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WHITESOXINTERACTIVE.COM. Totally Biased Coverage of the Chicago White Sox!

All for the Better!

By Mark Liptak

In 1940 Thomas Wolfe penned the book ‘You Can’t Go Home Again.’ With due respect he was can... and sometimes things change for the better.

Great Seats!

Nancy's Perch!

Historic game balls!

Candlestick pitching rubber!

The 1959 uniform!

Last week for the first time since 1992 I went home back to Chicago. Home to see my mom, my sister and my niece that I’d never met before and home to see one of the other passions in my life the Chicago White Sox.

Now some of what I’m about to write is old hat to many of you. A lot of you folks in the Chicago-area know exactly what I’m talking about...but for those of you outside the area, those who may be visiting Chicago in the future, I think you’ll want to read on.

I had never seen the team play at home since they were still in the original Comiskey Park and thanks to some acquaintances, Idaho State Journal sports editor Brady Slater, and interview subjects that I wrote features on for White Sox I found myself with tickets in the 12th and 10th rows between home plate and the first base bag on May 4th and 5th and then was in the press box for the game on the 7th.

As Brady can tell you (and it takes one to know one...) I’m a ‘seam-head.’ Baseball has been a part of my life since I was five. It’s now going on a 46 year love affair. To me baseball is the one sport that when you watch it in person, time stands still. You look out on the field and it could be 2006 or 2005 or 1977 or 1963. You’re 14 years old or 25 or 50. In the minds-eye Luis Aparicio is still playing short, that’s Willie Mays in center field or Alex Rodriguez is at third base. The players never grow old, they never retire, they’ll always be ‘forever young.’

I didn’t know what to expect when I stepped out of the cab in front of the stadium that Thursday afternoon. The reality is that I was unprepared for the experience. I grew up in the original Comiskey Park, I saw many great players, many great teams including a few from the Sox themselves. I didn’t think the new Comiskey Park (or it’s official name U.S. Cellular Field) could match those days and nights of long ago.

I was wrong.

The acres of green grass, the wide concourses, the clean bathrooms, the courteous staff and ushers were the immediate things I noticed. And before you ask, no, I wasn’t sitting in the press box. I was just a fan sitting in the stands watching the game. I wasn’t treated any differently then anyone else.

From the statues of ‘Minnie’ Minoso and Carlton Fisk (and soon to be Nellie Fox and Aparicio), to the kids ‘fundamentals’ area in the left field upper deck, from nice seats all aligned towards the infield, to the stone monument where the original home plate at Comiskey Park was, U.S. Cellular Field is stunning.

It’s immaculate, a maligned gem...there is no comparison with many of the current parks in major league baseball and that includes Wrigley Field, where the concrete is falling, the seats are cramped and the restrooms aren’t even fit to comment on. If you are a baseball fan and am going to Chicago and pass up a chance to see a game there you’ll regret it. And it doesn’t hurt matters that the team on the field is scary good.

Brady had a name for this week of mine. He called it the ‘make a wish’ week. He was right. Friday I spent the late morning and afternoon at the home of former Sox, Tigers and Giants pitcher Billy Pierce. Billy is perhaps the greatest left hander in White Sox history. He won 211 major league games, tossed four one hitters, won twenty games twice, played in seven All Star Games and started three of them. He also pitched in two World Series.

To visit Billy is to see baseball history. In his home are two World Series championship rings and two league championship ones. He has every one of the balls from the twenty games he won in 1957. He has the pitching rubber from Candlestick Park where he went 13-0 in 1962. You can find his World Series uniforms from 1959 and 1962 along with his Detroit Tigers warm up jacket from 1945. The walls are covered with pictures of Billy with the greats of the game...Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Connie Mack and then vice president George H.W. Bush. And to make it complete there are very few nicer people around anywhere.

Then on Sunday I had the chance to see the game from the press box surrounded by many of the folks that I grew up reading or watching. Also in the press box were some of the Sox greats from my youth, guys like Bill Melton and ‘Moose’ Skowron. I spent fifteen minutes speaking with former outfielder now Sox TV analyst Darrin Jackson. (My opinion of D.J. as an announcer hasn’t changed but you won’t find many nicer people or professionals anyplace.) ‘Hawk’ Harrelson and Ed Farmer said hello. It was the experience of a lifetime, five days that brought back memories of great players, great teams, great seasons and a great sport, baseball. The sport of our fathers and grandfathers. The sport of our sons and daughters. It also made new ones. Ones not easily forgotten...Sox fans standing and clapping in rhythm as AC/DC’s ‘Thunderstruck’ blasted out with the player introductions. The scoreboard exploding into lights and sounds when Jim Thome cranked out a home run (the Sox hit four in the games I saw) and snatching up a handful of the outfield warning track dirt (which will now go into a small glass holder) when I was down on it that Sunday afternoon.

It’s the national pastime played in a beautiful stadium on a warm Spring day. Oh by the way...the Sox did win two of the three games I saw. I’m very satisfied.

Postscript: Like Brady said this ‘make a wish’ week was the week that kept on giving. That Monday afternoon when my wife and I were in the lobby of the Westin Hotel on Michigan Avenue, waiting for the van to take us to O’Hare Airport, a large man came in. He was bald, wearing an orange shirt and tan slacks. He was an athlete and carried himself with grace, style and dignity... and I knew him. He was Sox pitcher Jose Contreras. That was the capper, the exclamation mark to the trip.

Editor's Note: Mark Liptak is an experienced sports journalist, holding several awards for both his electronic and print media work. He has held numerous sports reporting positions for various TV and newspaper organizations, including Director of Sports for KNOE-TV (Monroe, Louisiana) and KPVI-TV (Pocatello, Idaho), and sports writer for the Idaho Falls Free Press, where his column "Lip Service" has appeared for for a number of years. "Lip", his wife, and cats presently live in Chubbuck, Idaho, where they collectively comprise 100 percent of the Pocatello River Valley's long-time Sox Fan population.

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