Some clubs can draw a straight line between their earliest uniforms and their present look without hitting too many unexpected curves or left turns. The White Sox are not one of those teams. Far from straight, the path that follows their visual history looks a lot like that one really curvy road in San Francisco that’s always in car commercials. Like the San Diego Padres, an N.L. team that has never really settled on an identity, the White Sox have been visual nomads, wandering the sartorial hinterlands, camping out for a time in various looks (and when I say camp, I mean camp). Only in the last two decades has the club gained some consistency and maintained a look that has become iconic.
While the Sox are like the Padres in their willingness to vary their identity, they are unlike the San Diego club in one very important way: they have an extensive major league legacy. The White Sox are an original American League team, one of only a few to exist in the spot of their founding over a century ago. They played in one of baseball’s beloved older stadiums well into the 1990s, and they have a prominent (if not always honorable) role in baseball history - so the team is not without tradition. But they’ve also always competed for attention with their cross-town neighbors, the Cubs, whose visual identity is so fixed it might as well be covered in ivy. Changing looks was one way to differentiate the South Siders from the Cubbies, and grab a few eyeballs in the process - and when you’re owned by Bill Veeck for a large part of your existence, the creative pursuit of eyeballs becomes part of your DNA.
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I’m not a connoisseur of ballpark food; in fact I don’t care for it much at all. My eyes don’t light up when I see a Lemon Chill or an over-sized baked potato, though I’ll admit the smell of grilled onions that permeate throughout US Cellular Field is one of its greatest features. Given that I go to many games directly from the office, there’s a need to bond with the ballpark food and if I had to pick a favorite, it’d be the nachos. Not the standard round chips and Cheez Whiz, but there’s a mobile food kiosk, with stainless steel compartments that hide the secret ingredients of nachos that come in two sizes: HUGE and SO FUCKING HUGE we put it in an adult-sized plastic helmet. On this particular night, I got the huge (no meat, no sour cream, extra jalapenos) while my friend Tom went to the vending station behind me and eagerly overpaid for two slices of cheese pizza.
Food in tow, we walked to my favorite spot for pre-game dinner: The concourse in Centerfield at the bar-height tables that are tucked between the Carlton Fisk and Charles Comiskey statues (if anyone who works at the Cell is reading this, the table on the far left is always wobbly, can you please fix it before next season?). Just beyond the mesh netting, there’s a birds-eye view of the field that Roger Boassard so meticulously maintains. I ate half of the huge nachos and drank a Big Hurt Beer and alternated between watching batting practice, the sun disappearing behind the vending stands, and Tom, as we talked about our days.
I see Tom regularly, so sometimes we don’t have much to say, but on this particular day, we were discussing kitchen renovations. I have a horrible habit when talking face-to-face with people. My mind wanders easily and I’m often staring into space with a blank mind instead of listening. People that talk to me often would probably say they either A) don’t notice or B) find it awfully endearing, but I feel guilty when I feel my thoughts drifting to construction materials, lead paint reports, slugging percentages, or absolutely nothing, rather than what the person inches from my face is telling me. Worse, sometimes I find myself eavesdropping on the conversations and interactions around me—staring holes into strangers.
While Tom talked about cabinets, I broke eye contact and glanced over his shoulder at two abnormally tall men and a slender woman, standing just feet from us. The men formed a half moon behind her and she crouched down to tie her shoe. I looked away and back at my friend, who caught me not paying attention.
“Sorry. Maple cabinets? That’s a great choice! Full or partial overlay?”
I missed his answer, because the woman was no longer tying her shoe, but she remained down on one knee, a security wall of literal giants behind her, as she fumbled through her crocheted purse. She carefully opened a Ziploc bag that was tucked in a secret compartment, took a handful of the bags contents, and threw it into the bushes.
I tried to get Tom’s attention, “look behind you slowly,” but the woman was already rising from her crouched position by time he swiveled. Once upright, the lady pulled the plastic re-sealable from her purse completely and dumped the rest into the bushes, making sure that her throw went far enough for some of the contents, ashes, went deep into the ivy and down onto the playing field. The wind kicked up just as she tossed the final fistful, the blowback of her loved one taking flight through the summer air, landing on the concrete curb, the bar-height tables, and probably on my huge nachos.
Stunned, I asked Tom, “how do you think they snuck that past security?”
Within moments, the lumbering men and petite woman left the scene-of-the-release, but we stood there talking. I was afraid to eat my nachos, because I was convinced there were ashes all over them now, but I did think my beer was okay. Someone must have tipped off security, because they came over moments later and glanced around the bushes looking for evidence, and they found a lot of it. A valued member of the Cell’s janitorial team came over with a broom and dustpan on a stick and swept up whatever remains he could find on the curb and tables, but instead of dumping them in the trash can, he sprinkled the ashes into the bushes. It probably isn’t what his manager would have told him to do, but certainly more humane than having a City of Chicago dump as a loved one’s final resting spot.
Tom and I both tend to make jokes when we’re uncomfortable, but in this case we didn’t have much to say other than continually recounting the tale of the woman flinging the ashes freely into the shrubbery to anyone that would listen. As we pieced together the narrative, we assumed that they probably contacted the ballpark to see if they could spread their loved one’s ashes somewhere and when they were denied, they took matters into their own hands. Then, we tried to figure out who it might have been. Father? Mother? Sparky, the Goldendoodle?
