Sunday, July 31, 2011

How to Be a Yankee Fan In Chicago - Comiskey Edition

The Yankees fly out to begin a 4-game series against the Chicago White Sox.

This is an update of a piece I did in June, when the Yankees had an Interleague series in Chicago against the Cubs. That was "How to Be a New York Fan In Chicago - Wrigley Edition," since Met fans would (if they gave it some thought -- I know, I know, they're Met fans) get more use out of it.

Hog Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler,
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders:

They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I have seen your painted women under the gas lamps luring the farm boys.

And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it is true I have seen the gunman kill and go free to kill again.

And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the faces of women and children I have seen the marks of wanton hunger.

And having answered so I turn once more to those who sneer at this my city, and I give them back the sneer and say to them:

Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.

Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on job, here is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the little soft cities;

Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning as a savage pitted against the wilderness,

Bareheaded, shoveling, wrecking, planning, building, breaking, rebuilding,
Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with white teeth,
Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young man laughs,
Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has never lost a battle,
Bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse.
And under his ribs the heart of the people, laughing!

Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of Youth, half-naked, sweating, proud to be Hog Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.

-- Carl Sandburg, 1916.

Sandburg knew. He was right then. He is still right now. And this legendary poem "Chicago" fits the White Sox much more than it does the Cubs.

“If I was a colonel in some horrible war,” said Jean Shepherd, the legendary writer and radio show host, native of Hammond, Indiana, and hard-core White Sox fan, “and I needed volunteers for a suicide mission to take an enemy pillbox, I’d call out, ‘Any of you White Sox fans? Follow me!’ And those White Sox fans would follow me, and we’d take that pillbox! Because White Sox fans are special. Fifty years without a Pennant? A hundred years? Doesn't matter. We're loyal.”

Shepherd said that in the 1987 documentary Chicago White Sox: A Visual History. It was an elaboration of something he'd said before: ”If I was going to storm a pillbox, going to sheer, utter, certain death, and the colonel said, ‘Shepherd, pick six guys,’ I’d pick White Sox fans, because they have known death every day of their lives, and it holds no terror for them.”

White Sox fans hate the Cubs, and especially Cub fans, a lot more than Cub fans hate the White Sox and their fans. To a Cub fan, a White Sox fan is a greasy, dirty, uncouth hood who likes heavy metal and marijuana -- an image probably ingrained due to the South Side's gritty reputation and Disco Demolition Night in 1979. To a White Sox fan, a Cub fan is a prissy, effete intellectual who is willing to accept losing so long as he has his ivy and his beer -- and, occasionally, his marijuana. In other words, George Will... except for the substance abuse part.

Jean Shepherd has been dead for a few years, but I'll bet he didn't like George Will. Will is still alive, and I'll bet he was never a Jean Shepherd fan, either.

Disclaimer: While I have been to Chicago, and I have seen games at Wrigley Field, and I saw a game at the old Comiskey Park, I have not yet been to a game at the new Comiskey Park, now named U.S. Cellular Field. But much of this information is taken from the White Sox' website, and is believed to be accurate.

Before You Go. The Chicago Tribune website is predicting low 90s for Monday and Tuesday, and high 80s for Wednesday and Thursday, but that's in the afternoons. For the night games, it should be in the 70s. Fortunately, the Trib forecasts no rain for the weekend.

The Chicago Sun-Times disagrees slightly on their website, forecasting "an afternoon T-storm or two" for Tuesday; but, if that turns out to be true, it shouldn't affect that night game. Otherwise, they agree with the Trib, including on temperatures.

So ignore all the stories you’ve heard about Chicago being cold (you’re going to New Comiskey to see the Yankees play the White Sox, not to Soldier Field to see the Giants or Jets play the Bears), and dress accordingly. Just to be on the safe side, you may want to pack an umbrella in your car, in case you need it on Tuesday.

Getting There. Chicago is 789 land miles from New York. Knowing this, your first reaction is going to be to fly out there.

