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Wrigley Field and Comiskey Park in One Day

Wrigley Field and Comiskey Park in One Day, Chicago, IL

April 19, 2002, afternoon:  Cubs 5, Reds 2
April 19, 2002, night:  Tigers 8, White Sox 2

When I saw I had a shot to attend baseball games in two different ballparks in the same day, I figured, hey, this is something I absolutely have to do, and if you’re reading this, you may be wondering if you can do it your own self.  Well, here’s a bit of advice.

The places you have a chance to do this (Mets/Yankees, Cubs/White Sox, Angels/Dodgers, A’s/Giants) historically have never had their teams at home at the same time.  Since the advent of interleague play, however, there are one or two weekends a year when they’re at home simultaneously, and if you pick a day when one plays an afternoon game and the other a night game, you can pull it off.

I’d highly advise you to check the weather report first, if at all possible!  April 19, 2002, the day I did the multi-stadium doubleheader, was about 40 degrees in Chicago, and dipped lower at night.  So either do your doubleheader in LA or be ready to dress in many, many layers.  I was pretty stupid–had to spend $33 on a sweatshirt at Wrigley Field.  There were people around me who were in shorts and halters!  They didn’t last long.

Have a contingency plan for rain delays or extra innings.  Which game are you willing to miss the end of or to be late to, if it comes to that?

Anyway, my April 19, while cold, provides me with a rare opportunity to compare Wrigley Field and Comiskey Park, as well as Cub fans and Sox fans.  I will now offend everyone in Chicago with the following observations:

Observation Wrigley Comiskey
Adjustments to my first impression of the ballparks: I may have been a little hard on Wrigley Field in my original review of it.  I liked it a little better the second time around.  Even though the ivy hadn’t flowered yet, making the outfield walls dingy brown, I noticed that I didn’t have a single advertisement in front of my eyes when I looked around the field.  That’s amazingly refreshing.  (But I will not adjust my ranking due to my observations of fans under “Fans” below.) When I first went to Comiskey Park in 1993, it was my favorite ballpark I’d ever been to.  Man, have I ever matured in my tastes.
Location: Trendy sports bars, but otherwise a basic neighborhood, with hardware stores and fast food…nice because it’s so mundane. I didn’t take the time to took around.  And I never will.
Scalpers: The rudest, most intrusive, aggressive scalpers I’ve ever encountered–they will not only approach you, they will ridicule you if you refuse (“Yeah, whatever, sit in the upper bowl, then.”) Scalpers at Comiskey?  You’re more likely to find scalpers at a local spelling bee.
Fans: Here’s where I get into trouble:  The fans at Wrigley do not care about baseball.  They are there to be seen.  That’s what I said–A good chunk of Cub fans at Wrigley DO NOT CARE ABOUT BASEBALL.  They mostly couldn’t tell you a single Cub besides Sammy.  This makes the Cubs’ historic lack of success irrelevant. Fans at Comiskey care about baseball because it gives them an excuse for their deep-seated anger issues.  This makes the White Sox’s historic lack of success absolutely essential to their surly personalities.
Arrival/Depature times: Cub fans arrive late and leave as soon as they realize it’s too cold. Very few White Sox fans ever show up to begin with.
How to get there: The Red Line has a stop a block from Wrigley Field.  Take the Red Line. The Red Line has a stop a block from Comiskey Park.  Take a cab.
Batting Practice: You will be treated to the screams of pre-pubescent girls scrambling for batting-practice balls that Cincinnati Reds’ players throw their way when the kids chant “Reds!  Reds!  Reds!”  (How do pre-pubescent girls perfect that ear-piercing crystal-clear insanely-high-pitched sound?) If you get a ball, get moving before the fisticuffs start. And I’m pretty sure children, at least those from the same neighborhoods as the ones below, are never taken to Comiskey by their parents.

Fifth grade girl and friends show off the ball that their intolerably piercing screams brought their way.

