Sunday, October 23, 2005

Windy City World Series Adventures

Baseball, of course, is a funny game. Our beloved Mets won a World Series in their seventh season, the expansion Marlins claimed a crown in their fourth, and the Diamondbacks laid waste the Evil Empire for a championship in their third season.

But the Chicago White Sox, a charter American League team, has not been to a series since 1959 and hasn't won one since 1917.

Will, now a Chicago resident, said the Windy City is going nuts over the Sox and invited me over to soak up a little World Series atmosphere and watch Game One in style.

We met at U.S. Cellular Field on the site of Old Comiskey park's home plate a few hours before the "security bubble" closed off access from Indiana to Wisconsin. OK, maybe it wasn't that bad, but we heard that if you didn't have a ticket -- and we did not -- you wouldn't get anywhere near the stadium near game time.

I arrived just after a press conference where the Houston and Chicago mayors announced their traditional goofy bet. Staffers were loading a cow painted with White Sox logos into the back of a truck. Others were handing out cool Ozzie Guillen masks.

Many of the souvenir vendors were already open, and we picked up our programs and scouted the assorted caps and pennants that we would no doubt find cheaper elsewhere.

I think it's interesting to watch a stadium come to life before a game, and "The Cell" was abuzz with activity, from special signs being hung on fences to uniforms arriving from the cleaners.

The cleaners delivery guy thought I was strange for wanting to snap photos of him doing his job. Even stranger was that I wasn't the only one.

If you don't think seeing this is exciting, you're reading the wrong column.

With masks and programs in hand, Will directed me on a downtown tour of Chicago reveling in it's first World Series since the Eisenhower administration.

The first stop was massive Indian statues at Grant Park. The horses are decked out in their finest pale hosery.

We then walked up the street to Millenium Park where we started seeing more and more Sox supporters. The new sculpture "Cloud Gate" -- Will calls it "the Bean," and I like his name better -- is amazing to see. Walking away we ran into a family in their Sox finest. The dad had several rally monkeys hanging in nooses draped over his shoulder. I'm assuming they're left over from the League Championship Series, but you never know.

Not far away was the Art Institute of Chicago, where the lions that guard the front steps are wearing their Sox caps. Very cool.

I wondered where exactly do you get plastic baseball caps to fit bronze lion statues. I can see how a talented seamstress can whip together a couple socks for the horses. But these hats were plastic and big.

It's best not to wonder too much about these things, and just be grateful that the lions were tasteful enough to sport fitted caps without cheesey mesh.

The lions have been guarding the Art Institute since 1894, and have been decked out in team attire just twice before -- 1984 for the Cubs and the following year for 'da Bears.

We then walked a few blocks over the Daley Plaza, where the tall Pablo Picasso sculpture sits. He, too, is wearing a Sox cap.

Some nice Sox fans offered to take our photo in front of the Art Institute.

The plaza was filled with thousands of kids attending some kind of Halloween event. I'm assuming that because they were wearing costumes. Either that, or they were Cubs fans too ashamed to show their faces in public.

We were walking around snappling more photos when two television cameramen saw our Ozzie Guillen masks and asked us to pose in front of the Picasso. They asked us to jiggle the masks, then pull them away and cheer. They had us to this several times.

When they were done -- and after we asked them to snap a photo of us in front of the Picasso -- they told us to watch the game that night. Maybe we were part of the pregame show, or will appear sometime in a broadcast. You've been warned.

We had already read that security would be tight around the city. Chicago police have always enjoyed a reputation of being somewhat aggressive. But we had no idea the city was actually employing Imperial Stormtroopers. Kind of explains the 1968 Democratic convention, though.

Blogger Darth Marc will be shocked to see that the Empire backs the Sox.

I heard a radio report on my way in that said the Cubs had hung a banner reading "Congratulations Sox" in front of Wrigley. This I simply had to see. That, and we knew there are a number of large souvenir stores near the stadium. So we treked up to the northside for shopping and some lunch.

The stores delivered as expected, with World Series caps going for $5 to $10 cheaper than in the booths outside Comiskey.

But not only was there not a sign on Wrigley, they were tearing the place down. No kidding! Most of the bleachers were rubble. Apparently the thought of the Sox in the Series was just too much for the Cubbies.

Apparently the Cubs have started their long-stated plan to expand the bleachers out over the sidewalk. We were kind of sad after walking around to the other side and seeing that one of our memory spots was no more. The strike zone that provided the scene for our epic Wiffle Ball game against the alleged major-leaguer and the actor from Bull Durham had already been demolished.You can read about it here.

While there were no decorated statues in Wrigleyville, we were surprised to see some of the local establishments jumping on the bandwagon. This bar across the street appears to have gotten some grief for supporting the Sox.
We took a break from our atmosphere-soaking to enjoy some Chicago-style hot dogs at a shop down the street. Apparently asking for a dog "with everything" means a virtual salad on a bun. I wimped out on the peppers, but it was an outstanding meal.

We then headed back to Will's place to hammer out our next column before finding a place to settle in to watch the game with friends.

We found one of those sports-themed restaurants with a million televisions. It was so crowded that we knew we'd never get a table, but no one cared. Actually, the fire marshal seemed to care when he arrived about midway through the game with some paperwork for the manager to fill out.

But it was a great place to enjoy the game, with the crowd going nuts with every hit and nice play. The crowded erupted in cheers when Bobby Jenks dispensed with the Astros to end Game One.

So not having tickets didn't stop us from having an awesome time enjoying the World Series in Chicago.

Watching a White Sox World Series game with friends: Priceless! Left to right: Jim, Laurie, Amy and Ozzie Guillen or Will, I kept getting confused.

Extra innings: Greg from the awesome Faith and Fear in Flushing site offered this proof of the Cubs offering their support to the Sox. Thanks, Greg!


Mike McMillin said...

Chicago is one great city. I had the pleasure of visiting this past August and watched the Sox split with the Yanks. Go Sox....

Tony Hartsfield said...

Um, neither of those women is your wife...

Mets Guy in Michigan said...

My wife would want no part of a crowded Chicago sports bar! That would be Will's girlfriend Laurie and her friend Amy, plus our friend Jim and Ozzie/Will.

Darth Marc said...

Darth Marc backs the Sox as well...gotta stick with the American League...

G-Fafif said...

Thanks for the awesome tour. Mets Guy in Michigan has a touch of the non-sectarian in him when it comes to the Fall Classic.

Joe said...

I can't believe what they are doing to Wrigley! Granted the stadium is older than dirt and really needs renovation - but come on!

Great pictures! Tons of memories there. What a town, that Chicago.