200 Things To Do In Illinois – Skydeck At Willis Tower

Illinois celebrated its bicentennial as a state in December of 2018.  To celebrate, the Chicago Tribune published the Bicentennial Bucket List: 200 Things To Do In Illinois, celebrating the best the state has to offer in history, food, architecture, culture, sports, nature, drink, and oddities. Now that the state is starting to open back up following the corona virus outbreak, I figured this was the second-best time to look through this collection and cover the ones I’ve done/eaten/seen.

We continue things this week with one of the entries from the Architecture category: Skydeck at Willis Tower, from Chicago, IL.

No story about Illinois architecture would be complete without name-dropping Willis Tower, or as many old-schoolers still like to call it, Sears Tower.  When it debuted in 1973, the 110-story icon from Skidmore, Owings & Merrill began its quarter-century reign as the tallest building in the world.  Play tourist, and pose for pictures on the Ledge, a glass balcony jutting out 4.3 feet from the side of the Skydeck on the 103rd floor.

I’ve made the trip up to the Skydeck at Sears Tower (not being one of those people, just haven’t been there since the name change) a handful of times over the years.  Two stick out in my memory: once in high school and my most recent trip back in 2004.

The high school trip was memorable, mostly for what went on outside the Tower than in it.  My friends Scott, Mike, and I made the trip downtown (probably when we weren’t supposed to) and tried to help some poor soul parallel park.  If the goal was to not hit the cars in front or behind her, then we failed.  After that, we managed to get Scott in for the 12 and under price, despite being 16-ish.

The 2004 trip came between games of a crosstown doubleheader, this one featuring the Marlins and Expos playing at US Cellular Field during the day.  With time to kill before the nightcap at Wrigley, Pete and I went up to the Skydeck, since he had never been before.

Cardinals All Time Leaders – Through 2019

cardinalsWith baseball shut down because of the corona virus, I thought it would be an interesting time to look at the all time leaders in both offensive and defensive categories for all 30 teams. We continue today with the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Cardinals began life in 1891, joining the National League the following year after the dissolution of the old American Association.  They took on the Cardinal name starting in 1900.  I’ve seen them play 31 times, most recently last May at Wrigley Field.

Home Runs

Name Total
Scott Rolen 7
Jim Edmonds 6
Albert Pujols 6

Hits

Name Total
Scott Rolen 22
Albert Pujols 22
Jim Edmonds 20

Runs

Name Total
Jim Edmonds 16
Albert Pujols 14
Scott Rolen 13

RBI

Name Total
Albert Pujols 16
Scott Rolen 15
Jim Edmonds 14

Doubles

Name Total
Ryan Ludwick 4
Albert Pujols 3
Scott Rolen 3
Jim Edmonds 3
Fernando Vina 3
Jason Heyward 3

Triples Continue reading →

iTunes Top 200: #21 – 29

itunes_image4 years ago, we last counted down the Top 200 songs in my iTunes library. Since my iTunes stats are still intact, across multiple PCs, iPods, iPads, and iPhones, I figured it was time to take another look at my most listened to songs, based on number of plays as of January 1, 2020.

Today, we breach the 50 listens plateau, according to my iTunes stats dating back to late 2007.

#29: The Lonely Island – Lazy Sunday (ft. Chris Parnell)
iTunes stats: 47 plays, most recently on 10/16/2019
Previous ranking: #20

A bit of a drop down the charts for the original SNL digital short that put the Lonely Island on the pop culture map and defined the phrase “viral video”.

#29: Chance The Rapper – Step Up Part 1
iTunes stats: 47 plays, most recently on 1/24/2019
Previous ranking: Unranked

An auspicious debut for this portion of the hype video the rapper created for the White Sox used during the 2016 season.

#28: Foo Fighters – All My Life
iTunes stats: 49 plays, most recently on 9/25/2019
Previous ranking: #22

A slight decrease for the live version of the song from the Live in Hyde Park bootleg.

#27: Montell Jordan – This Is How We Do It
iTunes stats: 50 plays, most recently on 1/24/2019
Previous ranking: Unranked

A strong debut for the main walk up song for former White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton.

