It’s Still Been A While

Exactly 8 months since my last baseball game, the longest drought I’ve experienced since 1998 into 1999, I figured it was a good time to take another look at the last time I saw each of the 30 major league teams. For someone with season tickets to two teams, one in each league, you would think that I would cycle through each team every few years or so.  And, for the most part, that does seem to be the case.  I saw 21 of the 30 teams in 2019, going back to 2018, that number jumps to 23.  That’s nearly 77% of the league in the past 2 seasons.

What about those remaining 7 teams?  The Dodgers, Rays, Braves, and Padres last appeared in 2017, while 2016 takes care of the Reds.  I somehow haven’t seen the Diamondbacks since 2014, despite being inside their home ballpark more recently than that.  That leaves the Marlins, who I have somehow not managed to see in person since 2013.  Anyway, here’s a look at each team and the last time I saw them play.

Team Name Date
Miami Marlins 5/26/2013
Arizona Diamondbacks 5/10/2014
Cincinnati Reds 4/11/2016
San Diego Padres 5/13/2017
Atlanta Braves 9/2/2017
Tampa Bay Rays 9/3/2017
Los Angeles Dodgers 10/19/2017
Houston Astros 4/22/2018
Colorado Rockies 10/2/2018
Seattle Mariners 4/6/2019
Pittsburgh Pirates 4/8/2019
Kansas City Royals 4/15/2019
Boston Red Sox 5/5/2019
St. Louis Cardinals 5/5/2019
Continue reading →

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: White Sox

Opening day was supposed to be less than a week away, so it is time to wrap up our tour of all of the baseball stadiums I’ve been to over the years with the one I’ve been to the most: the homes of the Chicago White Sox.  Between the two stadiums that have been located at the corners of 35th and Shields, I’ve seen at least 542 games, all but one of which have involved the White Sox.  So, without further ado, let’s take a deeper look at my history with Comiskey Park and Guaranteed Rate Field.

Stadium Name: Comiskey Park

Years in Service: 1910 – 1990

Visits: 12 (that I’m aware of)

Comiskey Park, the so-called Baseball Palace of the World, was the home of the White Sox from 1910 through the 1990 season.  Built on a former city dump at the corner of 35th Street and Shields Avenue, the stadium opened on July 1, 1910, as the White Sox lost to the St. Louis Browns 2-0.  The final game for the old ballyard occurred on September 30, 1990, a 2-1 victory over the Mariners.

Comiskey Park was the host for 4 World Series, including 3 in a row from 1917-1919.  The White Sox won the World Series in 1917 against the New York Giants.  The Cubs, looking for a larger seating capacity, moved their home games in the 1918 series against the Red Sox to Comiskey Park.  The 1919 World Series, of course, was the Black Sox scandal, where the White Sox threw the series against the Reds.  The White Sox returned to the World Series 40 years later in 1959, but fell to the Dodgers.  The final post-season games to be played in Comiskey Park were games 3 and 4 of the 1983 ALCS, which the White Sox lost to the Baltimore Orioles.

Comiskey Park was also the host to 3 All-Star games.  The first All-Star game, in 1933, was held in conjunction with Century of Progress Exposition being held on Chicago’s lakefront.  The event returned to Chicago’s south side in 1950 and the final All-Star game at Comiskey Park was in 1983, the 50th anniversary of the first game.  Comiskey Park was also the frequent home of the Negro League East-West All-Star Game from 1933 to 1960.

Looking back, I’ve been able to piece together evidence of 12 games that I attended at Comiskey Park, either from pictures, stadium giveaways, or specific memories.  I know there are more, but I have not been able to pinpoint exact games as of yet.  The most memorable game I can remember would be the final night game, on September 29, 1990, where, after the game, the lights were symbolically turned off for the final time.

Stadium Name: Comiskey Park II/US Cellular Field/Guaranteed Rate Field

Years in Service: 1991 – Present

Visits: 530

On the evening of June 30, 1988, with the clock literally stopped, the Illinois legislature passed a bill that provided the financing for a new stadium for the White Sox, stopping them from moving to St. Petersburg, Florida.  2 and a half years later, on April 18, 1991, Comiskey Park II opened, the first new major facility built in Chicago since the erection of the Chicago Stadium in 1929.  Sadly, the White Sox were embarrassed by the Tigers, losing 16-0 in the opening of their new park.