Fans and school:

Cub fans miss school to enjoy afternoon ballgames.

White Sox fans have never attended a school.

Fans removing shirts in windy  40-degree weather:

At Wrigley, drunken college guys remove their shirts.  At least I think they’re college guys–the guys on the right look like they’re in about junior high.  Reasonable people wonder exactly what kind of moron would even consider such an insanely stupid act.  (See below.)

At Comiskey, fans wait until the temperature drops down below 35 degrees and there’s a downpour.  Then, they remove their shirts and holler.  These fans include my cousin and his buddy–answering the question posed at Wrigley.  (See below.)

Shirtless Cub fans, probably missing their ninth-grade classes.

paulandsteve

Shirtless White Sox Fans--my cousin Steve (center) and his buddy. Both are elementary school teachers who sincerely hope the school board does not discover this web page. Note that I am wearing FIVE layers of clothing, including both a rain jacket and a winter jacket.

Response to routine fly ball to shallow left by the visiting team:

Cubs fans shout with incredible glee, as if they are on a loop-de-loop rollercoaster at Mardi Gras.

White Sox fans shout “COME AAAHHHNNN!!!” as if certain something disastrous is about to happen.  (They react this way regardless of the situation, actually.)

Wearing opposing colors:

Wear opposing colors–whatever you want.

Wear opposing colors, but accessorize with a flak jacket.

Result of game and fan reaction:

Who cares?  We were just here to be seen anyway.

The Sox lost, again, because they’re out to keep us miserable.

BASEBALL STUFF I SAW ON THIS DAY:

Matt Clement struck out 12 Reds.  Steve Sparks took care of the White Sox’s bats.

(Written April 2002.)
Observation Wrigley Comiskey
Adjustments to my first impression of the ballparks: I may have been a little hard on Wrigley Field in my original review of it.  I liked it a little better the second time around.  Even though the ivy hadn’t flowered yet, making the outfield walls dingy brown, I noticed that I didn’t have a single advertisement in front of my eyes when I looked around the field.  That’s amazingly refreshing.  (But I will not adjust my ranking due to my observations of fans under “Fans” below.) When I first went to Comiskey Park in 1993, it was my favorite ballpark I’d ever been to.  Man, have I ever matured in my tastes.
Location: Trendy sports bars, but otherwise a basic neighborhood, with hardware stores and fast food…nice because it’s so mundane. I didn’t take the time to took around.  And I never will.
Scalpers: The rudest, most intrusive, aggressive scalpers I’ve ever encountered–they will not only approach you, they will ridicule you if you refuse (“Yeah, whatever, sit in the upper bowl, then.”) Scalpers at Comiskey?  You’re more likely to find scalpers at a local spelling bee.
Fans: Here’s where I get into trouble:  The fans at Wrigley do not care about baseball.  They are there to be seen.  That’s what I said–A good chunk of Cub fans at Wrigley DO NOT CARE ABOUT BASEBALL.  They mostly couldn’t tell you a single Cub besides Sammy.  This makes the Cubs’ historic lack of success irrelevant. Fans at Comiskey care about baseball because it gives them an excuse for their deep-seated anger issues.  This makes the White Sox’s historic lack of success absolutely essential to their surly personalities.
Arrival/Depature times: Cub fans arrive late and leave as soon as they realize it’s too cold. Very few White Sox fans ever show up to begin with.
How to get there: The Red Line has a stop a block from Wrigley Field.  Take the Red Line. The Red Line has a stop a block from Comiskey Park.  Take a cab.
Batting Practice: You will be treated to the screams of pre-pubescent girls scrambling for batting-practice balls that Cincinnati Reds’ players throw their way when the kids chant “Reds!  Reds!  Reds!”  (How do pre-pubescent girls perfect that ear-piercing crystal-clear insanely-high-pitched sound?) If you get a ball, get moving before the fisticuffs start. And I’m pretty sure children, at least those from the same neighborhoods as the ones below, are never taken to Comiskey by their parents.