#23: Van Halen – Jump
iTunes stats: 52 plays, most recently on 8/11/2019
Previous ranking: #96

A tremendous jump (see what I did there?) for the song that, for years, was used as the Chicago Cubs took the field at their home games.

#23: Tag Team – Whoomp! There It Is
Continue reading →

Padres All Time Leaders – Through 2019

With baseball shut down because of the corona virus, I thought it would be an interesting time to look back at the all time leaders in both offensive and defensive categories for all 30 teams. We continue today with the San Diego Padres.

The Padres began life in 1969, joining the National League along with the Montreal Expos.  I’ve seen them play 19 times at 5 different ballparks, first in 1985 at Wrigley Field and, most recently, in 2017.  I was supposed to take in the 3 game series between them and the White Sox next month at PETCO Park.

Home Runs

Name Total
Adrian Gonzalez 2
Ramon Hernandez 2
Mike Cameron 2
Khalil Greene 2

Hits

Name Total
Ryan Klesko 9
Sean Burroughs 9
Brian Giles 8

Runs

Name Total
Adrian Gonzalez 7
Mark Loretta 5
Ramon Hernandez 4
Mike Cameron 4

RBI

Name Total
Khalil Greene 8
Ramon Hernandez 6
Ryan Klesko 6

Doubles

Name Total
Ryan Klesko 3
Adrian Gonzalez 3
Will Venable 3

Triples Continue reading →

Ballpark Tour: Cubs

Well, spring training has been cancelled and nobody knows when opening day will occur, but life must go on.  So, it is time to start wrapping up our tour of all of the baseball stadiums I’ve been to over the years with the penultimate stadium: the home of the Chicago Cubs.  Over 100 years old, I’ve been able to identify 359 games that I’ve seen there.  So, without further ado, let’s take a deeper look at my history with Wrigley Field.

Stadium Name: Wrigley Field

Years in Service: 1914 – Present

Visits: 359 (that I’m aware of)

Weeghman Park, home of the Chicago Chifeds of the Federal League, opened on April 23, 1914.  When the Federal League folded in December of 1915, team owner Charles Weeghman was allowed to buy the rival Chicago Cubs and immediately moved them from the dilapidated West Side Park and into his stadium for the 1916 season.  The Cubs played their first game at Weeghman Park on April 20, 1916, besting the Cincinnati Reds 7–6 in eleven innings.

That year, Weeghman sold a minority interest in the Cubs to chewing gum magnate William Wrigley.  As Weeghman’s financial fortunes started to decline, Wrigley acquired an increasing number of shares in the club and took on a growing role in the team’s affairs until November 1918, when Weeghman gave up his remaining interest to Wrigley, resigned as president, and left baseball for good. Wrigley would acquire complete control of the Cubs by 1921, and, prior to the start of the 1927 season, the park was officially renamed Wrigley Field.

William’s son, Philip K. Wrigley, had intended to install lights at Wrigley Field prior to the 1942 season.  However, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December of 1941 and the US entered World War II, Wrigley donated the materials for the lights to the war effort.  The Cubs eventually became the only team without lights, continuing to play day games at home exclusively until 1988, when lights were finally installed.  To this day, the Cubs are still limited in the number of night games they may schedule per season, though that number has increased significantly since the late 80s.

As Wrigley Field continues in its second century, renovations to the stadium to make it economically viable for the 21st century are nearly complete.  Expanded clubhouses and new training facilities have been put in place for the players, both home and away.  New scoreboards, rebuilt bleachers, new clubs, and expanded concourses have been put in place for the fans.

I’ve managed to identify 359 games I’ve attended at Wrigley Field, most of them since 2002, when I became a season ticket holder.  After years of futility with the occasional bit of success tossed in, the Cubs have seen sustained success over the past 5 years for the first time in decades, despite their collapse down the stretch last September.