Unlike some other Midwestern cities, this is a good idea if you can afford it. If you buy tickets online, you can get them for $335 each way. Nearly every flight from the New York area’s airports to Chicago’s is nonstop, so it’ll be 3 hours, tarmac to tarmac, and about 2 hours going back. The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) Blue Line train can get you from O’Hare International Airport, at the northwestern edge of the city, to the downtown elevated (or “L”) tracks that run in “The Loop” (the borders of which are Randolph, Wells, Van Buren and Wabash Streets) in 45 minutes. From Midway Airport, the Orange Line train can get you to the Loop in 45 minutes.

Bus? Greyhound’s run between the 2 cities is relatively easy, but long, about 18 hours, and is $215 round-trip. The station is at 630 W. Harrison Street. (If you’ve seen one of my favorite movies, Midnight Run, this is a new station, not the one seen in that 1988 film.) The closest CTA stop is Clinton on the Blue Line, around the corner.

Train? Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited (formerly known as the Twentieth Century Limited when the old New York Central Railroad ran it from Grand Central Terminal to Chicago's LaSalle Street Station) leaves New York's Penn Station at 3:45 every afternoon, and arrives at Union Station at 225 South Canal Street in Chicago at 9:45 every morning. It’s $186 each way. The closest CTA stop is Quincy/Wells, in the Loop, but that’s 6 blocks away – counting the Chicago River as a block; Union Station is, literally, not in the Loop. If you do decide to walk from Union Station to the Loop, don’t look up at the big black thing you pass. That’s the Sears Tower. If there’s one thing being in New York should have taught you, it’s this: “Don’t look up at the tall buildings, or you’ll look like a tourist.” But since you’ve come all this way, it makes sense to get a hotel, so take a cab from Union Station or Greyhound to the hotel – unless you’re flying in, in which case you can take the CTA train to within a block of a good hotel.

Of course, with the way the schedules run (and with my having to concentrate on real-world duties rather than write this, sorry), you won’t be able to leave by anything other than plane and get there in time for the first game of the series.

If you decide to drive, it’s far enough that it will help to get someone to go with you and split the duties, and to trade off driving and sleeping. The directions are rather simple, down to (quite literally) the last mile. You'll need to get into New Jersey, and take Interstate 80 West. You'll be on I-80 for the vast majority of the trip, through New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio. In Ohio, in the western suburbs of Cleveland, I-80 will merge with Interstate 90. From this point onward, you won’t need to think about I-80 until you head home; I-90 is now the key.

If you were going directly to U.S. Cellular Field (not a good idea, as you should go to your hotel first), you’d take Exit 55A for 35th Street, merge onto LaSalle Street, and turn left on 35th Street. The ballpark is bounded by 35th Street (3rd base), Shields Avenue/Bill Veeck Drive and the Amtrak/Metra tracks (1st base), 37th Street (right field) and Wentworth Avenue (left field).

If you do it right, you should spend about an hour and a half in New Jersey, 5 hours and 15 minutes in Pennsylvania, 4 hours in Ohio, 2 hours and 30 minutes in Indiana, and half an hour in Illinois before you reach the exit for your hotel. That’s 13 hours and 45 minutes. Counting rest stops, preferably halfway through Pennsylvania and just after you enter both Ohio and Indiana, and accounting for traffic in both New York and Chicago, it should be no more than 18 hours, which would save you time on both Greyhound and Amtrak, if not flying.

Tickets. In spite of the White Sox normally being the better team on the field, the Cubs have had the better attendance. This season, the Cubs are averaging 37,034 for home games, the White Sox just 24,998, even though the Sox are 2 games under .500 and 4 games out of 1st place in the American League Central Division, while the Cubs are a whopping 23 games under and 17 games out in the National League Central. (The White Sox are 12 games behind the Yankees for the AL’s Wild Card, the Cubs 20 back of the NL Wild Card.) In fact, the Cubs have had a higher attendance than the White Sox every season starting in 1994, even though the Sox were then in a very good period and have actually won a Pennant and a World Series since: Even in their title season of 2005, the Sox trailed the Cubs in per-game attendance, 24,437 to 39,138. The Sox’ record is 36,511 in 2007, and the Cubs had 39,040.