Unfortunately for the White Sox, the new Comiskey Park was the last stadium to be built prior to the wave of retro ballparks that started with the opening of Camden Yards the following year.  Because of this, there have been numerous renovations to the park, starting in 2001 with the addition of nearly 2000 seats and the relocation of the bullpens.  More extensive renovations began in 2003 in preparation for that season’s All Star Game and using the money generated from selling the naming rights to US Cellular, and continued through 2007, when the replacement of the blue seats with green seats was completed.  Less extensive renovations have occurred since, replacing the different video boards and creating premium seating areas.

The post-season came to the new Comiskey Park for the first time in 1993, as the White Sox battled the Blue Jays in the ALCS.  The stadium hosted its first World Series games in 2005, the first to be played in the city of Chicago since 1959, as the White Sox went on to sweep the Houston Astros and win their first World Series since 1917.

I attended my first game at the new Comiskey Park on April 20, 1991, the second game in the stadium’s history.  Since then, I’ve been to 529 other games at the stadium, the majority coming from 2005 on, when I became a season ticket holder.  I went to both games of the 2000 ALDS, which the White Sox lost to the Mariners, both games of the 2005 ALDS, which the White Sox won against the Red Sox, both games of the 2005 ALCS, which the White Sox split against the Angels, and game 2 of the 2005 World Series.  I attended game 163 of the 2008 season to break the tie between the White Sox and the Twins. and then the two ALDS games against the Rays, the first time I saw the White Sox actually end a post-season series, either in victory or defeat.

Notable regular season games I’ve seen at what is now known as Guaranteed Rate Field include the September 18, 2001 game against the Yankees as baseball returned following the attacks of 9/11, the April 16, 2005 game where Mark Buehrle defeated the Mariners in 1 hour and 39 minutes, the April 2, 2006 season opener against the Indians when the World Series championship banner was raised, the April 4, 2006 game where the players received their World Series rings, and the September 16, 2007 game where Jim Thome hit his 500th career home run against the Angels.  Not to mention a streak of 19 consecutive home openers.

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
Continue reading →

Ballpark Tour: Twins

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 head north to the Twin Cities for a look at the Minnesota Twins. So, without further ado, let’s take a deeper look at my history with Target Field.

Stadium Name: Target Field

Years in Service: 2010 – Present

Visits: 2

After 28 seasons of indoor baseball at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, the Twins moved back outside starting with the 2010 season when they opened Target Field in downtown Minneapolis. The first regular season game took place on April 12, 2010, with the Twins defeating the Red Sox. In 2014, Target Field hosted the All Star Game, the first in Minnesota since 1985.

I took the long trip up to Minneapolis in the weeks after the All Star Game, along with Danny and Michael, to see the White Sox take on the Twins. We picked two good games to see, as the White Sox offense came to life and they won both games against the Twinkies. We sat down on the first level, between home plate and third base behind the White Sox dugout for both games, so I didn’t get to sample the different areas of the ballpark, but I certainly liked what I saw. The one thing I didn’t like about the park was the configuration of most of the outfield. Between the large hitting background in center field and the high walls in left and right, there is a lot of dead space in the outfield that seems to put the fans far away from the action. Besides that, though, a good time was had by all and I certainly wouldn’t mind returning one day.

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
Continue reading →

2019 Predictions Revisited

Six months ago, at the dawn of the 2019 baseball season, I made my annual predictions as to who would win what.  Now that the regular season has come to an end, it is time revisit those predictions and see what, if anything, I got right.

American League

East: Yankees

Well, one for one so far.  This one wasn’t particularly close, as the Yankees won 103 games and won the division by 7 games.

Central: Indians

So much for going perfect.  The Indians saw their run of 3 consecutive division titles come to an end at the hands of the upstart Twins.

West: Astros

The Astros put up the best record in baseball, so this one was pretty much a gimme.

Wild Cards: Red Sox, Angels

No and No.  Right divisions, but the Rays and the A’s took home the Wild Cards.

AL Champion: Astros

This one is looking pretty good.

Cy Young: Justin Verlander

As is this one.  It will likely come down to him or teammate Gerrit Cole.

MVP: George Springer

I think I picked the wrong Astro.

National League

Continue reading →

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.

Continue reading →

#1 – Harold Baines

Name: Harold Baines

Rank: 1

Position: RF/DH

Years With White Sox: 1980-1989, 1996-1997, 2000-2001

Harold Baines was the first overall selection in the 1977 draft after White Sox owner Bill Veeck had seen him play little league years before.  He made his major league debut less than 3 years later, on Opening Day 1980, going 0-4 against the Orioles at old Comiskey Park.  He appeared in 141 games and finished the year hitting .255 with 13 home runs and 49 RBIs.

