In an effort to speed up our stadium quest, in August 1997 we decided to go on an organized stadium trip for our vacation. There are several companies that run these kinds of tours – Broach Sports Tours and Sports Travel and Tours are two that come to mind.
[Unfortunately we chose one called Sport Tours – it was apparently run by someone who had split away from Sports Travel and Tours to run his own company. The webpages and brochures looked so similar, it was easy to get them mixed up. The tour itself went fine, but it seems that shortly thereafter the company went under, and some of the hotels were not paid by the tour operator, and one of them then tried to recoup the cost of the stay from the credit card I used for “incidental expenses”. I won’t go into all the gory details, but it was a total pain in the butt for us for about a year afterwards.]
The first stop on the tour itinerary was Comiskey Park, home of the Chicago White Sox. This of course was not “old” Comiskey Park, vacated after the 1990 season, but “new” Comiskey Park, which opened in 1991.
On August 20, 1997 we arrived at Comiskey Park to see the White Sox take on the Toronto Blue Jays. Robert Person (who would later become a Phillie) was on the mound for the Jays, and James Baldwin was pitching for the Sox.
I can’t say that I was impressed with this stadium. Instead of being oriented to provide a view of the downtown Chicago skyline beyond the outfield, it instead looks towards some housing projects on the South Side of Chicago:
All the white on the steel girders in the outfield contributed to an almost sterile feel to the stadium.
For a game featuring a lot of well-known names, it wasn’t particularly memorable. The Blue Jays at this time had Shannon Stewart, ex-Phillie Mariano Duncan, Joe Carter, Carlos Delgado, and Shawn Green. The Sox lineup that day included Frank Thomas, Albert Belle, Robin Ventura, Mike Cameron, and some guy named Ozzie Guillen 🙂 at shortstop.
Another ex-Phillie, and the hitter of the foul ball I got at my very first game, Benito Santiago was catching for the Blue Jays that night. Here he is singling to left:
This game was definitely not a pitchers’ duel. Delgado and Robert Perez homered for the Jays, and Belle launched one for the Sox. When one of the White Sox players hits a home run, the pinwheels atop the scoreboard light up and spin (though you obviously can’t see the spinning motion here):
The Sox had a 12-1 lead at one point in the game (actually right after Belle’s homer in the above photo), and the final score ended up 12-6, White Sox.
Since our visit, there have been many changes to this stadium. For one thing, it is now called U.S. Cellular Field. The outfield fences have been moved in, making it even more homer-happy. The batters’ eye has been redesigned with a plaza on top of it, and there are statues of famous White Sox on the outfield concourse. The blue seats have been changed to green, and the white steel supports have been painted a darker color. Pictures I have seen on other websites (check out baseballparks.com for an in-depth review) show a remarkable improvement over its appearance when I visited.
Next stop, Milwaukee County Stadium.
No, no, no, not that! Get your heads out of the gutter! In anticipation of the upcoming season, I was reminiscing about the blossoming of my love for the game, and ultimately the first baseball game I ever attended.
I spent my formative years in rural northeastern Pennsylvania. Well, at that time it was rural – not so much anymore. This was back in the days pre-cable, pre-satellite, pre-anything except good old-fashioned broadcast television. We were pretty much equidistant from both Philadelphia and New York, so the team you ended up rooting for was pretty much determined by which TV station your antenna could pick up (I know you young’uns out there are probably having a hard time imagining such archaic technology 😉 ).
Some people could only get Philadelphia stations. Some could only get New York stations. Some poor souls could get practically none at all. My family was apparently blessed with the ideal location, as we could get both! This led to an early schism in our household – I rooted for the Phillies,
but my sister ended up following the Mets.
Or as I so lovingly teased her, the Mutts.
So the two girls in the family would argue over which team to watch (oddly enough, our younger brother didn’t even like baseball, so he didn’t care). I’m pretty sure the only reason my sister watched the Mets was because she had the hots for Lee Mazzilli, though she will deny that. Note Lee’s nifty late-’70’s hairstyle.
Let’s fast-forward now through my high-school and college years, when I regrettably succumbed to the peer pressure that it wasn’t “cool” for girls to like sports. And since there were no MLBlogs at the time, of course I didn’t know that there actually were a lot of female baseball fans out there. I guess none of you went to my school – oh well.
So finally, two years out of college, at the ripe old age of 23, I finally get to attend my first major league game. Yay!
May 15, 1987. The Padres are playing the Phillies at everybody’s favorite stadium to bad-mouth, the Vet. A guy I had recently met asked me out on a date – yay! To go see the Phillies – double yay! But I was recovering from having my appendix removed – not yay. He also didn’t believe in buying tickets ahead of time – double not yay. We got to the stadium and he bought what were actually pretty decent seats from an “unofficial ticket salesman” in the parking lot, and the view from our seats was pretty much like this:
Not too bad! We settled in to watch the game, and now here comes the memorable part. Sometime in the middle innings, San Diego’s catcher lofts a high foul pop toward the upper deck behind us. Everyone is craning around to see (except me – limited mobility from the appendix, you know), and it appears to be caught by someone in the first row or two up there.
But they dropped it!
As I look up to see the ball falling towards us, what seemed like dozens of hands are all reaching above me to try to catch the ball. All I could do was cringe, close my eyes, and cover my head to keep from being whacked unconscious. Then I heard voices asking “Where is it?”, “Where’d it go?”
I opened my eyes to see, believe it or not, the ball nestled between my feet. All these years later, I still have it. Here it is:
The ball was off the bat of Benito Santiago, who went on to win the Rookie of the Year award that year,
and later played for the Phillies in 1996.
Sadly, I don’t even remember the name of the guy that took me to the game (it was our one and only date). The Phillies won that game, 7-4, but would go on to finish fifth (out of six) in the NL East that year.
After that, my love for the game was back to stay. So thank you, whoever you are, for taking me out that night!