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Wrigley Field by day, U.S. Cellular Field by night

Jun 10, 2013, 2:49 PM EDT

source:  I was out on Friday because I went to Chicago for the weekend for various reasons. High among those reasons was to take in a Chicago doubleheader: Cubs day game and White Sox night game. I did and had a nice time.

My first visit to Wrigley came 13 years ago. I was young and able to handle much more foolishness than I can now, so naturally I sat with my young friends in the bleachers and consumed all manner of beverages and kinda sorta watched Sammy Sosa hit a home run and paid a little bit of attention to the game and then sort of lost track of time until I was somehow transported to a place called Ace Liquors in West Chicago at 11pm and then told everyone for the next couple of days that I had a fine time at Wrigley and how, yes, it makes total sense for every Big Ten graduate to migrate to Lincoln Park and boy it would probably be nice to have a beer with that George W. Bush guy who’s running and aren’t the 2000s shaping up to be just like the 90s only more prosperous and peaceful?

Which is to say that one’s opinions and tastes change, as does the world, and you never know exactly how it will change.

My view of Wrigley certainly has changed. It’s hard to say anything about Wrigley Field that hasn’t already been said. Thing is, almost everything that has been said about it, no matter how superficially contradictory, is pretty much true. It is charming. It is a dump. It is a great place to watch baseball. It does contain a whole hell of a lot of people not watching baseball. I can’t think of a park which has the whole of baseball experiences in it, both bad and good, like Wrigley Field does.

This time I sat in good seats along the first base line and was responsible and aware and apart from being absolutely frozen by a stiff wind blowing in directly at me from left field on an already chilly day for June, I found the place to be peaceful and conducive to good baseball-watching. Part of that is me being an old fogey now, and enjoying the fact that the organ music-to-crappy pop ratio is very nice at Wrigley, as are the relative lack of promotional announcements and general noise pollution. I didn’t focus 100% on the game as I wanted to move around some and see the park from different angles, and because I had some friends up in the upper deck I wanted to go visit, but I walked away from Wrigley feeling like the place still has something baseball needs.

Yes, it’s decaying in many ways and has to get that renovation the team is proposing, yes there is still a lot of nonsense out in the Bleachers and, no, it’s not some Field of Dreams-style jewel that must be preserved lest baseball lose its very soul. But the essence is right. If they can keep the place a building that is about presenting you a nicely unadorned baseball game in an urban setting, the Cubs will have done a great service. I sure hope the don’t mess up the good parts while they fix all the bad stuff.

source:  The evening meant the A’s and White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. It’s an underrated park. So much of my opinion of that place — which I had never visited before Friday — was based on outdated information. It was the last of the parks to be built before Camden Yards revolutionized ballpark construction, and for that reason I assumed it was coldly utilitarian in the way all of those 1960s-80s multi-use parks used to be. I guess I maybe knew that at some point in the 90s there were major renovations to cozy the place up, make the upper deck a less harrowing and severe place and all of that, but it just didn’t register in my gut somehow. Fact is, it is rather indistinguishable from most of the post-Camden Yards parks, both for good and for bad.

U.S. Cellular does all of the things a modern park is supposed to do: it’s clean and easy to get to and spacious and the food is good and the sight lines are great. I got to the park early, sat in the Bullpen Bar, which is just beyond the right field fence at field level, and watched the A’s take batting practice. As the sun went down I took a nice stroll around the concourse, taking the long way to my seats — my inexpensive seats — behind home plate. I had a great Italian Sausage and my companions had what they, in their expert opinion, said were the second-best helmet nachos at a major league park (Texas wins). The bathrooms were clean with short lines. It was easy in the way you want the ballpark experience to be easy.

And while, no, it does not have that baseball-only essence of Wrigley, it’s a quite enjoyable place to see a game. White Sox fans seem to care. At least the ones at the game on Friday did. Maybe that’s just a 2013 White Sox thing borne of the fact that no one is going to seek this team out on a chilly night unless they really like baseball, but it seemed like a very good baseball crowd in spirit if not in size. U.S. Cellular has one of the more assaulting “let’s make some noise” features of any ballpark — it pits the fans on the right side of the park against those on the left in a screaming contest — but it seems pretty superfluous here. White Sox fans know when to cheer.

