Book excerpt from the book “The Fastest 30 Ball Games” by Douglas ‘Chuck’ Booth. Original Print Copy in June 2011.
“This was the 1st doubleheader attempt I did for my 1st streak attempt. A week later I would have to restart my streak attempt, but at the time of the game it was a great way to start my career as a Guinness Chaser” -Douglas ‘Chuck’ Booth
US Cellular Field
I had a tip from my brother Trent early on in the planning stages, that the United States airline companies often ‘sand-bag’ their flying times to destinations to take jet-way delays into consideration. More often than not, the airlines are able to beat the scheduled arrival time by many minutes. I actually used a tool on the internet called ‘Flight Tracker’ to watch the very flight I was on to see if this was a correct statement. I watched this exact flight land 4 weeks in a row, all approximately 15 minutes earlier then the 6:32 PM time it was supposed to arrive on that day. That day I was not as lucky. It was after all a ‘Chicago Airport.’ Still at a 6:30 PM arrival-I had about 40 minutes to first pitch. I had called in a sedan service to pick me up from ‘MIDWAY’.
True to their word, there was a young guy in his twenties waiting for me in the arrival gate and he escorted me through to the limo stand at a running pace. I saw it had started to rain and weather was something I would always keep my eye on during transportation throughout the trip.
Midway Airport is 9 miles from the airport to the ballpark in heavy Chicago ‘traffic.’ The trip was said to be around 15 minutes on the map, but I knew that would be doubled with the traffic on the ‘55 Highway,’ and it being game day. The driver was fast and weaved his way through the rain. We arrived at the ballpark in thirty minutes. It was 7:03 PM. The limo driver turned on the radio a few minutes before arriving to listen to the pre-game show. I heard the broadcasters say there would be a rain delay to start the game
Was this good or bad news? The forecast did not look good, it was supposed to rain all night. This led me to another rule set forth by the “GWR”.
There was an inherent risk to any game I went to. Since the rule states I can not go the parks twice during the same streak, what if there was a rain delay midway through the game and they called it? I read the rules again. I had them stuffed in my coat. It says I could not go back to the ballpark again-(during that given streak) in case of a rain out if I watched one pitch. Now if it were to be suspended for any reason, I could complete the game whenever it was resumed. But this posed problems because they would have to have resumed it after the last game of the streak for it to count for me. This meaning under the current attempt my last game was to be on the 27th of July. I would have needed this game, (should it be suspended) to be resumed on exactly Monday July.28. I already had the previous nights game in the bag and could retroactive the streak to it if I wanted. This would mean the streak would become a 30-27 attempt instead of a 30-26 attempt—but I would not have to worry about the weather.
I did have a chance to re-schedule a Chicago White Sox game on the 18th of July. To give myself that option, that was why I was flying to ….Indianapolis…. on the 4th of July morning. I could drive to Cincinnati—the original scheduled game, or drive to St. Louis instead—in case of switching Chicago White Sox to the 18th 2 weeks later. All I had to do was switch a flight to Cincinnati for the 27th and move Boston back a day to the 28th. My flight on the 18th was a 2-parter. I flew from Denver, Colorado in the morning, and then had a flight from Chicago to St. Louis scheduled—with a layover in Cincinnati. This gave me all three cities with an available game on that date for me to see.
I knew this upon reaching US Cellular Field on that July.2nd game. I decided to walk into the rain delay in Chicago. By doing this I needed them to play an ‘official game once the 1st pitch was thrown or this streak was dead in the water! I only ever wanted to use the July.1st game in Chicago in case I missed my flight in from Minnesota.
From the moment I walked into US Cellular the rain let up. I was sitting in the 500 level, so there is a nice long elevator to take up to that level. Much like the ‘Metrodome,’ you are stuck to the level the ticket says you are at. This bugged me almost as much as the 21 dollars shelled out for what is the equivalent of a ‘nose-bleed’ seat.
I also remember the year before when I brought my wife, when we paid 22 dollars for parking, yikes! Chicago is not a very value priced ticket. They do have great hot-dogs though.
Outside the park, there are many street vendors that carry tones of paraphernalia. There are various bands playing outside the stadium usually before the games—which is a nice feature you don’t often see at ballparks.