I think part of the Cub/Sox divide -- that is, the Sox fans hate the Cubs and their fans more than the Cub fans hate the Sox and their fans -- is partly due to the Cub-Cardinal rivalry. Cub fans have someone they hate more than they hate the White Sox. The move of the Milwaukee Brewers, considerably closer to Chicago than St. Louis is, to the National League has killed the Sox-Brewers rivalry, which was never all that strong, but neither has it made Cub fans hate the Brewers all that much. In contrast, Brewers fans have grown to hate Cub fans, mainly because they were probably already sick of hearing about Cub fans, Wrigley Field and Harry Caray on "Superstation" WGN.

Hopefully, the White Sox' resurgence under manager Ozzie Guillen and general manager Kenny Williams will help them build rivalries with AL Central opponents Detroit, Cleveland and Minnesota, and they can have better attendance as a result of both the winning and the rivalries.

After all, the Sox won a Pennant in 2005, something the Cubs still haven't done since 1945; and won the World Series that season, something the Cubs still haven't done since 1908. And yet the Sox are STILL "the Second Team in the Second City." The Cubs have outdrawn the Sox every season since 1993 -- even though the Sox won the AL West (in their last season before realignment). Actually, that's not that strange, as in 1984, with the Sox coming off an AL West title, they outdrew the Cubs that season even as the Cubs won the old NL East.

But the Sox' per-game attendance has not never surpassed their 2006 peak of 36,511. The Cubs have topped that figure the last 7 years in a row, and will make it 8.

So getting tickets for a White Sox game shouldn't be difficult: Essentially, you can probably get any seat you can afford. Lower Boxes will cost $50, Lower Reserved $46, Upper Boxes $42, Upper Reserved $36, and Bleachers $44.

Going In. To get to "The Cell" (or "The Phone Booth") from downtown, take the Red Line train to "Sox-35th." It’s about a 12-minute ride, making it twice as fast as from Midtown Manhattan to Yankee Stadium, 3 times as fast as from Midtown Manhattan to Citi Field.

The area around the park, part of the Bridgeport neighborhood of the South Side, isn't as bad as it was in the 1960s, '70s, '80s and early '90s. It was in 1973 that Jim Croce, in "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown," called the South Side "the baddest part of town." But things have improved significantly. Nevertheless, take the El, leave the car at the hotel -- not just because of the safety issue, but because it's just more convenient to train it.

You’ll be most likely to enter by the home plate gate at 35th & Shields. Unlike Wrigley Field, the park is not surrounded by bars, famous or otherwise. Unfortunately, McCuddy's, the legendary saloon that was on the site, did not, as promised to its owners, get rebuilt across the street. Instead, the site of old Comiskey is just a parking lot for the new one.

Prior to a refit about 10 years ago, new Comiskey looked a lot like the 1976-2008 edition of Yankee Stadium, with two decks of blue seats wrapping from the left field pole around home plate to the right field pole, with a white wall bracketing the outfield bleachers. But complaints about the place being a "Mallpark" led to some changes, including new green seats, more bleacher seats, removing the top couple of rows in the upper deck and replacing them with a slightly overhanging roof, and better concession stands. It does look better -- if a bit less like the park where I grew up.

The ballpark faces southeast, away from downtown and the city’s skyscrapers; its predecessor had faced northeast, and the Sears Tower could be seen over the left field upper deck. The outfield distances are 330 feet to left, 335 to right, 375 to the power alleys and 400 to center -- much more of a hitters' park than old Comiskey was, but still not heavily favoring hitters. And the field is immaculate, as it usually was at old Comiskey, although that one was occasionally tailored for the home team. Capacity is officially 40,615.