On Saturday I had some time to kill in the afternoon and found myself walking around down by the Field Museum and Shedd Aquarium. On the way back to my hotel I went by Soldier Field. It’s an old stadium with a new one rudely dropped on top of it, making it one of the uglier and sadder buildings I’ve ever seen. One look at that and Chicago baseball fans have to consider themselves lucky. They have the old where the old makes sense and the new where the new makes sense and oh my god how easy it could have been to mess that up.

  1. franklb - Jun 10, 2013 at 3:04 PM

    My first Wrigley experience was part of a Cubs by day/Brewers by night doubleheader many moons ago (American League, County Stadium days). But for a rain delay in Chicago, we’d have made the whole Brewers game, but as it was, we only missed two outs in the top of the first. A very good day.

  2. specialkindofstupid - Jun 10, 2013 at 3:11 PM

    The absence of any reference to PEDs in this story perplexes me.

  3. Bryz - Jun 10, 2013 at 3:15 PM

    I’ve been to Wrigley once when I was 14. It’s a shame I don’t remember too much of it, but Kerry Wood started and it was the game he became the fastest to 1000 strikeouts in a career. I believe we sat in the lower deck between home and 3rd base.

    As for US Cellular, I’ve been there twice (both when the Twins were in Chicago) and it’s been just fine. Not the best looking park in the world (I told friends that with all its gray and black in the park, it’s no wonder it’s nicknamed “The Cell”) but I agree, the sightlines are great. It also was humorous the 2nd time I was there, as we walked up and bought tickets right at first pitch and the ticket guy apologized that our seats were poor. He was giving us 5th row of the upper deck between home and 1st, which were anything but bad.

  4. jm91rs - Jun 10, 2013 at 3:21 PM

    Since we’re sharing Chicago baseball stories, my first experience at Wrigley was memorable. I had what I thought was the worst hangover of my life. I threw up in the Wrigley bathrooms many times. I was there long enough to see Carlos Zambrano hit a home run off of Eric Milton (bet Reds fans wanted to forget that guy’s name), then left the game and got sick some more. Turns out everyone on the business end of that trip got sick from food poisoning at a dinner. My other memories of Wrigley are far more fond.

  5. jm91rs - Jun 10, 2013 at 3:23 PM

    As far as US Cellular, my step son is a huge sox fan so I need to get him up there this summer, but I did attend the All Star game at US Cellular. That was freaking awesome, too bad the girl that bought me tickets for my birthday ended up being a nut job.

  6. dadawg77 - Jun 10, 2013 at 3:23 PM

    Pre rehab the Cell was cold in a megamall focus group type of way. Now it feels more like a park, but I so wish that there was more organ and less pop songs blaring.

    • cmcdermottsite - Jun 10, 2013 at 4:59 PM

      Dadawg77, couldn’t agree more…..

  7. joecool16280 - Jun 10, 2013 at 3:30 PM

    Oh yay, Instagram style photos. Don’t see those very often.

  8. sdelmonte - Jun 10, 2013 at 3:42 PM

    Being a sad and ugly building in Chicago is probably one of the great offenses against architecture.

  9. mlblogsbutlerblogs - Jun 10, 2013 at 4:29 PM

    Funny how much better he makes the cell sound than Wrigley. Before you pick and choose the better park, also consider this…which ballpark do you feel safer in after a night game at 10-11pm at night, walking to your car or train? The south side of Chicago is a dump and one of the most dangerous part of our country. Yes country! I’m wrong? Go to the Sun Times website today and count how many shootings happened this weekend on the south side.

    I’ll take the dump on the North side over the Cell anyday

    • cmcdermottsite - Jun 10, 2013 at 5:02 PM

      mlblogsbutlerblogs…the southside is a big place. Most of the shootings are on the southeast side, numerous blocks to the east and south of the stadium. Nothing has ever happened regarding shootings anywhere near the ball park. The one big down side is there is nothing around the park to do……but not dangerous…..

      • jlovenotjlo - Jun 10, 2013 at 9:36 PM

        I agree with everything up until the nothing to do around the neighborhood statement. Check out Turtles on 33rd if you’re taking the train and want to stop nearby, otherwise there are a number of great establishments on Halsted, 6 blocks from the park.

        Admittedly, there used to be a lot less to do, but now businesses have moved in like Bacardi at the Park and the new Cork and Kerry, creating an environment in which people stick around after games.