In the fourth inning, the White Sox were winning 3-0, and instead of my usual beer replenishment and bathroom trip, I stayed in my seat for no good reason. As Tom talked, I stared into the stadium lights and in the general direction of the Jumbotron that was displaying Happy Birthday messages.
Happy 45th Birthday, Steve-o! Love, the Riggles
It’s Timmy’s 4th Birthday! GO SOX!
Brenda is gettin’ old…. Love, Sue and Joe
And there it was. So startling that I nearly spit my beer on the person in front of me. I don’t remember the specifics because I was so stunned, but I know it said the words Rest in Peace, the years 1998-2012, with a woman’s name and two men’s names. We sat there in silence as the message was displayed and assumed it wasn’t a coincidence. It felt more real just knowing that the person that now rested in the bushes had a name; it felt more severe knowing that that person was a child.
I’m not much for prayer, giving or receiving. But in that moment I missed my family, and my heart ached for their loss. I’ll never know the circumstances for their decision, but I like to think they left their son in the one spot that meant the most to him, and risked being in a great deal of trouble to make it happen. As the game continued, I was glad we finally had an answer; more importantly, I was glad that his family finally had some closure and a spot they could visit 81 times a season. I know that the next time I eat pre-game dinner in my favorite spot, I’ll stop and pay my respects.
Cee Angi is a Designated Columnist at SBNation.com, where she writes about a variety of baseball topics and teams. She runs Baseball-Prose.com, a site that offers an uncommon narrative on life in the context of baseball, and writes for ThePlatoonAdvantage.com. Cee is an avid reader and traveler who spent her formative drinking years wandering the Bourbon Trail. Cee lives in Chicago with her best friend, a cavalier spaniel named Lola.
Ron Kittle by Jim Nutt.
A surprisingly realistic portrait.
Scanned from ”Diamonds are Forever,” a collection of artists and writers on baseball, which just so happens to be among the books being raffled off to all those who donate. Among the other prizes are subscriptions to Baseball Prospectus, downloads of Out of the Park Baseball, copies of the preview magazine from Big Leagues Monthly, a gift card to Ebbets Field Flannels and plenty of other goodies. So please, do what you can and donate now.
Amid all the hubbub about it being a new year, and Robin Ventura emphasizing extra practice, and not giving off overt signs of not caring, one might expect an effective White Sox team to be the product of a complete transformation. If they beat Detroit, perhaps they’d beat them 15-14, with Beckham and Dunn hitting 4 HR each, because things are different this time.
Instead Dunn and Beckham combined to strike out 7 times while neither reached base, and the team as a whole struck out 15 times, continuing an early-season trend of the Sox striking out constantly. Given how much the team bumbled into weak contact during the Guillen-era for the sake of avoiding whiffs, the strikeout influx is almost refreshing, and should stay that way for, oh, another 6 hours or so.
A 5-2 game sounds a lot closer to something the White Sox of recent memory could come out on top of. That sounds like a game they could win with pitching, defense, hitting from Konerko, and hitting from…hopefully someone besides Konerko.
- James Fegan, White Sox Observer
Viciedo photo by Brian Cassella/Trib
Lately, hope springs eternal when the Chicago White Sox take the field in April, and ash rains from the sky when they step off in September. At least it has the past oh, 6 or 7 seasons, with a blip in ‘08. This year brings a “not-really-rebuilding-because-we-couldn’t-trade-away-a-lot-of-bloated-payroll” season for the Sox. I’ve decided to embrace it.
Ozzie? He GONE. Buehrle? He GONE. Adam Dunn? Havin’ funn. Already, there’s a bitter flavor in White Sox fans’ mouths. We’re almost a week into Spring Training games and the papers, the people, and the pulse all seem to be palpably pissy. I say, piss on that pissyness. Frankly, I just don’t feel like putting the energy into complaining all season long.
…and others… well, they’re just great.”
When I was knee high to a grasshopper, I loved sitting on the porch in the summer watching baseball with my grandfather. He was born a Reds fan and became a Cubs fan, but the thing he liked most about the WGN broadcasts was making fun of Harry Caray. My grandpa called him, “Liver Lips.” One day during a game my grandfather reached down and put his Cubs hat on my head. I was an extremely cognitive kid, and I understood the Hallmark-esque moment we were sharing. For 35 minutes, I joined him in rooting for the Cubs. Then my father walked in.
“Art, you take that thing off my son’s head, NOW.” He pulled me aside and in a tone so as not to alarm be but still convey the seriousness, said, “Tuck, we’re White Sox fans. I understand you want to sit with your grandfather, but try not to pick up any of his bad habits.”
The point is, my daughter was born into this. Baseball is coming.
Just a few weeks after Alyson Footer’s own look into the Astros’ aliases, Chuck Garfien of CSN Chicago spotlights some of the more unique aliases that the Chicago White Sox players use while on the road, including Jake Peavy’s love of generals from American History.
I can’t bite my tongue any longer. It’s time to address some issues that have been plaguing the South Side. I’m no expert, but then again, neither was Columbo. (Or was he?)
(Not Christopher Columbo. His brother, Lieutenant.)
After briefly hitting an even .500 record for the 2nd time this season, they lost it just as quickly. The Sox have dropped their last 6 games, doing so immediately after the front offices gave them a vote of confidence just before the trade deadline. This is the latest in a long line of subtle clues to mold growing in the team’s foundation.