Chicago – U.S. Cellular Field – Ballpark #9

My job after the game at Progressive Field was to drive Chuck & Lori to the airport in Cleveland so they could get a car for Lori to drive back home to Brooklyn the next day.  The plan was for me to drop them off and then wait in the cell phone waiting area for them to meet back up with me and I would use my GPS to get us to our hotel.  Fairly simple, yeah? Not so much.  Due to several things out of our control, that didn’t happen so easily. Before I knew it, it was pushing 1am and they were just now on their way to meet me.  Thankfully our hotel wasn’t but a few miles from where I had spent the last almost 2 hours waiting, so it didn’t take us any time to get there.  Once we got Lori’s stuff moved over into her car and started the walk up to our room, I was like a zombie.  It had been a LONG day and the upcoming day looked to be just as long.

After getting a few short winks and as I stumbled my way to the shower, I started adding it up and I think I managed about 2 1/2 hours of sleep, if I was lucky.  Chuck, on the other hand, didn’t get any sleep at all.  He was up all night filling reports, posting things on Twitter & Facebook and just generally living off adrenaline as he did  a lot.  I can’t do that for long and since I couldn’t sleep on our drive to Cincinnati, and I was driving to Chicago (not flying), I had to get as much as I could and well, it wasn’t much at all.  Thankfully, as per usual on this trip, by the time we pulled out of our hotel, I was jacked and ready to take on the world!  Traveling with Chuck, it was easy to get excited about what we, more so he, was doing.   With “Believe” blasting, we hit the road headed for The Queen City.

The drive, which took us diagonally across the state of Ohio from the Northeast to the Southwest via Columbus (Hi Bob!), went fairly smoothly.  We did run into a little rain, but wasn’t anything to worry about really.  As a matter of fact, the closer we got to Cincinnati, the clearer the skies got and that hotter it got!  By the time I was dropping Chuck off just outside of Great American Ball Park (about 11:05am EST), it was so humid & muggy I was glad I got to stay in the car with the A/C blasting! 🙂

With the package delivered to his next ballpark, it was time for me to make my way up to Chicago.  The drive from Cincinnati to O’Hare on the North Side of Chicago is just a tad over 300 miles, or about 5 1/2 hours with a couple short stops.  Chucks flight wasn’t due in until 5:30pm (CST), so with having plenty of time to get there, my first stop would be at a Skyline for some chili dogs.  I hit up the first one outside of time, just thru the drive thru, grabbed a couple dogs and a side of chili.  My theory is “it’s always better to be early, than to have to rush around like a chicken with your head cut off because you are running late”, so I wasted no time getting back on the freeway.  I was North bound and down and making great time.  The drive through Indy was cool, got to see Lucas Oil Field.  The last time I had driven through Indy they were just starting to build it.  With the Super Bowl having been played there last year, that was pretty neat.  I wish I could have taken some time to go check it out, get some pictures and all, but I didn’t want to waste the time as I wanted to get into Chicago with plenty of time to spare so I could maybe grab an early dinner or just simply hit the cell phone waiting lot and get some rest waiting for Chuck’s call.

Car hauler that was on fire on NB I-65 in Indiana

I was getting pretty close to the rest area in Lebanon, Indiana (mile marker 148 on NB I-65) when I decided a short stop was in order.  Not only did I have to use the facilities, but I really needed to get out and stretch my legs for a bit.   I felt that with a stop here, I should be able to make it to O’Hare with only 1 more stop.  As I walked up into the building, I took a second to glance over at the traffic on the highway and to my horror I saw everyone coming to a STOP!!  I had no idea what was going on, but I had to go, so I did and as I walked out, the line of cars stretched as far as I could see from the north to the south.  This is NOT good!   As I walked back to my car I overheard a couple people talking about a car hauler that was on fire up the road and saying how they expected this to take a long time to clear.

As I jumped into the line on the highway and just sat there, I watched the time of arrival on my GPS just keep on ticking.  The longer I sat there, the later my arrival would be and the more rushed I would have to be. Finally, after sitting there and hardly moving (most of the time I had the car off with the windows down for a breeze) for well over 90 minutes, we started to go.  Before long we passed that car hauler that had most certainly been on fire and we broke free.  I was soon back up to the speed limit and just a little over.  Any chance I had of any free time in Chicago before picking up Chuck had now been wasted.  Even though my GPS said I should get to ORD by 4:45pm, a full 45 minutes before Chucks flight was scheduled to arrive, I knew Chicago traffic and I knew that was NOT going to happen!