The White Sox also pay good homage to their heroes of yesteryear. There are many bricks, pillars and statues of greats like; Carlton Fisk, Harold Baines, Frank Thomas, Nellie Fox and Luis Aparicio. Inside the park is very similar to the Indians ‘Progressive Field.’ It was also built around the same time as Orioles Park at Camden Yards, and the above stated Jacobs Field as it used to be called.
During the game, the scoreboard in Centerfield will shoot fireworks through 7 candy-cane style colored pillars—on top of the big scoreboard—and the pillars illuminate to their painted colors. It is a nice spectacle.
In addition to that scoreboard, there is another scoreboard under the main one—near the grassy back drop in center field. This scoreboard is used for player stats. In left center field is the official score-line scoreboard.
As it goes for the stadiums, The ‘Cel’ is probably the best to see what the score is from any angle in the crowd.
The concourse in the outfield is designed so that you can walk around freely. I like the stadium as the top half in the league, but the value for the overall experience is suffered by anyone who wants to drive to the park.
The previous night I learned the ‘CTA’ (Chicago Transit Authority) schedule very well. After the game that night I was going to take the ‘Red Line’ sub headed towards Howard, to head back towards downtown Chicago, were I was going to go back to the hostel, have a quick snooze and hop on the ‘Blue Line Train that would take me from Jackson and State Road all the way to O’Hare Airport. Once I learned these subways I decided never to drive in Chicago again if possible.
The game started at 7:35 PM, and the clouds had subsided for the time being. It is never fun to sit in a seat after it has been rained on. The smart ushers—(I have seen Cincinnati and San Diego ushers do this) carry towels and dry off your seats as they escort you from the concourse. Most of the parks ushers are not even adept in walking you to your seat as a sign of good service.
I thought I was in the clear at this point from any future weather that night, boy was I wrong. Let’s get back to the game first.
The White Sox took a 5-4 lead into the top of the Ninth. That is when the rains started to come down in a hailstorm. I could not take the constant pelting and went into the 500 level Concourse with a bunch of other Chicago Fans. Since it was wet, I was worried about picture/video recorder being affected. On a TV, I watched in dismay as Grady Sizemore hit a solo homer of Scott Linebrink to tie the game at 5. The rain came down even harder. I was petrified the umpires were going to call a rain delay—or even worse to suspend it outright. All of a sudden my decision a few hours earlier could have come back to haunt me. All I heard about the last 48 hours had been the upcoming rain. Man I was sweating it out. After all the planning and leg work for the trip, it could all come to a halt in the first attempt on the very first day!
I would have to start again the next day at zero. Yes there was a contingency plan to it, but because of a limited home schedule in Minnesota for the coming weeks, it would be easier to re-schedule the attempt for a July.09 start. Houston was even worse for re-scheduling the next day. With the 4 double-headers in 5 days to start off with beginning July 9th, I would be able to shoot for a 30-26 chance again. It was finish this game right now or I would restart the next week. I was worried.
The Minnesota-Chicago doubleheader is not what most people would think for doubleheader chances. I would be really disappointed if it was stalled because of a suspended game. The round trip plane ticket to and from Chicago was one of the higher plane fares at about three hundred dollars round-trip. The sedan service ran about 70 dollars. You add in the car rental in Chicago the previous day, and two days at the hostel—and it would mean about 500 dollars spent on the first day without any games to show for it should the game be called now.
The bottom of the ninth was scoreless. More rain came down…..
The top of the tenth proved to be awful viewing in watching the hitters try to locate the ball even to swing.
I umpired for ten years growing up. I was convinced they were going to call the game. There was no end to the rain in sight or forecast.
A.J Pierzynski then came up to bat in the bottom of the 10th. I was pacing around the walkway to the 521 section. I decided to stomach a few glances at the field from the outside again. I had been up since 3 AM at that point. The Cleveland Indians pitcher Kobayashi leaned back and fired a fastball—A.J cranked a ‘thunderous’ shot headed into the night towards left field. I never even saw the ball land in the stands, but when the fireworks shot off from the scoreboard the place went ballistic. The White Sox fans I had been watching the game with, burst outside of the Concourse—and all of them were high-fiving each other and I joined them. I was just as happy as they were—albeit for an entirely different reason—I had completed 2 games in my first day! A.J Pierzynski will be favorably remembered because of that walk-off homer.
The hour and a half it took for me to catch a train back to the Hostel did not bother me in the pouring rain. I had my camera tucked into my pocket deep with my verification of proof I had been there.