The Opening Day That Wasn’t

Today should have been be my 20th straight Opening Day at Comiskey Park II/US Cellular Field/Guaranteed Rate Field, and my 23rd overall for the White Sox.  The first one was in 1985, a blowout win against the Red Sox at Comiskey Park that introduced rookie shortstop Ozzie Guillen to Chicago.  Other highlights include the 2005 1-0 victory against the Indians, the raising of the championship banner on Sunday Night Baseball in 2006, and Mark Buehrle’s between-the-legs flip in 2010.

The most frequent opponent has been the Tigers, who are also the only team with a winning record on Opening Day in games I’ve attended.  The other AL Central foes have each appeared at least 3 times.

 

White Sox Home Opener Team Records
Team Name Won Loss Winning Pctg
Chicago White Sox 15 7 0.682
Detroit Tigers 4 2 0.667
Cleveland Indians 2 3 0.400
Minnesota Twins 1 2 0.333
Kansas City Royals 0 3 0.000
Boston Red Sox 0 1 0.000
Tampa Bay Rays 0 1 0.000
Texas Rangers 0 1 0.000
Baltimore Orioles 0 1 0.000
Seattle Mariners 0 1 0.000

Ballpark Tour: Rangers

With the offseason underway, we continue our tour of all of the different baseball stadiums I’ve been to over the years. This week, we look at the Texas Rangers, a team you would think I would have visited more often due to it’s proximity to my father. So, without further ado, let’s take a deeper look at my history with the originally-named Ballpark In Arlington, the now former home of the Rangers.

Stadium Name: The Ballpark In Arlington/Ameriquest Field/Rangers Ballpark In Arlington/Globe Life Park

Years in Service: 1994 – 2019

Visits: 7

After spending their entire history at nearby Arlington Stadium, the Texas Rangers broke ground on their new stadium on April 2, 1992 and held their first game there nearly two years later, on April 11, 1994 against the Brewers.  The stadium was known by the somewhat clunky moniker of The Ballpark in Arlington until May of 2004, when Ameriquest bought the naming rights.  That deal ended in March of 2007, and the stadium was renamed again, this time to Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.  Corporate money came calling again in 2014, when Globe Life and Accident Insurance Company purchased the naming rights.  The stadium also features a Rangers Hall of Fame, which includes historical artifacts from the team along with visiting collections from Cooperstown.

I made my first trip to the Ballpark on May 22, 1998, to see the Rangers defeat the Royals during a visit to the Dallas area to see my dad.  I returned in 2001 for two games, against the Tigers and 2 days later against the White Sox.  In 2005, on my last trip to the area to date, I took in the entire 4 game series between the Rangers and the eventual World Series champion White Sox.

Having never been to Arlington Stadium, I can’t compare the two, but I would assume that the Ballpark is a vast improvement over its predecessor.  The only downside I noticed in the games I attended was a day game under the hot Texas sun.  The Rangers are addressing that, opening a new stadium next season with a retractable roof.

Ballpark Tour: Tigers

Spring training is right around the corner as we continue our tour of all of the baseball stadiums I’ve been to over the years. Today we travel north to Michigan for the baseball homes of the Detroit Tigers. Between the two stadiums that have been located in Motown, I’ve seen 3 games. So, without further ado, let’s take a deeper look at my history with Tiger Stadium and Comerica Park.

Stadium Name: Tiger Stadium

Years in Service: 1912 – 1999

Visits: 1

Tiger Stadium opened as Navin Field on April 20, 1912, the same date as Boston’s Fenway Park.  It would serve as the home of the Tigers until the final game on September 27, 1999, an 8-2 Tiger victory over the Royals.

My one and only trip to Tiger Stadium was during its final season, on August 2, 1999, when rookie Kip Wells made his major league debut for the White Sox, picking up the win in the victory against the Tigers.  The stadium reminded me of the old Comiskey Park, with the dark ramps and tunnels leading out to the glorious green of the field.