    • Jeremy Fox - Jun 10, 2013 at 5:29 PM

      Um, you do realize it was a review of the parks, not the neighborhoods, right?

    • Kevin S. - Jun 10, 2013 at 7:59 PM

      Actually, I’ve felt perfectly safe leaving the Cell at 10:30. The parking lots and walk to the L station are well-lit. Not at all like the time I decided that walking from MSI to the Green Line stop at 63rd/Cottage Grove late in the afternoon was a good idea.

    • jlovenotjlo - Jun 10, 2013 at 9:33 PM

      Are you insane? Look up real estate prices for the neighborhood around the park, Bridgeport. You know absolutely nothing about the south side of Chicago.

      Bridgeport is not only a very historical and interesting Chicago neighborhood, it is also a thriving and beautiful one. Read a book.

  10. fm31970 - Jun 10, 2013 at 4:33 PM

    I have to agree with Craig. Wrigley has that “it” factor, when you know you’re in its presence, but it’s not perfect. That imperfection and the contradiction between its good and bad features Craig noted are what make it special. Try to lose a little of the bad and add a bit more good, and the place’ll be good for another 100 years.

    Oh, and make sure they continue to sell Old Style in the bleachers, too.

  11. DiscountMescan - Jun 10, 2013 at 4:49 PM

    Did something similar a few years back. Caught a Cubs vs Cardinals day game, hopped the L and watched the Rangers vs Sox night game. I had heard nothing but awful things about the ‘Sox fans. Those guys were awesome, even with me wearing my Rangers hat/shirt. Now being the South Side I followed the crowd from the L station to the game and back to the L station after but they were all cool as hell. Some of the Rangers fans were obnoxious after the game.

    That was my first trip to Chicago and it was an awesome trip. Saw a Cubs game, Sox game, Field Museum, Museum of Science and Industry, Hancock Obersvatory ,Portillo’s and Xoco all in under 36hrs.

  12. misterj167 - Jun 10, 2013 at 4:59 PM

    It’s my observation, even as a National League person, that people who attend Sox games are much more interested in the actual sport of baseball than those who attend Cubs games. Not to say whose fans are more devoted, but the impression I get is that Wrigley seems to be populated by suburbanites looking to drink and have an “experience”.

    I live here in Chicago and have gone to both stadiums (to watch the Braves when they play here, natch), and I like both of them in their own way. I also like both the Cubs and Sox, which doesn’t get me invited to many parties, believe you me. Those socialites can be hardcore, I gotta tell ya…

    • ptfu - Jun 10, 2013 at 6:09 PM

      Oh, absolutely. I’ve also been to plenty of games at both Wrigley and the Cell, and the clearest difference can be found when the home team does something bad, like a boneheaded error or a big hitter popping up with the bases loaded to end the inning. At Wrigley, there’s a soft collective “ohh”. At the Cell, everyone is cussin’ up a blue streak. And while Wrigley has its diehards and the Cell has its casuals, the ratios between the parks are not close.

      I haven’t seen people in either park systematically hassle fans in their opponent’s jerseys. That said, I would not wear a Cardinals jersey at Wrigley, and a Brewers jersey would be iffy. Not sure who the Sox’ blood rivals are–Twins? Indians? Tigers?–and at any rate, I have not heard of Sox fans hassling other teams’ fans. Remind me again which stadium is the Friendly Confines?

      • jeffbbf - Jun 10, 2013 at 8:53 PM

        I’m guessing you’ve never been to a game at Wrigley vs. the Cards. There is a sea of red in the stands as the Cardinal fans come out in force. Every time. Not once has there been a report of those fans being treated badly.

      • DiscountMescan - Jun 11, 2013 at 11:18 AM

        Agree with jeffbbf; I was at Wrigley for a Cards game and there were frickin’ Cards jerseys everywhere and I didn’t see anything negative happen and the house was packed.

        Same with The Cell, wore my Rangers gear and not one issue. In fact the fans were letting the Sox players have it and cracking jokes with me about the Rangers.