O’Brien Field, Peoria, Illinois

O’Brien Field, Peoria, ILLINOIS

Number of states:  20
States to go:  30

Number of games: 1
First game:  July 31, 2006 (Dayton Dragons 3, Peoria Chiefs 1)

(Click on any image to view a larger version.)

I’ve got to give a shout out to my Uncle Ed.  At sixty years old, he found it in him to sit through a Chiefs game in triple-digit temperatures.  Triple digits…and I’m not positive the first digit was a one.  (Okay, it was, as the thermometer at right attests.  100 degrees at first pitch.)  He stuck it out all the way to the end.  What a nice man–to get me two rows behind home plate, and not to beg off due to the

horrendous heat.  Alas, as much as I like him, I can’t say the same (in the way of endurance) for my young, robust cousin Luke, who fled after about five innings.  He was studying for his GREs.  I spent part of the day helping him memorize vocabulary words that begin with the letters A through D.  Right there in the midst of the baseball game, Luke suddenly announced that he could not recall the definition of the word “aver,” and fled for home.  No sweat there.  I would like to aver that his eventual endodontic practice will not be impacted by his knowledge, or lack thereof, of that word.

My first visit to O’Brien Field was not my first visit to a Peoria Chiefs game. I went to a game there in 1994, as I stopped to visit my Peoria-based grandmother as I moved to Pittsburgh.  Another cousin, Rick, and I sat in the second row behind the Madison Hatters’ dugout and lightly heckled players (I was younger and stupider then) whose names we thought were stupid.  “YMCA” subsequently played, and the mascot (some ursine creature) noticed that I was singing along to the verses and not merely

to the chorus. He dragged me up for my first (and, to date, only) dance atop a dugout.  Let’s just say I gave the mascot a bit more than he might have bargained for in the dance department.

Twelve years later, I passed through again. Very little remains from my first visit.  Pete Vonachen Stadium has gone the way of the dodo–its former location is now the site of Bradley University’s soccer fields.  While the Vonachen name has been replaced by the corporate O’Brien Field (for Peoria’s O’Brien Motors) there are two nice traces of Vonachen that endure.  First of all, the ballpark is on Pete Vonachen Way.  Second is a lovely sculpture which greets spectators as they approach the seating bowl from the home plate entrance.  In it, Vonachen talks to a young fan, and the sculpture is quite lovely in portraying the emotion of two people of two generations who clearly love baseball.

This trip saw me paying another visit to the Peoria-based grandmother,

although not nearly as happy a visit, as, while she continues to breathe and eat, she no longer has any memory of anyone in the world except for my host, Uncle Ed. I never went to a ballgame with her, I’m afraid. She was always a Cub fan…never a very knowledgeable one, but enough of one to understand the futility of it.

Perhaps because of that day’s visit with my grandmother, I was quite impressed to see that the Chiefs, in addition to the usual Little Leaguers running out to greet the players at their positions, had residents from local retirement homes out there as well. That, quite simply, was sweet, and I bet the elderly folks enjoyed it every bit as much as the kids did, albeit in a different way.  Kudos to both Uncle Ed and the Chiefs for taking care of the elderly in Central

Illinois.

There’s a lot going for O’Brien Field as a place to see a ballgame.  The view opens out to downtown Peoria.  In the “is there any question where you are in the world” department, there’s a massive building for Caterpillar Tractors, one of the cornerstones of the Peoria economy, right beyond the left-field wall.  The seventh-inning stretch singing was led by a video of Harry Caray, thus playing into both the fact that the Chiefs are a Cubs affiliate and, more importantly, that we’re in Illinois.  I’d imagine that actual Peorians are divided between Cubs and Cardinals fans, but Caray announced for both during his career, and fans of any team can’t help but sing along.  The architecture is fairly typical for recent minor-league ballparks, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, since it means the lovely views and loads of places to picnic.