Stadium Name: Comerica Park

Years in Service: 2000 – Present

Visits: 2

After 87 seasons at Tiger Stadium, the Tigers opened their new stadium in 2000 on a snowy afternoon against the Mariners.  In contrast to Tiger Stadium, which had been considered one of the most hitter-friendly parks in baseball, Comerica Park is considered to be extremely friendly to pitchers.  After years of irrelevance, the new stadium was one step leading the Tigers back to contention, which they achieved in 2006, making the World Series and being in the hunt more often than not ever since.

The White Sox were 3.5 games behind the Twins for the AL Central lead heading into a Labor Day holiday series against the Tigers in 2010.  After they split the first 2 games of the series, I decided to head up to Detroit to take in the final two games, my first trip to Comerica Park.  I had booked a room at the Caesars hotel and casino in Windsor, so I drove up to Canada and checked in prior to the night’s game back in Detroit.  I booked a round trip on a bus back to the US which dropped me off near the park, where I took in the Tigers 5-1 victory.  The next afternoon, I drove back to Detroit and stopped for the afternoon’s series finale, which the Tigers once again won.

The stadium itself was a vast improvement over Tiger Stadium.  For the first game, I sat in the upper deck behind home plate and had a good view of the entire field.  For the second game, I was right behind the White Sox dugout, which, while a bit pricey, did provide another nice view.  The only disappointment, besides the play of the south siders, was the food.  Since the Tigers owner also owns Little Caesars pizza, that is the food that is available.  I remember making it through a few bites before leaving the pizza underneath my seat for whoever wanted it.

The Decade In Baseball – Team Records

The 2010s have drawn to a close and its time to take a look back at the previous decade.  Today, we are starting with baseball, specifically the performance of all 30 MLB teams in games I attended between 2010 and 2019.  Locally, things were good on the north side of town, as the Cubs finished their rebuild with 3 straight NLCS appearances in the middle of the decade, including a World Series championship in 2016.  It was much bleaker on the south side, as the White Sox failed to compete after a late collapse in 2012, finishing the decade on a string of 7 consecutive losing seasons.

I managed to take in 385 games over the past 10 years at 12 different stadiums from coast (Dodger Stadium) to coast (Fenway Park).  2010 was my high water mark, with 52 games, while 2013 and 2018 tied for the lowest total of the decade with only 29 games.

Games Per Year
Year Total Games
2010 52
2011 43
2012 33
2013 29
2014 35
2015 39
2016 39
2017 49
2018 29
2019 37

Two franchises went through the decade undefeated in games I attended, while another 2 teams went winless.  Both local teams finished just a shade under .500.  The White Sox are far and away the team I saw most often, while the Diamondbacks bring up the rear with only 2 appearances over the past 10 years.

2019 Team Records
Team Name Won Loss Winning Pctg
Colorado Rockies 4 0 1.000
New York Mets 3 0 1.000
Boston Red Sox 9 3 0.750
New York Yankees 9 4 0.692
Washington Nationals 6 3 0.667
Houston Astros 6 3 0.667
Florida Marlins 2 1 0.667
Los Angeles Angels 9 5 0.643
Detroit Tigers 22 13 0.629
Pittsburgh Pirates 5 3 0.625
Kansas City Royals 21 17 0.553
Cleveland Indians 17 14 0.548
Toronto Blue Jays 8 7 0.533
Minnesota Twins 19 17 0.528
Oakland Athletics 7 7 0.500
St. Louis Cardinals 2 2 0.500
San Diego Padres 2 2 0.500
Arizona Diamondbacks 1 1 0.500
Chicago White Sox 159 164 0.492
Chicago Cubs 40 43 0.482
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2019 Final Standings

For the second straight year, the Cubs faltered down the stretch and, for the first time since 2014, they failed to make the postseason, thus bringing my game-attending portion of the 2019 season to an end.  I made it to 37 games this season, my highest total since 2016.  I did manage to attend games at 7 different stadiums, my highest single season total and bringing my total up to 25.  Here are the final standings for those games and the 21 different teams I saw in person.