Like its predecessor, U.S. Cellular Field has an "exploding scoreboard" that lights up and shoots off fireworks for a White Sox home run or a White Sox win. It's not a replica of either of the first two boards -- the original exploding scoreboard, at the old Comiskey, lasted from 1960 to 1982 and was replaced in time for the 1983 All-Star Game -- but it upholds the tradition. Legend has it that, upset by the "unprofessionalism" of the 1960 board, Casey Stengel brought sparklers into the Yankee dugout, and when a Yankee homered, he had the sparklers lit, and the Yankees jumped up and down in the dugout in mock celebration.

Food. As one of America’s greatest food cities, in Big Ten Country where tailgate parties are practically a sacrament, you would expect the Chicago ballparks to have lots of good options. The Cubs do not. The White Sox? Oh yeah. In fact, there may be no team with better food options than the Pale Hose. Hot dogs. Sausages. Sandwiches. Pizza. Ethnic varieties. Ice cream. And so much beer, you'll think you missed your exit and ended up in Milwaukee. Bill Veeck used to call the old Comiskey "the world's largest saloon," and the new park reflects this, even if it's not as dark and foreboding in the corridors. (The old one could have used better lighting, but, aside from that and being in poor condition when I visited, I loved it.)

Team History Displays. As I said, I have not been inside the new Sox park. But the Sox do have flags honoring their Pennants (1901, 1906, 1917, 1919, 1959 and 2005), and statues honoring some of their all-time greats: Founding owner Charlie Comiskey and the 1950s double-play combination of Luis Aparicio and Nellie Fox, behind Section 100; 1950s legends, left fielder Orestes "Minnie" Minoso and pitcher Billy Pierce, and 1980s catcher (also Red Sox legend) Carlton Fisk, behind Section 164; 1980s outfielder Harold Baines, behind Section 105; and 1990s first baseman Frank "Big Hurt" Thomas, behind Section 160.

The team's retired numbers are depicted on the outfield fence: Number 2, Fox; 3, Baines; 4, 1930s-40s shortstop Luke Appling; 9, Minoso; 11, Aparicio; 16, 1920s-30s pitcher Ted Lyons; 19, Pierce; 35, Thomas; and 72, Fisk.

There is a Chicago White Sox Hall of Fame located somewhere in the park, and "Shoeless Joe" Jackson, the most famous of the "Eight Men Out" who supposedly threw the 1919 World Series to the Cincinnati Reds, is honored there, as is Bill Veeck who owned the White Sox twice (1959-61, selling them because he was misdiagnosed and thought he was dying; 1975-81, selling them because he couldn't keep up with the rising costs: "It's not the high price of talent that bothers me, it's the high price of mediocrity.").

Stuff. Clubhouse stores are located on the first level of the park, behind home plate and at each outfield corner. The usual items that can be found at a souvenir store can be found there.

Available DVDs include White Sox Memories: The Greatest Moments in Chicago White Sox History, and the official 2005 World Series highlight film package. This is the only World Series the South Siders have won since official WS highlight films have been made.

During the Game. White Sox fans can get a bit rough, and they do like to drink. However, if you don't antagonize them, they will probably give you no worse than a bit of verbal.

The White Sox have a mascot, a big furry yellow thing called Southpaw, a reference to the team playing on the South Side. Their 1980s mascots, Ribbie and Rhubarb, are long gone.

The White Sox have a theme song, "Go-Go White Sox," which is what their 1959 Pennant winners were called, and it's a pretty rousing number, certainly with better lyrics than either "Here Come the Yankees" or "Meet the Mets." The White Sox, led by organist Nancy Faust (who retired last year), were the first team to use the 1969 Steam chart-topper "Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)" to serenade a pitcher getting knocked out of the game. And if they win, they will play, appropriate for the South Side, the blues standard "Sweet Home Chicago."

After the Game. The neighborhood should be safe after a day game, but after a night game, with all that extra time to drink, it can get a little rough. But, as I said, leave them alone, and they'll probably leave you alone.