Quite simply, O’Brien Field is a winner.  Since family gatherings will likely take me back to Central Illinois with some frequency, I’ll likely be back there, and I’m glad about that.

BALLPARK SCORE:

Regional feel:  8.5/10
Very good, with downtown, Caterpillar, and Harry Caray.

Charm:  4/5
I’m taken by Pete Vonachen’s smiling statue.

Spectacle: 4.5/5
Very good–lots going on pre-game and between innings.

Team mascot/name:  2/5

Homer–a dalmatian representing the Chiefs…get it?  Why the heck are they the “Chiefs,” anyway, and isn’t Homer a bit like the “Smith” of baseball mascot names?

Aesthetics:  4.5/5
Lovely views and a nice ballpark.

Pavilion area:  3.5/5
Pretty good, but I failed in my effort to circumnavigate the stadium.

Scoreability:  3.5/5

Fans:  5/5
Hey–they’re my relatives.  How do you expect me to score this?

Intangibles:  3/5
A good game, a fun night, and damn, damn, damn hot.

TOTAL:  38.5/50

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

Wade Miller (at right) makes a rehab start for the Chiefs.  He pitches four shutout innings, and is followed up by Joel Santo, who looks pretty darned strong too for four-plus.

The Chiefs take a 1-0 lead into the ninth inning.  Santo starts to falter, and Bo Lanier comes on for the save.  They get the Dragons down to their final out–and, if I recall, to their final strike–when Craig Tatum comes through with a two-run double.  He then scores on Adam Rosales’ single for the final margin.

Peoria threatens with a leadoff walk in the ninth, but Dayton center fielder B.J. Szymanski’s splendid catch of Alberto Garcia’s liner helps preserve the 3-1 final.

[New] Comiskey Park

[New] Comiskey Park, Chicago, IL

Number of Games:  2
First Game:  July 1, 1993 (Orioles 1, White Sox 0)
Most Recent Game:  April 19, 2002 (Tigers 8, White Sox 2)

Comiskey Park was renamed US Cellular Field in February 2003.

I got off the train for my weekend in Chicago, leaving my Subaru to rest a week or two at Shelly’s house in Ohio, and followed my main rule the whole week:  I always chat with

cabdrivers. After buying Chris and Rebecca’s wedding gift (which I would give them before accompanying them to Milwaukee County Stadium), I enjoyed the company of Innocent Okele, who talked about life with his five wives.  He looked at my uncertain expression in the rear-view mirror and laughed a high-pitched, gleeful, semi-evil mischievous laugh.  “I’m just keeding.  I don’t have five wives.”  Pause.  “I have TWO wives.”  I decide to play his straight man, asking for their names (Josephine and Aisha), what they do with their time (both are very good cooks) and even the sleeping arrangements (Innocent’s room is between the rooms of the two wives, who visit his bed based on a pre-set schedule.)  We laughed very hard, so much that I shook his hand at the end of the ride.  “Good and Innocent, that me,” he said.  “You must visit Lagos.  A young man like you, you could have fifty wives.”  Quite the ride. I heard his laughter echoing through the hotel parking garage as he drove away.

Staying in Chicago alone…well, I was stood up by the family who had promised me a floor.  I was bumped for Oliver Stone, who (I guess) was going to be in their house at some unannounced point that weekend.  No word on whether he would be sleeping on the floor.  So I stayed alone at the Quality Inn for two nights, going way over budget and into credit card debt, getting lonely enough to call the ex-girlfriend whose breakup had caused me to flee to all of these stadiums in the first place.  Clearly the time with Shelly wasn’t quite the tonic I would have liked.  Man, was I ever a mess. The ex-girlfriend told me about her new cat;  she had named him a name clearly inspired or suggested by her new boyfriend.  This may sound weird, but that damn cat’s name was as hard to handle as anything in the breakup.  Made a new rule–if one wishes to call an ex-girlfriend, do not do it alone in hotel rooms in strange cities.  I blame all of this on Oliver Stone.  Indeed, I cursed him that day.  It was effective–he hasn’t made a good film since.

