Game 27: Chicago White Sox
This was always going to be a long day for Kitty and I. The trip to U.S. Cellular Field involved a drive from Bill’s place to the South Bend airport to catch the NICTD (Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District) South Shore train into central Chicago. From there it was a short walk to the “L” (elevated train) to catch another commuter train – Red Line - on to the ballpark. Because of the idiocentric nature of the American Mid-West we would also be changing time zones, from Eastern Time to Central standard. All this necessitated an 8:00 am departure for the scheduled 3:05 pm kick off.
We had time for a look around Chicago and were impressed with this lovely city on the shore line of the huge Lake Michigan. Temperatures had cooled significantly and were down to just 70 so it was actually quite pleasant as we walked around and viewed the numerous architectural wonders of Millennium Park. Then on to the south side of Chicago and into U.S. Cellular Field. The first thing to gain my attention was that there was only one bar to sample outside the stadium. Then upon entering the stadium, while there has been relatively recent upgrades, I would have to call it unspectacular. To be fair, it seems to have become something of a victim to the ball park building craze it triggered. Since its debut in 1991, fourteen new parks have been built. It was the final ball park built at the end of the symmetrical park era and so lacked a number of the little subtleties and retro touches that more recent ball park architects had incorporated. Having said that there have been renovations made this decade to attempt to bridge the gap and change it to a more crowd friendly and asymmetrical park. We changed seats three times in order to get a good look at the place, as well as to keep the sun out of Kitty’s delicate eyes. It was a shame that from none of our seats were we able to get a glimpse of Chicago’s imperious skyline and when we ventured up into the 500 level seats the steepness was a little bit scary. Still, the beer was reasonably priced at $7.75 and the White Sox organisation was one of those who gave us free tickets so it would be rude to complain too loud.
Every game was taking on vital significance to the White Sox outfit as they were leading the Tigers by only one game in the division. The Royals were out of contention so could only act as spoilers. This made for an intriguing proposition as the “South Side Hitmen” waited anxiously on Star Wars Day at U.S. Cellular Field for Darth Vader to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Kansas City Royals………001 000 012 - 4
Chicago White Sox…....101 201 00x – 5
The White Sox got the anticipated victory over the lowly Royals, but not without some angst. While through most of the afternoon the division leaders were cruising, for a few brief moments at the top of the ninth innings things turned to custard. From the bottom of the sixth innings through to the top of the eighth Chicago maintained a comfortable four run buffer with their 5-1 lead. Then Johnny Giavotella hit a ground rule double and later in the innings was bought home by a powerful Alcides Escobar double. That was all the scoring in the eighth, but in their last at bat, against closer Addison Reed, things began to go pear shaped for Chicago. Reed got the first two batters out, but Mike Moustakas kept the game alive with a double and Brayan Pena followed with a single that scored Moustakas. Tony Abreu took Pena’s spot on base and quickly stole second. A Giavotella single made it a one run game but then Reed did what he was paid for and closed the game by striking out Lorenzo Cain.
This all came after the White Sox offence had looked strong. In the first innings with two out Dayan Viciedo hit a solo shot over the right field wall. Kansas City tied the game in the third as Cain scored and was controversially scored thanks to a single from by old spring training buddy, Billy Butler, who was still averaging in excess of .300. Chicago though, took the advantage back in the bottom of the same innings when Gordon Beckham led off with a double and scored two batters later courtesy of Alexi Ramirez’s two bagger to left. In the fourth, the White Sox tacked on two more as A.J. Pierzynski got on base with an infield single and Tyler Flowers followed with a shot over the wall to score them both. Paul Konerko completed the Sox scoring with a solo blast in the bottom of the sixth.
I mentioned that the run for Kansas City in the third innings was controversial. Cain had been on third base and sprinted home on Butler’s single to right. Rios’ throw to catcher Flowers appeared to beat Cain, with Flowers tagging Cain on the left thigh before he hit home plate. Home plate umpire Mark Carlson disagreed. White Sox manager, Robin Ventura and bench coach Marl Parent came out to argue the call with the umpire. Carlson ejected Parent as a result of the “discussion”. I have often wondered about this tactic and whether it served to assist the team or penalise them. I have never seen an official change his mind based on a lambasting from a coach or manager and I would have thought that it would be human nature for the referee or umpire to in fact prejudice himself against the complainants.
I think that the managers may be hoping that their relationship with the umpire might be like a marriage. By challenging everything you do and every call you make at the end of the day the umpire may get fed up with the manager as you do with your wife. Pretty soon you, or the umpire, do whatever it takes to make them happy.
Probably the best spray of an official I ever saw was in a rugby game I played in Wellington. Our player/ coach was sometime Black Cap and on this day first five-eighth Bert Vance. The referee penalised us and Bert eye balled him from about six inches away and called him a (and I quote): “short arsed, bald headed, four eyed, cheating prick”. The official did nothing. I quizzed Bert about it after the game and suggested that had I been the man with the whistle that I would have sent him straight off the field for defiance. Bert’s retort was:“ Yes, but he knew I was telling the truth”.
I would not condone Bert’s actions but I do understand them. I would suggest taking a softer approach though and attempting to establish a more positive rapport with the official. Still it worked for Bert that day; just as it appeared to work for Ventura and Parent today as they went on to win the game. Each to their own.
Kitty and I made the short walk from U.S. Cellular Field to the 35th Street Station and got off at Lake Street. A quick march down Randolph Street took us to the South Shore just in time to board and relax before the train moved out of Millennium Station. I spoke about the slow train in Cleveland, this was even worse. The three hour trip back to South Bend allied to the hours’ time difference had made this a long day indeed. So it was just one quiet night cap, a chat with Bill about Notre Dames last minute three point victory over Purdue and a good night’s sleep.