If you want to be around other New Yorkers, I found listings of 3 Chicago bars where New York Giants fans gather: Red Ivy, just south of Wrigley at 3519 N. Clark Street; The Bad Dog Tavern, 4535 N. Lincoln Avenue (Brown Line to Western); and Trinity, at 2721 N. Halsted Street (Brown or Purple Line to Diversey). And I found these 2 which show Jets games: Rebel Bar & Grill, also just south of Wrigley at 3462 N. Clark; and Butch McGuire's, 20 W. Division Street (Red Line to Clark/Division).

Sidelights. Chicago is one of the best sports cities, not just in America, but on the planet. Check out the following – but do it in daylight, as the city’s reputation for crime, while significantly reduced from its 1980s peak, is still there. For my thoughts on Wrigley Field, check out my post on the subject.

* Site of old Comiskey Park. The longtime home of the White Sox, 1910 to 1990, was at 324 W. 35th Street at Shields Avenue (a.k.a. Bill Veeck Drive), and is now a parking lot, with its infield painted in. This was the home field of Big Ed Walsh (the pitcher supposedly helped design it to be a pitchers’ park), Eddie Collins, Shoeless Joe Jackson and the rest of the “Black Sox,” Luke Appling, the great double-play combination of Luis Aparicio and Nellie Fox of the ’59 “Go-Go White Sox,” Dick Allen, the 1977 “South Side Hit Men” of Richie Zisk, and the 1983 Division Champions of Carlton Fisk, LaMarr Hoyt and Harold Baines.

The old Comiskey was also where future Yankee stars Russell “Bucky” Dent and Rich “Goose” Gossage began their careers, and where, in the last game the Yankees ever played there, Andy Hawkins pitched a no-hitter – and lost, thanks to his own walks and 3 errors in the 8th inning. The NFL’s Chicago Cardinals played there from 1922 to 1959, and the franchise, now the Arizona Cardinals, won what remains their only NFL Championship Game (they didn’t call ‘em Super Bowls back then) there in 1947. And in 1979, during what was supposed to be intermission between games of a White Sox vs. Tigers doubleheader, was Disco Demolition Night. Today, it’s called a fiasco, but the sentiment was right: Disco really did suck. But the biggest music event there was the Beatles' concert on August 20, 1965.

* Previous Chicago ballparks. The Cubs previously played at these parks:

State Street Grounds, also called 23rd Street Grounds, 1874-77, winning the NL’s first Pennant in 1876, 23rd, State, and Federal Streets & Cermak Road (formerly 22nd Street), Red Line to Cermak-Chinatown.

Lakefront Park, also called Union Base-Ball Grounds and White-Stocking Park (the Cubs used the name “Chicago White Stockings” until 1900, and the AL entry then took the name), 1878-84, winning the 1880, ’81 and ’82 Pennants, Michigan Avenue & Randolph Street in the northwest corner of what’s now Millennium Park, with (appropriately) Wrigley Square built on the precise site, Randolph/Wabash or Madison Wabash stops on the Loop.

West Side Park I, 1885-91, winning the 1885 and ’86 Pennants, at Congress, Loomis, Harrison & Throop Streets, now part of the campus of the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), Blue Line to Racine.

South Side Park, 1891-93, just east of where the Comiskey Parks were built.

West Side Park II, 1893-1915, winning the 1906 and 1910 Pennants and the 1907 and 1908 World Series, the only World Series the Cubs have ever won, at Taylor, Wood and Polk Streets and Wolcott Avenue, now the site of a medical campus that includes the Cook County Hospital, the basis for the TV show ER, Pink Line to Polk.

Prior to the original Comiskey Park, the White Sox played at a different building called South Side Park, at 39th Street (now Pershing Road), 38th Street, & Wentworth and Princeton Avenues, a few blocks south of the Comiskey Parks.