    • jeffbbf - Jun 10, 2013 at 9:05 PM

      I’m a suburbanite. For me, my dad, and my 2 boys, our “experience” is the connection with the past. Babe Ruth played on that field. So did Musial. Over 40,000 fans came to Wrigley when Jackie Robinson made his debut there. My dad told me stories of when he went to games and who he saw, and where he sat. I tell my kids, and hopefully they will be able to tell their kids. Anyway…this whole “people go to Wrigley to be seen and hook up” crap is just south side jealousy born from the fact that no matter how good the Sox are, they just don’t draw well. Those who hear that generalization will look for it at the game, and undoubtably find it – just like they’d find it at any other ball park.

      I don’t give a rat’s ass who goes to the games or why. I go there to watch baseball and teach my kids about the game and its history. Wrigley Field is a great place to do both.

      • misterj167 - Jun 11, 2013 at 2:14 PM

        Actually I’m not a South Sider at all, I live on the north side, and having been born and raised in Brooklyn, in a time when baseball was more religion than sport. So I think I have as good an appreciation of history along those lines as anyone.

        I stand by my observation, and it’s not necessarily a negative thing: after all, if baseball is a religion, Wrigley is one of two Meccas: Fenway being the other. Wrigley wasn’t even built for the Cubs, it was built for the Chicago Whales of the short-lived Federal League and is in fact the only Federal League stadium still standing.

        And the Cubs are treated in Chicago as the Yankees are treated in NY: the Cubs get more and better press and they are much more associated with the city then their counterparts on the South Side. People looking for a”baseball experience” and to talk about “history” don’t go to Cell Phone Park. People go there to watch the Chicago White Sox. There aren’t as many, but they’re a little more into their team.

  13. dnye56 - Jun 10, 2013 at 5:55 PM

    The first Cubs game I saw at Wrigley Field was in 1972 and it was Burt Hooton’s no- hitter. It was so cold that day you could barely stand it but it was worth it by seeing a no – hitter. Still a cubs fan to this day.

  14. esracerx46 - Jun 10, 2013 at 6:19 PM

    White Sox fans always have a reason for not going to games. As a Sox fan, this perplexes me. People say its hard to get to… its not. They say its in a bad neighborhood. That’s a fallacy, maybe in yesteryear but not today. I’ve heard the excuse that their is no places to go after the game. Sox gave us Baccardi at the Park, which is awesome IMO. Last year the team was in 1st place for most of the season so that can’t be it. Maybe us Sox fans are just bad fans…

    • jlovenotjlo - Jun 10, 2013 at 9:40 PM

      My opinion has been that most White Sox fans now live in the south suburbs, instead of the south side of Chicago, and some are very far away.

      Its an hour+ on the Metra each way or a pretty decent drive into the city for them, often around rush hour. They never should have left this fine city.

  15. shwoogy1 - Jun 10, 2013 at 6:32 PM

    You are right. Soldier field is the smallest stadium in the NFL and also the ugliest. It’s amazing how they could have built that monstrosity there. I guess that’s what we get when the city of Chicago gets involved with planning a football stadium. Thanks Mayor Daley! You a peach.

  16. Dan Camponovo - Jun 10, 2013 at 11:02 PM

    honestly, i was expecting even more stupid, racist comments regarding the south side. the cell is located in bridgeport, one of the oldest, most historic neighborhoods in the city, home of 50 years of the mayor daley clan, and right across the highway from bronzeville, a beautiful neighborhood with an even more storied history. my only real complaint about the cell is that it doesn’t face the beautiful skyline to the north — after catching a game in pnc park last summer, i automatically put any stadium that doesn’t face its city in a lower tier.

    • RoyHobbs39 - Jun 11, 2013 at 7:07 AM

      I feel as if most parks are in a lower tier when compared to PNC.*

      *Possible exceptions are San Fran, Camden Yards, and maybe Fenway and new Yankee?

      • Kevin S. - Jun 11, 2013 at 7:57 AM

        New Yankee is nothing special. I haven’t been to San Fran or PNC, but Camden is the jewel of my ballpark tour so far. Closest to it would probably be Nats park and Citizens Bank, although both aren’t quite on the same level.

  17. joeyg88 - Jun 11, 2013 at 9:53 AM

    You can buy a 35$ ticket in the outfield at sox game and that ticket comes with all you can eat and drink 2 hours before game time. You also can park for free or 10$ depending on area. You can also tailgate before games too instead of paying an arm and leg for a beer up in boys town. The south side neighborhood is not bad at all. Iv been going to games since I was 4 and never once ran into a problem. Iv been attacked leaving Chicago stadium/united center. That area sucks

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