Saturday, July 9, 2011

Chicagoland Double-Header

Last Sunday, Melvin and Watson woke up in their own bed (and I woke up down the hall in the guest room).  Melvin and I had a relatively easy day planned.  We would head first to Wrigley Field for an interleague game between the Cubs and White Sox, then drive west to see the Kane County Cougars take on the Quad City River Bandits.

It was a good thing for me to get to Wrigley Field.  When people learn you have been to a lot of ballparks, two of the first questions many will ask are, "Have you been to Fenway?  Have you been to Wrigley?"  The oldest stadiums are iconic and now I can answer, "yes," and "yes."

I had been looking forward to this game.  I wanted to see how a crosstown interleague game was played, on and off the field, some place other than New York.

I am not a fan of interleague baseball. My opposition is both as a traditionalist and a partisan fan.  As a baseball traditionalist—“purists” have no sense of history—I don’t like interleague play prior to the World Series. The games make the already unbalanced schedule even more skewed. Many of the match-ups are meaningless. It excuses the designated hitter as a quirk of the game, rather than the perversion it truly is. Interleague baseball is a novelty and as such, was a bit of fun when new, but that was a long time ago.

The baseball season is too long—if you don’t believe me, wait until the Twins are the American League champions—and the first place to cut is the interleague series.

As a Mets fan, the interleague games are particularly annoying. Why, other than their shared home town, do the Mets have to play six games against the Yankees every year? Granted, our American League rival is a better run organization from top to bottom, but please don’t rationalize away the advantages bought with the game’s largest payroll.

As I suspected, the rivalry was less intense in Chicago than it can be in New York (although not everybody was quite as lovey-dovey as the young couple above).  Part of the more subdued atmosphere results from the team records this year; the Sox went into the day 42-42 and the Cubs had a .405 record.  Neither team has the history of winning that the Yankees have and I did not see arrogance like that expressed by their fans.

Sunday's game was very well attended, the 42,311 fans being the largest crowd at Wrigley this season.  As much as I dislike interleague baseball, it does sell tickets.

The Cubs won the match-up, 3-1, preventing a sweep.  Rodrigo Lopez went seven scoreless and economical (75 pitches) innings.  The home team did all their scoring in the third.  Like the game we saw in Arizona in April, 2B Darwin Barney singled and SS Starlin Castro knocked in a run.  3B Aramis Ramirez then homered to left.

It took three Cub relievers, starting with Kerry Wood, to get through the eighth inning.  Wood seemed to struggle.  He gave up a single to 3B Mark Teahen, who later scored the sole Sox run on a wild pitch.  After another single and a walk, Wood was replaced by Sean Marshall, who induced a foul out, and closer Carlos Marmol recorded the final four outs.
Box Score

We walked back to Melvin and Watson's—Walking distance from the stadium! I love it!—to use the bathroom and pick up the car.  An hour later we were in Geneva, Illinois, home to the Kane County Cougars.  (Melvin told tale of a cougar that walked down the commuter rail line into his Chicago neighborhood, where its demise was delivered by Chicago PD.)

Despite buying tickets at the last minute, we were able to get seats behind home plate.  Elfstrom Stadium is a sprawling affair, seemingly bigger than the 7,400 seats that resulted from a 2008 expansion.  There is great food (pork chop sandwich and grilled corn) and beer (Two Brothers) down the right field line.  This was a quite different experience from the small market cities we visited in Iowa.

Having seen the River Bandits at home the night before, I continued to root for Quad City.  There was plenty to root for as the visitors banged out nine hits.  However, the hits were spread out over nine innings, limiting the team to one run.  Two double-plays by the Cougars helped prevent any rallies.

Kane County only got three hits but scored twice, with a good deal of help from starting Bandito Zach Russell.  A first inning walk came home on a double.  The Cougars scored again in the second when Russell threw a ball past his catcher and later chucked another one away on a pick-off play.  He settled down for the next five innings but with no run support from his teammates, the damage was done.
Box Score

Harry Canary, one of the Zooperstars, led the crowd in "Take Me Out to the Ballpark."  Canary, modeled on the late Cubs and White Sox broadcaster Harry Caray who would lead the singing during the seventh-inning stretch, was freelancing with BirdZerk.  Both ensembles are part of The Skillville Group.  Kids love these characters and who am I to deny them that pleasure?  However, we've seen them so many times Melvin was able to predict each routine in advance.

Ernie Banks, twice the National League MVP and a 14-time all-star, led the song at the afternoon game.  Banks predicted the Cubs would again win the World Series, which they have not done since 1908.  Since he did not predict what decade or century that would occur, he is almost certainly right.

Both games were completed in under two-and-a-half hours so as the sun set, Melvin and I drove to Glen Ellyn, where I lived ages two to five.  The old family home was greatly altered and what had always been a nice suburb looked more upscale than I remembered it.  It's wasn't 150 steel wagon wheels welded together, but it meant something to me.

Quote of the Day
A woman behind us remarked, "I would rather go hungry than eat Dippin' Dots."  Melvin and I had a chuckle, having long derided "the ice cream of the future."  The lads in front of us had a different opinion, polishing off a cup o' Dots as a chaser to their cotton candy, a ballpark diet that drew rebuke from the male parent in their midst.

No comments:

Post a Comment