* United Center and site of Chicago Stadium. From 1929 to 1994, the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks played at Chicago Stadium, “the Madhouse on Madison,” at 1800 W. Madison Street at Wood Street. The NBA’s Bulls played there from 1967 to 1994. The United Center opened across the street at 1901 W. Madison at Honore Street. At the old Stadium, the Blackhawks won Stanley Cups in 1934, ’38 and ’61, and the Bulls won NBA Titles in 1991, ’92 and ’93. At the United Center, the Bulls won in 1996, ’97 and ’98 and the Blackhawks won the 2010 Cup. The Democrats had their Convention at Chicago Stadium in 1932, ’40 and ’44, nominating Franklin D. Roosevelt each time; the Republicans also had their Convention there in ’32 and ’44. The Democrats held court (or rink) at the United Center in 1996, their first Convention in Chicago since the disaster of 1968. And Elvis Presley gave concerts at the Stadium on June 16 and 17, 1972 -- giving the last of these as burglars were breaking into the Watergate complex in Washington. Blue Line to Illinois Medical District (which can also be used to access the site of West Side Park II and ER), or Green or Pink Line to Ashland-Lake.

* Soldier Field. Opened in 1924, and for years was best known as the site of the Chicago College All-Star Game (a team of graduating seniors playing the defending NFL Champions) from 1934 to 1976, and as the site of the 1927 heavyweight title fight between Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney, the famed “Long Count” fight, which may have had what remains the greatest attendance ever for a U.S. sporting event, with figures ranging from 104,000 to 130,000, depending on who you believe. It definitely was the site of the largest football crowd ever, 123,000 to see Notre Dame play USC a few weeks after the Long Count; in spite of various expansions, the universities of Michigan and Tennessee and Penn State still can’t top this. Games of the 1994 World Cup were also held at the old Soldier Field.

Amazingly, the Bears played at Wrigley from 1921 to 1970, with the occasional exception. The story I heard is that Bears founder-owner-coach George Halas was a good friend of both the Wrigley and Veeck families, and felt loyalty to them and that’s why he stayed at Wrigley despite having just 47,000 seats for football. But I heard another story that Halas was a Republican and didn’t like Chicago’s Democratic Mayor, Richard J. Daley (whose son Richard M. recently left office having broken his father’s record for longest-serving Mayor), and didn’t want to pay the city Parks Department a lot of rent. (Also, Halas was known to be cheap: Mike Ditka, who nonetheless loved his old boss, said, “Halas throws nickels around like manhole covers.”) The real reason the Bears moved to Soldier Field in 1971 was Monday Night Football: Halas wanted the revenue, and Wrigley didn’t have lights until 1988.

A 2002-03 renovation demolished all but the famed Greek-style columns that used to hang over the stadium, and are now visible only from the outside. It doesn’t look like “Soldier Field” anymore. Capacity is now roughly what it was in the last few years prior to the renovation, 61,500. And while the Bears won 8 NFL Championships from 1921 to 1963 while playing at Wrigley (8 more titles than the Cubs have won there), they’ve only won one more at Soldier Field, the 1985 title capped by Super Bowl XX. The Monsters of the Midway have been tremendous underachievers since leaving Wrigley. 1410 S. Museum Campus Drive, at McFetridge and Lake Shore Drives, a bit of a walk from Roosevelt station on the Green, Orange and Red Lines.

* Site of Chicago Coliseum. There were 2 buildings with this name that you should know about. One hosted the 1896 Democratic National Convention, where William Jennings Bryan began the process of turning the Democratic Party from the conservative party it had been since before the Civil War into the modern liberal party it became, a struggle that went through the Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt years before it finally lived up to its promise under John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. It was here that Bryan gave the speech for which he is most remembered, calling for the free coinage of silver rather than sticking solely to the gold standard: "You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns. You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold." Now a part of Jackson Park, at 63rd Street & Stony Island Avenue. 63rd Street Metra (commuter rail) station.