I was on pace for a 4:52pm arrival at ORD when I made my last stop, to make my bladder flatter and fill up the gas tank, in Merrillville, IN,  which is just south of Chicago.   From that gas station to ORD was about 57 miles.  Knowing it was going to be rush hour in Chicago as I attempted to get from south of town to the north and back down south again, my anxiety was really kicking in!  I had talked to my wife on the phone several times on this drive and I kept telling her that even though I know it wouldn’t be directly my fault, it was making me sick to think that there was a chance that Chuck would not make the game tonight because of me! No matter what I was feeling, I had to push on and after filling up the tank and getting back on the interstate, my new arrival time was 5:04pm.  If I could get lucky and make it through the traffic of Chicago and be at our pick up spot at ORD (same place as we used when we came through last Saturday) and only lose 26 minutes of time, I would beat Chuck to the airport and all would be great.  Yeah, we all know that wasn’t going to happen and even with me knowing Chicago pretty well and doing some fancy driving, I was still about 25 minutes out when I got a call from Chuck that he was at the pick up location and waiting for me.  Wouldn’t you know it, his flight got in early.  That is normally a good thing.  However, on this day, it just added to my already mounting anxiety!

I did the best I could, I took exits that people weren’t knowing I could take a side street and gain time, which helped.  However, it was still 5:52pm as I picked up the package and we started the drive to U.S. Cellular Field.  I had been told by a local friend in Chicago when I asked if it would be possible to make the drive from ORD to The Cell in 90 minutes that time of the evening, “Possible? I would say improbable”.  I had known this for a couple months. I had known that having only 90 minutes to make this drive more than likely would mean that we were in trouble.  That if we only had 90 minutes to get Chuck to the game, there was a good chance his streak might end on the streets of Chi-Town headed to the ballpark.  This has been in my head for months and it was especially ringing in my head as I realized that I had only 73 minutes to get Chuck there before 1st pitch!

The “Exploding Scoreboard” at The Cell.

As we made that familiar drive out of the airport and back on to I-90, my mind started racing.  I knew I had 21 miles to go and now 70 minutes to get him there.  I also knew that the traffic headed inbound (to the city) was worse than outbound (I had seen it on my drive in).  I knew that no matter how calm Chuck was acting right now, he was raging inside and I HAD to get him to this game!  I would NOT allow his streak to die on my watch.  At this point, it just looked like it wasn’t going to happen.  I have to admit that the next 40+ minutes were kind of a blur really.  All I can honestly recall is taking an exit off I-90 and working us through a bunch of side streets.  It was one turn after another, just going until I hit another light and turning again.   I have driven in Chicago a lot over the years and I honestly cant say if that helped me or not, because this was one of those moments were I was kinda “In The Zone”.  I was just driving.  Hoping that my memory of the streets we were passing would help get Chuck to the game faster than sitting on the interstate.  It was a calculated risk.  One that could backfire on me big time.  However, as we passed Montrose Ave, then Belmont & Fullerton, I knew we were doing good.  If I could just get us a bit further back down south, I could then make our way over and jump back on I-90 and we might have a shot at this!  I was starting to get really nervous now.  Hoping for some good mojo,  I looked over at Chuck and told him the odds were about to roll into our favor.  As we hit Roosevelt and then took the right onto Union, I could see the on ramp ahead of us.  With a glance at the clock, I could see that as long as I was right, as long as the highway was running smoothly now, we would have this!  As we got on to the freeway and made our way up to the speed limit, I let out the biggest sigh of relief I have ever let out!  From this point we were about 2 miles from the ballpark and the smiles that were on our faces as we saw the sign reading “U.S. Cellular Field” were ginormous!  Not only did we take on the Chicago traffic monster… WE KICKED ITS ASS!!!!  As we pulled up outside I told Chuck to get out and get in the ballpark, I would park the car and meet him inside.  As he jumped out of the car I looked at the clock again, it read 6:48pm.  I had got Chuck to the ballpark 17 minutes before 1st pitch.  We had done the “improbable”!!  Are you kidding me?!?  What a freaking rush that was!  Heck, I had plenty of time to park the car, change into my sweats, put my shoes and leg brace on, walk in and I was still standing behind home before the 1st pitch was thrown.  56 minutes… I just got Chuck from O’Hare to U.S. Cellular field in 56 minutes, via car, in Chicago’s rush hour traffic.  They say it couldn’t be done… but *I* did it!  His streak was not going to die on my watch!

