Thursday, March 19, 2009

Baseball Place No. 33: Billy Goat Tavern; and Baseball Place No. 33A: New Comiskey Park

If only they'd have let the goat in the first time.

If Billy Sianis had been a Yankee fan, he would not have had any problems bringing his pet goat to the ballgame.

I’ve been to Yankee games, I’ve seen those fans. I’d rather sit next to a goat than most of the Jeter-loving hooligans that fill the place.

Alas, Sianis’s operated the Billy Goat Tavern is in Chicago, not the Bronx, and the Cubs turned him away as he tried to bring his goat to the 1945 World Series.

As the legend goes, Sianis cursed the Cubs, saying the team would never win a World Series.

Sianis was obviously a gifted promoter, because now we have to endure talk about the curse every time the Cubs are in the playoffs. And he’s opened several taverns around the city, including tourist places like Navy Pier.

Josh Pahigian takes us to the original Billy Goat Tavern, 430 North Michigan Ave., as spot No. 33 in his “101 Baseball Places to See Before You Strike Out.”

I’ve been to Chicago lots of times, but, like the Batcolumn, I’ve never seen a Billy Goat Tavern.

But I have seen a team that appeared to be cursed, and figured out how to break it. That would be:

Alternative Baseball Place No. 33A: New Comiskey Park

Old Comiskey was being torn down during the first season of the new ballpark.

We checked out the New Comiskey several times in 1991, the year the park opened. Will and I scored credentials for a story and went on the field before a game with the Orioles.

And I returned later with my wife to experience it from the fan’s perspective.

Frank Thomas was hanging out with Glenn Davis before the game.

Ozzie Guillen in the cage.

That's Cal Ripken Jr. talking to Ben McDonald.

I’ve come to this conclusion: There are two New Comiskeys.

If you have a seat in the lower stands, it’s a fine ballpark. A wonderful ballpark. You seem close to the action. There are plenty of concession stands along a nice, wide concourse. And there was a nice Hall of Fame.

However, if your seats are in the upper deck, you are not a happy camper.

First, there are three layers of skyboxes pushing the upper deck into the heavens.

Then, the seating is so steep that I’ve been afraid to lean forward, lest I tumble head over heels down through the section, over the rails, past three levels of people in skyboxes not watching the game then landing on the heads of some poor Sox fans who were enjoying the action from a reasonable height.

It’s just not a comfortable thing.

If you can rest your feet on the head of the person in front of you, the rows are too steep.

The Sox had bad timing. Their yard was among the first of the new wave of stadiums, and came after Camden Yards revolutionized the way ballparks are designed.

It’s been argued that Comiskey is actually the last of the old wave rather than the first of the new, fan-friendly era.

The Sox were aware of this, because the team started five years of renovations in 2001, even lopping off the last six rows of the upper deck, among other changes to give the place more of a retro feel.

Some of those changes were paid for by selling the name of the park to U.S. Cellular Field, which I recognize only on occasion.

I like New Comiskey, as long as we can sit in the lower stands. We’ve been there a bunch of times, including “Elvis Night,” which would have made former owner Bill Veeck proud.
The Executive Board: Me, Will, Scott and Jim.

The park was the location for an historical event, in addition to the 2005 World Series, of course. The first Executive Game occurred in 2000, and we’ve gathered every year since.

The Sox approved of our official ExGame I shirts.

I’m sure the Sox have a plaque commemorating the event somewhere, but it must be in the upper deck because I haven’t found it.


G-Fafif said...

BGT: Second place I've been on the list that you missed. Though you missed nothing special. Was led to the plaque in the parking lot at NCP. I briefly turned to sawdust at the thought there used to be a great ballpark here and an immensely steep upper deck there. You're dead on differentiating between the two levels, at least pre-renovation.

Steve J. Rogers said...

Can't believe you didn't make mention that the Billy Goat makes the list of 101 (well maybe its not that deep of a list) of SNL sites you must check out before you say "Goodnight, and have a pleasant tomorrow."