Back to a cabdriver going to Comiskey.  I’ve heard stories about cabbies taking fares deep into Scaryville, then demanding extra money or else they’ll throw the passenger out there with no clue where they are.  But the

cabbie going down to the ballpark was a nice, nice guy…named Amanbir, I think, a bit of a baseball fan.

The park itself, located in downtown Scaryville, isn’t so bad.  It gets a bad rap as the worst new stadium, but I actually quite liked it.  An uncool statement, I know, but I like the blue seats (too many of which are empty), and the exterior is quite nice-looking.  I think, in retrospect, it appeared better than it is–it was the first new stadium I’d ever visited, and it was a relief to be in a place with at least trace elements of character after seeing four losers in a row:  Busch, Three Rivers, Veterans, and Cleveland Municipal. Plus, the game I saw was easily the best of the 12-game Erotic Love and Baseball Stadium Tour.

By the way, since interleague play, there are one or two weekends a year when the Sox and Cubs are at home simultaneously, so it’s possible to attend ballgames in two different major league parks in the same day.  It was quite an experience, and seeing Wrigley and Comiskey back to back gave me an opportunity to make some comparisons.  Read about the two-Chicago-parks-in-one-day saga here.

So Comiskey gets a bad rap, I think.  It surely isn’t as nice as the other new parks I’ve since visited, but it ain’t bad.  I even got a cab to take me safely home in the middle of the night.

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

Jack McDowell pitches a 3-hitter for the Sox, retiring the last 20 batters he faces.  He loses! Jamie Moyer and Gregg Olson combine for a 5-hitter.  The Sox get a guy on first in the bottom of the ninth, and pinch-hitter Robin Ventura absolutely RIPS a ball down the first base line…would have tied the score, but David Segui catches it and the game ends.

I saw the first home game for Chicago after Carlton Fisk’s unceremonious release.  A few lonely fans shout out his name.  Fans are unkind to his replacement, Rick Wrona, who still manages to throw the bat at the ball for a weak base hit.  The Baseball Encyclopedia informs me it’s his only hit of 1993.

(Written August 2001.  Updated April 2003.)

Wrigley Field

(Click on photo to make larger.)

Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL

Number of Games:  3
First Game:  June 16, 1993 (Cubs 6, Marlins 4)
Most Recent Game:  July 19, 2004 (Cardinals 5, Cubs 4)

Okay–Wrigley Field is nice, but it’s not my favorite ballpark, even among the old ones.  I like it, sure, but I like Fenway Park a little better, and even Tiger Stadium gives it a run for its money.  The reasons why–well, I think they’re a result of me being of the MTV generation.  I love the old-fashioned hand-operated scoreboard, but I’m young enough also to like having something that can give me replays and information more readily.

When there’s an amazing catch or double play or monster home run, I like the chance to see it again to see if there was any aspect of the play I missed.  Maybe I was focused on a base-runner and didn’t see an outfielder bobble the ball.  Probably I have no idea the location of a pitch that a ballplayer just smacked out of the park.  Usually, I’m a bit of a traditionalist, but this is a case where progress actually has been good for spectators’ enjoyment of a game.  Tiger Stadium didn’t suffer from its DiamondVision scoreboard.  I’d say that only the deepest of the purists objected to its installation.  The scoreboard allows me to see big plays more carefully and deeply than a first reaction will allow.

Also–and maybe there was just a technical flaw that day–I felt the PA sound was difficult to hear.  This doesn’t matter unless there’s a tough scoring decision I need to put into my book.  For instance, at the first game, I had a question as to whether a play was a wild pitch or a passed ball.  The PA guy reported it, but from my seat under the overhang and behind a pillar, it just sounded like a mumble.  With no scoreboard to look at and an unintelligible PA guy, I missed the ruling, and that bummed me out.  Please don’t attack me–I like Wrigley Field, its charm, its atmosphere, the ivy, the massive hand-operated scoreboard.  I just think that, in its efforts to stay pure, it has missed a couple of positive changes that would have made me enjoy the game a little more.