As for the game, well this past Saturday as I was about to walk into Miller Park with the guys, my phone blew up from people texting me to see if I was at the Mariner’s game in Seattle that afternoon.  Phil Humber of the Chicago White Sox had thrown a perfect game vs my hometown Mariners.  No, no I wasn’t there.  However, tonight, here in Chicago, Humber took to the mound for his first time since being perfect and my Boston Red Sox lit him up!!  The first batter he faced, Mike Aviles, drew a walk to end his attempt at a 2nd straight perfect game.  2 batters later, Dustin Pedroia ended his shot at a 2nd straight no-hitter.  After Pedroia both Gonzalez & Ortiz followed with RBI hits and his shut out was gone and the Sox had a 2-0 1st inning lead.  In the 3rd inning the Red Sox just played add on with a Grand Slam off the bat of Kevin Youkilis, which was followed by a solo shot from Jared Saltalamacchia making it 7-1.  Before the game was all said and done though, Salty would go deep for a second time and the final score would be 10-3 Red Sox, my 2nd Boston win of the week & trip.

I was SOOOOOO cold!

The biggest things I will take away from my game in Chicago at U.S. Cellular Field are: 1) It was freaking COLD!!  It was soooo cold, that I actually didn’t finish taking score at this game because my hands were frozen! It was 39* at game time, clear skies, with a serious & gusty wind!  I tried moving to a few different locations from behind home, down the 1st base line to the foul pole and couldn’t find a spot to sit where I was able to get away from the wind.  I finally found myself sitting in a rather tiny box seat, just before the right field foul pole, eating dinner.  I had the nachos, duh, and they were ok.  However, as you might expect, they got COLD in a hurry!  It just kept getting colder as the game went on, which really sucked because it was ladies night at the ballpark.  There was lots of women, all very well covered up!  Bummer!  2) That Chuck got held hostage in the upper deck.  See, when I dropped him off, he went in, and made his way up to our seats.  There was no way I was going to climb up to the upper deck at The Cell.  Wasn’t going to happen.  That upper deck is so steep… NOPE! What I found out is that once you are in the upper deck at The Cell, you can’t leave to come back down to the main concourse.  You can only leave, if you are going to leave completely.  Heck, you’re not even allowed on the main level if you have an upper deck ticket… whoops!  See, I just walked in like I owned the place.  My bad, huh? 😉 and 3) The South Side of Chicago isn’t all that bad.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, the ballpark itself is a monstrosity that even though it’s not that old, really needs to go to make way for something more modern.  But I have been told for years how bad it is going to White Sox games.  How ‘you take your life into your own hands’ by going to a game there.  I actually learned this lesson back on May 2, 2002, when I was there for a game vs the Mariners (the one where Mike Cameron hit 4 HR’s and he and Boone went back-to-back 2x in the 1st inning, the only teammates to do that, ever), wearing my M’s gear and I was surrounded by teddy bears.  I in no way felt like I was in danger at all.  Tonight I wore my Red Sox gear and again, didn’t feel like I had anything to worry about, at all.

Shortly after the game I met Chuck at the car in the parking lot and we hit the interstate headed south.  Just what I needed, more driving.  However, we wanted to get as far south, headed towards St. Louis, as we could tonight so as to make tomorrow that much easier of a drive and hopefully allowing us to sleep in a little bit. The forecast for St. Louis tomorrow wasn’t looking too promising at all, so I was pretty sure Chuck wouldn’t be getting my rest tonight being worried about that…

Visitors 7, Home 2

Here is a link to my pictures from U.S. Cellular Field.

Red Sox (8-10)20502000110121
White Sox (10-9)101100000370
W: Doubront (1-0) L: Humber (1-1) S: Tazawa (1)


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