The 10,000 Step Club – 2020 Edition

Last year, as I was finishing up my fourth year with the Fitbit, I took my last look at my 25 best step days since I first started tracking my steps way back in July of 2011.  At the time, I had surpassed the 10,000 step plateau 217 times.  In the past year, I have managed to add an additional 45 occurrences, my 3rd best year to date, for a total of 262.  With my fifth year using the Fitbit coming to an end last week, I thought it would be appropriate to take a new look at my top 25 step days over the past 8 1/2 years, featuring only 3 new entries.

1: 4/14/2018 – 27,470 steps

My best single day total is from my April 2017 trip to New York to see Angelina.  The day’s excursions included trips to the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, the Museum of the City of New York, Central Park, the Guggenheim museum, and the Empire State Building.

2: 7/21/2018 – 27,278 steps

My July 2017 trip to Virginia, to hike up Catawba Mountain to McAfee Knob with Jeff and Val, fell just short of the top spot.

3: 6/6/2013 – 24,988 steps

2013’s trip to Disney World, which spent 5 years as my single day best, included excursions to both Epcot Center and the Magic Kingdom, and yes, falling 12 steps short of 25,000 still irks me.

4: 6/3/2019 – 24,665 steps

The first new entry comes thanks to last summer’s trip to Washington DC, and the day spent at the Smithsonian Zoo.

5: 8/8/2019 – 23,866 steps

The second new entry is from last summer’s work trip out to San Francisco and the day I walked to Pier 39 and then back to Oracle Park to see the Giants take on the Phillies.  It would have been even higher but I was dead tired and took an Uber back to the hotel after the game.

6: 3/18/2018 – 23,780 steps

Dropping out of the top 5 after only 1 year is my first day in Las Vegas for the 2017 IBM Think conference.  The day’s totals include gallivanting around town, including a trip up to Caesar’s Palace from the MGM Grand to see Absinthe.

7: 10/24/2018 – 23,362 steps

My October 2018 trip to Boston to see Angelina for our birthday gives us our next entry.  While she was in class, I took tours of Fenway Park and Harvard, before meeting up with her for a late lunch and then heading to the airport for the trip home.

8: 3/22/2016 – 22,493 steps

My one-time second highest day took place during the ill-fated trip to Disney World in March of 2016.  The day’s excursion started at Hollywood Studios before heading over to Epcot Center with Jeff and Val.

9: 7/27/2013 – 20,592 steps

Still my highest total at home in the state of Illinois, the next entry comes thanks to the 2013 BTN 5K and a, for lack of a better word, misunderstanding about where I should be picked up after the race.

10: 12/29/2018 – 20,374 steps

We wrap up the top 10 with 2018’s trip to California and the trip to Disneyland to see Danny perform with the Lincoln-Way Marching Band.

11: 8/5/2017 – 20,218 steps

The next entry came in August of 2017 on the first day of my trip to Boston with Danny and Michael.  After landing in town, we traipsed to the Science Museum, a breakfast joint, our hotel, and, finally, Fenway Park.

12: 7/14/2017 – 20,208 steps

Down to #12 is my 2017 trip to Disney World, a one day journey with Angelina to celebrate her high school graduation. Continue reading →

Adios Addison

When the Cubs first acquired Addison Russell on July 4, 2014, they thought they were getting a cornerstone of their rebuild that would roam the middle of the Wrigley Field infield for years to come.  In 2015, he supplanted Starlin Castro at shortstop and, the following year, he hit a grand slam in game 6 of the World Series, helping the Cubs win their first title in 108 years.  3 years later, his time with the team has come to an end, as the Cubs declined to tender him a contract on Monday.

On the field, Russell has failed to take that next step.  His OPS+ dropped in both 2017 and 2018, before rebounding slightly this year.  He was sent to Triple A this summer after admitting he needed to be “more familiar” with the team’s signs.  On top of his diminishing performance, his off the field baggage made keeping him untenable.

Russell missed the first 28 games of 2019 to complete his domestic violence suspension tied to a September 2018 Instagram post by his now ex-wife containing accusations of physical and emotional abuse.  After initially denying the accusations, Russell decided to accept the suspension without appeal and agreed to participate in a comprehensive treatment program.