I certainly enjoyed the ELABST game plenty, in good part because I saw it with college buddy Josh (whose mother’s close personal friendship with Oliver Stone would cost me Comiskey Park lodging two weeks later).  He scored the game, but he did it differently from the way I did.  On the bottom of his scorecard, he wrote:  “Today is the 100th anniversary of Cracker Jack.”  And indeed it was–we all got a free sample for showing up.  When he stopped paying attention to his scorebook in about the third inning, he wrote on his scorecard:  “If ever I need to know what happened in this game, I will call Paul.”  You can still do that, Josh–I still have all relevant information.

Josh also introduced me to the art of moving down to better seats.  Did you know that this is an ethical thing to do?  Randy Cohen, who writes the New York Times “The Ethicist” column, responded to a eleven-year-old boy from Houston who was embarrassed by his dad’s practice of moving down to better seats, and asked if it was ethical.  Cohen says it is.  He chastised major league stadiums for being “gated communities.”  I agree with him.  It used to be that a ballgame was one of the only places where different social classes truly mixed as equals–the workers rubbing shoulders with doctors and lawyers, everybody rooting for the same team.  I think of Jackie Robinson’s first couple of seasons, where major league stadiums provided rare moments of racial mixing in some cities.  But that’s not true anymore, what with so many “Diamond Club” seats with buffets and everything else like that.  I’ve certainly enjoyed my time in such seats at Coors Field, PacBell Park, and Jacobs Field, but I’d gladly trade that for ticket prices that enabled everyone to sit in the best seats–and be together.

Not that it was some Marxian desire for social upheaval that caused Josh and I to try to move to better seats.  The main cause was, well, that our seats sucked–so far under the overhang that we couldn’t see the big scoreboard or a fly ball of any height.  Josh scouted out the seats, and then we serpentined our way down to the fourth row, avoiding the radar of the usher/guard.  I thought we were home free until the rightful ticket holders showed up in the fifth inning.  Fifth inning! Even for a weekday afternoon game, that’s inexcusable.  The usher kicked us out, and said “I was looking for you ever since I saw you scouting for seats earlier.  I guess I missed you.”

“Well, we’re good,” Josh replied.  Fun guy to be with.

And a fun stadium on the whole–although I might get flamed because it’s not my number one favorite.  But then, the Fenway people would flame me if I preferred Wrigley.  People take these things way too seriously. (But then, I should talk.  I’m the one spending all these hours writing this stuff.)

I didn’t return to Wrigley for nine years after the first visit, and when I did, I did a matinee there followed by a White Sox game that night.  That was quite a fun experience, and one that enabled me to make some comparisons between the two ballparks and the fans within them.  If you are so inclined, you can read about the two-Chicago-ballparks-in-one-day saga here.

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

Florida catcher Mitch Lyden becomes the 68th person in Major League history to hit a home run in his first major league at-bat.  He hits it over the screen and onto Waveland Avenue.  His major league career lasts a total of six games.  He finishes his career with only the one home run–and his name in the record books.

Cubs’ Matt Clement pitches a strong game, striking out 12.  Not that I can be too sure–it was so cold that I can barely read my scorecard.

A marvelous Cubs/Cardinals game in 2004.  Carlos Zambrano hits Jim Edmonds with a pitch.  Next time up, Jim Edmonds homers.  Words are exchanged.  Benches clear.  Things are intense.  Next time up, after giving up what turned out to be the game-winning homer to Scott Rolen, Zambrano hits Edmonds again.  He is ejected.  He also appears to be a highly unstable young man. Cardinals win 5-4.

(Written August 2001. Updated August 2004.)