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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Cooling it at Sox Park!
by Hal Vickery

It’s hard to believe that we’ve almost made it through another winter, but here we are entering the last week of March. Spring training is winding down, and in less than a week, the Sox will be in Milwaukee playing the Brewers at Miller Park for their final two tune-ups before the start of the 2005 baseball season.

That means in the next couple of days I’ll have to run down to the local sports store and pick up a couple of scorebooks for this summer. I almost never go to a game without keeping score, something I started doing when I was a six-year-old attending my first game at Comiskey Park.

My dad taught me a rudimentary method of scoring that I continued to use while playing the Cadaco Ethan Allen All-Star Baseball game. (Yes, I was anal retentive even back then.) By the time I was in high school, the programs at Comiskey Park showed how scoring is really done, and I’ve built on and improved on that over the years.

The great thing about the scorebook I use (called Scoremaster if you care) is that it also lets you keep track of balls and strikes. Pitch count would be better, but we can’t have everything. The version I use also has room for twelve innings, reducing the number of games during a season in which you have to go to another page to continue extra-innings games.

Now I have to admit I don’t mind going to games alone. The big disadvantage to that is that you don’t know the people sitting around you. But you’d be amazed at how popular the keeping that scorebook makes you. Somebody is always asking what Frank or Paulie did in his last at bat or how many guys Buehrle has struck out.

When that happens, you can go into your best Barney Fife impression and say, “Well, let’s just see what it says here in the old score book. Yup…he has seven strikes outs so far.” You seem more intelligent than you really are because you can translate “K,” “DP 6-4-3,” “SH 3-1,” and “F7.” It probably won’t get you girls, but it will help keep the people around you who have been imbibing since an hour before game time interested in what is going on until they stop serving.

The other great thing about the start of baseball season is that it means another year of ball park food. That means different things to different people. To me it means Best’s Kosher hot dogs with grilled onions, steak sandwiches (plus an egg roll…I really wish they had packets of hot mustard), beef pita sandwiches (which I finally discovered last year), corned beef sandwiches, and of course churros (I prefer strawberry).

And that’s just at The Cell! I presently have tickets for fifteen games there, but I also have a package for fifteen Kane County Cougars games and another package for Joliet Jackhammers games.

I know it’s not on my diet, but I have to have at least one pork chop sandwich a year at Philip B. Elfstrom Stadium, home of the Cougars. That would even make Madelyn Murray O’Hair think there is a heaven. Their barbeque chicken sandwich is darn good, too. And of course they have one other menu item you can’t get at The Cell: corn on the cob. It keeps one from missing French fries.

Unfortunately the food at Silver Cross Field, the home of the Jackhammers isn’t of the same caliber. That probably has a lot to do with the fact that their food service is provided by ARA, the same outfit that has concessions at The Shrine on the North Side. If you like a plain chicken sandwich, Silver Cross Field is the place to go. One thing they do have that is very good are the roasted almonds dipped in cinnamon and sugar. Of course, that’s not exactly on the old heart-friendly diet either.

If you are like me and start going to night games in April, or if you just find yourself in the shade during the first couple of the months of the season, a word about proper baseball-viewing attire is in order. If I know the expected high temperature is going to be below 70 (cooler near the lake), I always wear, or have handy, all of the following:

• One set of thermal underwear or in lieu of that a pair of sweat pants and an extra sweatshirt.

• Two pairs of socks.

• Jeans to wear over the long underwear or sweatpants.

• A sweatshirt to wear over the top of the thermal underwear or extra sweatshirt.

• A warm team jacket (after all, you still have to show your loyalty).

• A scarf to wear around your neck and over your face if it is windy.

• A team-logo stocking cap pulled down over the ears (again to show your loyalty).

• Thinsulate® lined gloves (so you can keep score without it being too awkward).

I also recommend wearing glasses rather than contact lenses because, as long as they don’t fog up, you keep the wind off your face and avoid frostbite.

For those of you who think this is overkill, the above outfit (using the sweatpants and extra sweatshirt) got me through a doubleheader last April where the wind was whipping around at about 25 mph and snow was observed falling. The only disadvantage to the entire thing was that it was quite a chore using the men’s room to “wash up.” For this reason, it is highly recommended that hot chocolate be your beverage of choice rather than beer.

Of course you could always wear a parka and fur lined boots, but then it just wouldn’t be baseball season.

Editor's Note: Hal Vickery has been a White Sox fan since 1955 when he was five years old. For much of that time he also had a secondary rooting interest in the Cubs, which he has shown the good sense to abandon. When not cheering for or writing about the Sox, Hal teachers chemistry and physics at North Boone High School, in Poplar Grove, IL. Hal commutes there daily from Joliet, where he lives with his wife Lee, and their dog, Buster T. Beagle. Hal's opinions are not necessarily those of North Boone High School, his wife, or Buster T. Beagle. You can write Hal at

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