By all accounts, the Cubs should have cut bait last offseason, but they decided to take a chance at recovering any value Russell still had and tendered him  a contract for 2019.  The same was not true this time around.  President of baseball operations Theo Epstein boiled down the decision to a financial one, saying, “We decided to non-tender Addison Russell today simply because the role we expected him to play for the 2020 Cubs was inconsistent with how he would have been treated in the salary arbitration process.”

With the emergence of Javy Baez, there isn’t a pressing need for Russell’s services.  Given the bad press the team has weathered over the past few years around Russell and their acquisitions of Aroldis Chapman and Daniel Murphy, it was time to cut bait.  To be perfectly honest, this is probably the best move for Russell as well, giving him the opportunity to re-start his career somewhere else, without the scrutiny of the Cub spotlight.

Games Per Stadium By Year

With the 2019 season in the rear view mirror, let’s take a look at the number of games I’ve attended per year at one of the 25 different stadiums I’ve visited over the years.

 

Year Stadium Name Total Games
2008 US Cellular Field 46
2003 Wrigley Field 46
Surprise playoff runs for the White Sox in 2008 and the Cubs in 2003 led to my highest single season totals ever, boosted by post-season play.
2007 Wrigley Field 43
2004 Wrigley Field 41
My highest non-playoff total saw me attending over half of the home games for the Cubs in 2004.
2011 US Cellular Field 40
2009 US Cellular Field 40
2010 US Cellular Field 36
2005 Wrigley Field 34
2008 Wrigley Field 34
2017 Guaranteed Rate Field 33
2006 US Cellular Field 32
Post World Series championship started an attendance jump.
2016 US Cellular Field 32
2012 US Cellular Field 31
2015 US Cellular Field 31
2007 US Cellular Field 29
2014 US Cellular Field 28
Continue reading →

Fitbit V: Week 41

My best week in nearly 3 months, but still just ever so slightly under goal.  The week got off to a good start with nearly 8000 steps on Sunday.  Monday was even better, setting the high point of the week with 8400 steps.  Tuesday saw a slight decrease, but was still just over the goal of 7500 steps.  Wednesday was the low point of the week, coming in 2 steps shy of 5900 steps.  Thursday saw a nice bounce back, coming in 2 steps better than Tuesday’s total.  Friday was better still, with over 7700 steps.  Saturday parlayed a trip to Wrigley Field for Season Ticket Holder Family Day into over 7000 steps.

Total steps: 52,248

Daily average: 7464

Ballpark Tour: Dodgers

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 to Chavez Ravine to take a look at the Los Angeles Dodgers, owners of the third oldest ballpark in the major leagues. So, without further ado, let’s take a deeper look at my one game history with Dodger Stadium.

 

 

Stadium Name: Dodger Stadium

Years in Service: 1962 – Present

Visits: 1

Following the 1957 season, the Dodgers fled Brooklyn and headed west to California, landing in Los Angeles. The team played in the LA Coliseum while they built a new stadium at Chavez Ravine. In 1962, 3 years after breaking ground, Dodger Stadium opened as the Reds topped the Dodgers in the season opener.

The following year, the Dodgers won their first World Series in their new home. Between 1962 and 1965, Sandy Koufax threw three no hitters at the stadium, including a perfect game against the Cubs. Four home runs have been hit out of Dodger Stadium, two of which were hit by Pirate great Willie Stargell.

Dodger Stadium is currently the third oldest park still in use, behind Fenway Park and Wrigley Field. I made my first visit to the stadium to see the second home game of the 2014 slate, with the Dodgers taking on their long time rival Giants. Thanks to traffic, I didn’t get to my seat until the 4th inning, by which point the Giants had secured a substantial lead. I sprung for decent seats, which put me down on the lower level. One odd thing about those lower sections were the aisles, which are so narrow that people could only go in one direction at a time. I did also manage to score a fabled Dodger Dog, or at least the all beef version of it. I hope to make it back some day for a repeat performance.