2019 Team Records
Team Name Won Loss Winning Pctg
San Francisco Giants 2 0 1.000
Washington Nationals 2 0 1.000
New York Mets 1 0 1.000
Texas Rangers 1 0 1.000
Boston Red Sox 1 0 1.000
Toronto Blue Jays 2 1 0.667
Cleveland Indians 2 1 0.667
Los Angeles Angels 2 1 0.667
Chicago Cubs 6 5 0.545
New York Yankees 1 1 0.500
Oakland Athletics 1 1 0.500
Seattle Mariners 1 1 0.500
Minnesota Twins 1 1 0.500
Chicago White Sox 13 15 0.464
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Looking Ahead To 2020

Major League Baseball released their tentative 2020 schedule earlier this week.  While the local squads have differing goals in mind as 2019 winds down, with the Cubs struggling for their 8th straight trip to post-season and the White Sox playing out the string in year three of their rebuild, it’s time to turn our attention to next summer for both teams.

For the third year in a row, the White Sox open their season against the Royals, but will be at home for the first time.  They follow that with a trip to Cleveland and Boston.

The interleague schedule pits the White Sox against the NL West, with trips to Colorado, San Francisco, and San Diego and home series against the Rockies, Diamondbacks, and the Dodgers.  The rivalry with their north side foes continues with a 2 game series at home and a 2 game series at Wrigley Field, both in July in the weeks surrounding the All Star Break.

In August, they will travel to Iowa to battle the Yankees in the first Field of Dreams game, hosted where the film of the same name was filmed in 1989 and played in an 8000 seat stadium that will be inspired by the original Comiskey Park.

The season ends with 10 games against their Central Division rivals, which hopefully will be important.

On the north side, the Cubs open their season up north in Milwaukee, before returning home the following Monday to kick off the home portion of their schedule against the Pirates.

The interleague schedule pits the Cubs against the AL East, with trips to Baltimore, New York, and Toronto and home series against the Orioles, Red Sox, and the Rays.

In June, they will head to London for a two-game tilt against the Cardinals

The Cubs end the year with a 16 of their final 22 games against the NL Central, with 13 of those coming against the Pirates and the Cardinals, who are likely to challenge them for the NL Central crown.

2019 All Star Break Standings

As the baseball world turns its sights to Cleveland for Tuesday night’s All Star Game, it’s time to take a look at the team records for the 23 games I attended in the first half of the baseball season, with the rebuild on the south side finally showing progress and the window of contention on the north side looking like it may be ending sooner rather than later.

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All Time Team Records

The 2019 baseball season got underway yesterday, with the now early start brought about due to the last collective bargaining agreement.  To celebrate, it is time once again to look at the all-time team records for games that I have identified as having attended dating back to 1984. The Cubs look to avenge last year’s loss in the Wild Card and hope to make it back to the World Series, while the rebuilding White Sox hope to finally start seeing some of their young talent blossom.  The 2019 season should be an exciting one on both sides of town.

All-Time Team Records
Team Name Won Loss Winning Pctg
California Angels 1 0 1.000
Arizona Diamondbacks 13 2 0.867
Florida Marlins 15 8 0.652
Colorado Rockies 10 6 0.625
Philadelphia Phillies 10 7 0.588
New York Yankees 14 10 0.583
Boston Red Sox 17 13 0.567
Los Angeles Angels 17 13 0.567
Toronto Blue Jays 13 10 0.565
Cleveland Indians 26 23 0.531
Detroit Tigers 27 24 0.529
Chicago Cubs 213 192 0.526
Houston Astros 22 20 0.524
Chicago White Sox 293 271 0.520
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#6 – Carlton Fisk

Name: Carlton Fisk

Rank: 6

Position: C

Years With White Sox: 1981-1993

Carlton Fisk became a free agent after the Red Sox failed to tender him a contract for the 1981 season in the proper time frame, and thus he signed with the White Sox on March 18, 1981.  He paid immediate dividends for his new team, hitting a 3-run home run in the 8th inning against his former team at Fenway Park on Opening Day, leading the White Sox to a 5-3 victory.  Following the strike, he started the All Star game for the AL, going 1-3 with a run scored.  He finished the year with a .263 average and only 7 home runs in 96 games.  His efforts earned him his first Silver Slugger award.