Baines started to break out in 1981, where the long player’s strike led him to only appearing in 82 games.  He boosted his average to .286 and hit 10 home runs with 41 RBIs in only 280 at bats.

With labor problems behind them, a full slate of games was played in 1982, with Baines appearing in all but one of them.  Hitting .271, Baines smacked 25 home runs with 105 RBIs, while setting a career high with 10 stolen bases.  His numbers were good enough to garner 9 votes for AL MVP.

1983 was a banner year on the south side, as the White Sox captured their first ever division title.  Baines was a key contributor, hitting .280 with 20 home runs and 99 RBIs.  During the ALCS against the Orioles, Baines struggled, like most of his teammates, getting only 2 hits in the 4 game series.  At season’s end, he picked up 49 votes to finish 10th in MVP voting.

Baines continued to excel in 1984, though the rest of the team did not.  On May 8, he ended the longest game in major league history (8 hours and 6 minutes over 25 innings on successive evenings) with a walk-off home run against Chuck Porter of the Brewers.  He finished the year with a .304 average, a career high 29 home runs, and 94 RBIs, while leading the league in slugging at .541.  He once again garnered MVP consideration, finishing the vote tied for 13th place.

1985 was another strong season for Baines.  He earned his first All Star selection, singling off former teammate LaMarr Hoyt in his only at bat at the Metrodome.  He finished the year hitting .309 with 22 home runs and a career high 113 RBIs.  He earned 49 votes in placing 9th in MVP voting.

Baines saw his body start to betray him for the first time in 1986.  He appeared in his second straight All Star game, going hitless in his one at bat.  A late August knee injury caused him to miss time, and a late September collision with Neal Heaton in a loss to the Twins reinjured the knee, leading to arthroscopic surgery following the season.  He finished the season hitting .296, just missing his 3rd consecutive .300 season, with 21 home runs and 88 RBIs.

Baines returned for opening day in 1987, getting two hits and knocking in the winning runs on the hard artificial turf of Royals Stadium, but was unable to walk the following day.  A second arthroscopic surgery caused him to miss 23 games before he returned, moving from right field to designated hitter.  He still was named to his 3rd straight All Star team, going hitless in the 2-0 loss by the AL.  Come year end, he had hit .293 with 20 home runs and 93 RBIs.

1988 was a down year for Baines, though he managed to appear in 158 games.  His average dropped to .277, his lowest total since 1982, while hitting only 13 home runs, his lowest total since 1981.  He made only 9 appearances in the outfield while becoming accustomed to being a full time designated hitter.

Baines bounced back in 1989.  He was named the starting DH in the All Star game, going 1-3 with an RBI in the AL’s victory at Angel Stadium.  On July 29, he was traded to the Rangers, along with Fred Manrique, for Wilson Alvarez, Scott Fletcher, and Sammy Sosa.  “It’s an unpopular decision as far as the fans are concerned, but sometimes unpopular means exactly that-unpopular,” GM Larry Himes said at the time.  “It doesn`t mean that it isn`t a good decision.  This is a decision we made as far as direction of the Chicago White Sox for today and for our future.”  Baines was hitting .321 with 13 home runs and 56 RBIs at the time of the trade.  Less than a month later, as the Rangers visited Chicago for the first time on August 20, the White Sox retired Baines’ #3, a somewhat awkward attempt to placate the enraged fanbase.

Baines returned to the White Sox as a free agent in 1996.  Appearing in 143 games, Baines hit .311 with 22 home runs and 95 RBIs.  He returned in 1997 and was putting together another fine season, putting up a .305 average with 12 home runs and 52 RBIs in 93 games when, on July 29 again, he was traded to the Orioles for a player to be named later.

Three years later, once again on July 29, the White Sox re-acquired Baines, along with Charles Johnson, from the Orioles for Miguel Felix, Juan Figueroa, Jason Lakman, and Brook Fordyce.  Appearing in 24 games down the stretch, Baines hit .213 with a single home run and 9 RBIs as the White Sox took the Central Division crown.  Baines went 1-4 in the ALDS as the White Sox were swept by the Mariners.

Baines returned to the White Sox in 2001 at the age of 42, getting extra playing time once Frank Thomas went down with an injury.  In 32 games, he hit .131, failing to homer and driving in only 6.

Baines returned to the White Sox dugout in 2004, when new manager Ozzie Guillen named him bench coach.  He would remain on staff until 2015, when he became an ambassador for the team.  On July 20, 2008, the White Sox unveiled a bronze statue of Baines at U.S. Cellular Field prior to their game against the Royals.  On December 9, 2018, Baines was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2019 via the Today’s Game Era ballot.

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

Continue reading →