned with colored pinwheels which spin along with accompanying 'fireworks' when the Sox win or a big HR is hit. This is an acknowledgement of the 'exploding' scoreboard at the Old Comiskey park conceived by former White Sox owner Bill Veeck. Several statues are scattered throughout (most in the outfield concourses at 'Legends Plaza') including the Luis Aparicio, Carlton Fisk, Nellie Fox, The 'Big Hurt' Frank Thomas and the the recent addition of Paul Konerko.
The coolest sculpture is in front of the home plate gate at the "White Sox Championship Brick Plaza" commemorating the teams 2005 World Championship (the only baseball championship in the city of Chicago since 1917).
Food and souvenir options are decent but not remarkable. Minnie Minoso's Cuban Sandwich stand was my favorite but there are also plenty of Comiskey Dogs, Pierogis and Polish sausages to be had. A nice sit down option is the "ChiSox Bar and Grill", a multi-level restaurant and bar located inside of Gate 5. The establishment features both indoor and outdoor seating and a wide variety of food, drinks, and entertainment.
Two stands worth stopping by are - Elotes which serves delicious corn off the cob. Fresh, grilled, buttery, salty, savory (it's hard to explain why such a strange dish seems so right at a baseball game) and Comiskey's Confections - You wouldn't expect to find a boardwalk style bakery and confectionery in a ballpark, but Comiskey's Confections offers outstanding pastries, candies, and soft-serve ice cream, cupcakes, cheesecake, fudge, marshmallow, and creme-brulee entice everyone, and there are even gluten-free options.
The game SGA was nice - a vintage 1950's White Sox cap which I'll wear exactly 0 times.
Regarding White Sox gear - The ballpark is pretty much the only place in the city of Chicago that you can buy any. Every sports and souvenir shop is brimming with Cubs stuff - but good luck finding anything with 'White Sox' on it. You'd think that there was only one baseball team in this town.
The game itself was a good one despite being between 2 clubs already out of pennant contention.
The Mariners jumped out to an early 4-1 lead on 2 run homers by Kyle Seager and Austin Jackson, but the Sox chipped away and tied it with a Melky Cabrera HR in the 7th. The M's regained the lead 5-4 and took that lead into the 9th with 2 outs when an errant throw by Brad Miller allowed the tying run to score. That set the stage for the bottom of the 11th where with runners on first and third, Tyler Saladino laced a single to right driving home the winning run and giving the Sox a walk off victory.
But the one thing that I'll always remember from this game is that after all these years and games - I FINALLY caught a foul ball!
It was almost surreal since the ball was fouled back directly to my seat - I didn't have to jump or dive or fight anyone. All I did was raise my hands straight up and catch it. So I can cross that off my list. So, it was a pretty nice afternoon - I caught a foul ball and got to see a walk-off victory.
I finished my day off with a trip to Navy Pier and the iconic Ferris Wheel, and then took a night-time architectural river tour and finally over to State Street by the river to my favorite take-out pizza place in the city where I got to witness on TV (as if I hadn't already had enough baseball for the day), the final 2 innings of Chicago hero Jake Arrietta's no-hitter for the Cubs vs the Dodgers on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball.
Fans - B- - Not as warm and chatty as in the last 2 mid-west parks I was just at, but not as surly as they can be in NY or Philly.
Features - C - Kind of a dated feel. Not super clean. Other than a few statues, no real interesting features. One of the worst scoreboards in MLB
Location - C – Not hard to get to by CTA, but not a great neighborhood to hang around in after the game
Food - C – For a city that has such great food, neither of their ballparks are near the leading edge of MLB park food offerings
Game - B+ – Not a great matchup and no ‘get out of your seat’ moments until the end. Walk-off wins are always fun
Overall Experience – C+ – Things that raised this grade are - Sunday afternoon baseball in beautiful weather, Walk-off win for the White Sox, I caught my first foul ball!!