Fisk enjoyed another successful year in 1982.  For the third straight year, he started behind the plate for the AL in the All Star game.  In 135 games, he hit .267 with 14 home runs and 65 RBIs.

1983 was a magical season on the South Side, as the White Sox won their first division title.  Fisk played a big role in the team’s success, both in managing a pitching staff that featured 2 of the top 4 finishers in Cy Young Award voting and at the plate, where he hit .289 with 26 home runs and 86 RBIs.  In the ALCS against the Orioles, Fisk struggled, just like the rest of his teammates, though he did launch 2 home runs in the 4 game series.  His season was good enough to earn 3rd place in the MVP vote, coming in behind Cal Ripken and Eddie Murray.

With expectations high, 1984 turned out to be a tough year, for both Fisk and the White Sox, though there were a few high points.  On May 9, he caught all 25 innings of a 7-6 win over the Brewers, breaking the major league record of 24 innings shared by 5 players.  A little over a week later, on May 16 against the Royals, Fisk became just the third player in White Sox history to hit for the cycle.  Unfortunately, injuries befell Fisk, limiting him to just 102 games, finishing with a .231 average and only 43 RBIs.  The bright side, though, is that it led him to begin a new training regimen, which he used for the rest of his long career.

The regimen paid immediate dividends, as Fisk put up the best numbers of his career in 1985.  At the age of 37, Fisk set career highs with 37 home runs, tying Dick Allen for the White Sox single-season record, and 107 RBIs, while tying his career high with 17 stolen bases.  He was voted to his 10th All-Star team, won his second Silver Slugger award and finished 13th in the AL MVP voting.

1986 was a strange year for Fisk and the White Sox.  New General Manager Ken Harrelson thought Joel Skinner was ready to take over behind the plate and, with Fisk about to enter his age 38 season, he convinced manager Tony LaRussa to move Fisk to left field.  On May 9, with Skinner hitting in the .150s and LaRussa’s job on the line, Fisk was moved back behind the plate and the White Sox proceeded to win 10 of their next 13 games.  By the end of the year, Skinner, Harrelson, and LaRussa were all gone, and Fisk remained, putting up a .221 average with 14 home runs and 63 RBIs.

In 1987, with a new management regime in place, Fisk was back behind the plate full time.  He appeared in 135 games at age 39, hitting .256 with 23 home runs and 71 RBIs.

1988 looked to be a good year for Fisk, until a broken hand limited him to just 76 games.  Despite that, his .277 average, 19 home runs, and 50 RBIs earned him his 3rd Silver Slugger award.

At age 41, Fisk, along with pitcher Jerry Reuss, who was 39, set a record starting the 1989 season, becoming the oldest battery ever to start on opening day, surpassing pitcher Johnny Niggeling and catcher Rick Ferrell of the 1944 Washington Senators, as the White Sox beat the Angels 9-2.  Splitting time behind the plate with Ron Karkovice, Fisk appeared in 103 games, hitting .293 with 13 home runs and 68 RBIs.

In 1990, Fisk was the elder statesman on a young White Sox team that unexpectedly challenged the A’s for the division title.  On May 22, at Yankee Stadium, Fisk had a run in with two-sport star Deion Sanders.  When Sanders drew a dollar sign in the dirt before a pitch, then didn’t run out an easy out, Fisk and Sanders went back and forth, sharing expletives.  Later in the game, Sanders told Fisk that “the days of slavery are over,” infuriating Fisk.  “He comes up and wants to make it a racial issue — there’s no racial issue involved.”  During Sanders’ next at-bat, Fisk told him, “There is a right way and a wrong way to play this game. You’re playing it the wrong way. And the rest of us don’t like it. Someday, you’re going to get this game shoved right down your throat.”  Later that year, on August 17, Fisk hit his 328th home run as a catcher, breaking Johnny Bench’s career record.  As the team closed out Comiskey Park, Fisk finished the year with a .285 average, 18 home runs, and 65 RBIs, which earned him 15th place in MVP voting.

As the White Sox moved across the street to the new Comiskey Park in 1991, Fisk, at age 43, put together his last season as an everyday catcher.  He was named to his 11th, and final, All Star team, becoming the oldest player in MLB history to collect a hit in the mid-summer classic.  He finished the year having appeared in 134 games, hitting .241 with 18 home runs and 74 RBIs.

With Ron Karkovice taking over the majority of the work behind the plate, Fisk moved into a backup role in 1992.  He appeared in just 62 games, his lowest total since 1974, and hit only .229 with 3 home runs.

1993 looked to be the end of the road for Fisk, though not by his choice.  On June 22, at Comiskey Park, Fisk broke Bob Boone’s record for career games caught with his 2,226th game behind the plate.  Six days later, Fisk was abruptly released by the White Sox.  Fisk was notified of his dismissal in his hotel room in Cleveland, and was ordered to turn in his equipment and fly back to Chicago immediately and alone.  To add insult to injury, Fisk, along with former teammate Donn Pall, came to Comiskey Park before game 1 of the ALCS to wish their former teammates well.  Sadly, they were both turned away, souring Fisk’s relationship with the organization for years.  His career ended with a .189 average in only 25 games, getting a mere 53 at bats.

At the conclusion of this career, he was the all time leader in games caught and home runs for catchers, the all time leader in home runs for the White Sox, the leader in home runs hit after age 40, and the most seasons played as a catcher.  His number 72 was retired by the White Sox on September 14, 1997, and he was part of the 2000 Hall of Fame class.

Fisk’s numbers in a White Sox uniform, both for games I attended and overall, were:

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#11 – Bo Jackson

Name: Bo Jackson

Rank: 11

Position: RF/DH

Years With White Sox: 1991, 1993

Vincent Edward “Bo” Jackson joined the White Sox as a free agent on April 3, 1991 after being released by the Royals following a hip injury suffered in January during the NFL playoffs as a member of the Raiders.  “In making the business decision,” owner Jerry Reinsdorf said at the time, “I assume he will not play this year. If he does, it will be a big bonus.”  Jackson did spend most of 1991 on the disabled list, rehabbing the injury, but did eventually manage to make his way back to the field.  He appeared in 23 games, hitting only .225 with 3 home runs.

Diagnosed with avascular necrosis of the hip joint and having lost all of the cartilage supporting his hip, Jackson decided to undergo a hip replacement surgery, keeping him on the shelf for the entire 1992 season.  While rehabbing, Jackson promised his mother he would return to the major leagues and hit a home run for her.

Unfortunately, Jackson’s mother died before he could return, but, in his first at bat of the 1994 season, and his first with an artificial hip, he hit a home run to right field against the Yankees at Comiskey Park.  On September 27, Jackson belted a three-run home run off of the Mariners to help the White Sox clinch their first AL West Division title in a decade.  Jackson ended up appearing in 85 games for the White Sox, hitting .232 and hitting 16 home runs while driving in 45.  He appeared in 3 of the 6 ALCS games against the Blue Jays, going hitless in 10 at bats.

Following the season, he became a free agent, ending his White Sox playing career.  In 2014, he returned to the organization as an ambassador, a role he continues to play today.

Jackson’s numbers in a White Sox uniform, both for games I attended and overall, were:

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