The other was home to every Republican Convention from Theodore Roosevelt’s in 1904 to Warren Harding’s in 1920, including the 1912 Convention where TR split from the party after being maneuvered out of the nomination to return to office, and his subsequent Progressive Party Convention was also held there. It was also the original home of the Blackhawks, from 1926 to 1929 and briefly again in 1932. In 1935, roller derby was invented there. In 1961, an NBA expansion team, the Chicago Packers, played there, becoming the Zephyrs in 1962 and moving to become the Baltimore Bullets in 1963. The Coliseum hosted a few rock concerts before the Fire Department shut it down in 1971, and it was demolished in 1982. The Soka Gakkai USA Culture Center, a Buddhist institute, now occupies the site. East side of Wabash Avenue at 15th Street, with today’s Coliseum Park across the street. Appropriately enough, the nearest CTA stop is at Roosevelt Avenue.

* Site of International Amphitheatre. Home to the Bulls in their first season, 1966-67, and to the World Hockey Association’s Chicago Cougars from 1972 to 1975, this arena, built by the stockyards in 1934, was home to a lot of big pro wrestling cards. Elvis Presley sang here on March 28, 1957. The Beatles played here on September 5, 1964 and August 12, 1966. But it is best known as a site for political conventions. Both parties met there in 1952, the Democrats in 1956, the Republicans in 1960, and, most infamously, the Democrats in 1968, with all the protests. The main protests for that convention were in Grant Park and a few blocks away on Michigan Avenue in front of the Conrad Hilton Hotel, one of the convention headquarters (now the Chicago Hilton & Towers. 720 S. Michigan), but the Amphitheatre itself, torn down in 1999, was at 4220 S. Halsted Street, where an Aramark plant now stands. Red Line to 47th Street. NOT to be visited after dark; indeed, unless you’re really interested in political history, I’d say, if you have to drop one item from this list, this is the one.

* Northwestern University. Chicago’s Big Ten school is just north of the city, in Evanston. Dyche Stadium/Ryan Field, and McGaw Hall/Welsh-Ryan Arena, are on Ashland Avenue between Central Street (Purple Line) and Isabella Street. And while Northwestern’s athletic teams have traditionally been terrible, the school has a very important place in sports history: The first NCAA basketball tournament championship game was held there in 1939, at Patten Gymnasium, at 2145 Sheridan Road. The original Patten Gym was torn down a year later, and the school’s Technological Institute was built on the site. Sheridan Road, Noyes Street and Campus Drive. Purple Line to Noyes.

* Museums. Chicago’s got a bunch of good ones, as you would expect in a city of 3 million people. Their version of New York’s Museum of Natural History is the Field Museum, just north of Soldier Field. Adjacent is the Shedd Aquarium. On the other side of the Aquarium is their answer to the Hayden Planetarium, the Adler Planetarium. And they have a fantastic museum for which there is no real analogue in New York, though the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia is similar: The Museum of Science & Industry, at 57th Street & Cornell Drive, near the University of Chicago campus; 56th Street Metra station. The Art Institute of Chicago is their version of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, at 111 S. Michigan Avenue, just off the Loop.

* Ferris Bueller’s Day Off If you’re a fan of that movie, as I am (see my 25th Anniversary retrospective), not only will you have taken in Wrigley Field, but you’ll recognize the Art Institute as where Alan Ruck focused on Georges Seurat’s painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. Other sites visited by Ferris, Cameron and Sloane were the Sears Tower, then the tallest building in the world and still (under its new official name of the Willis Tower, at least until New York’s Freedom Tower is topped off) the tallest in America, 1,454 feet, 233 S. Wacker Drive (yes, the name is Wacker), Quincy/Wells station in the Loop; and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, 335 S. La Salle Street, LaSalle/Van Buren station in the Loop (also where Steve Martin & John Candy finally reached Chicago in Planes, Trains and Automobiles). I’m not sure what street the von Steuben Day Parade went down.

While the Bueller house was in Long Beach, California, the Frye house is in Highland Park, north of the city. Remember, it’s a private residence, and not open to the public, so I won’t provide the address, even though I know it. And the restaurant, Chez Quis, did not and does not exist. Nor did, or does, Adam's Ribs, a barbecue joint made famous in a 1974 M*A*S*H episode of the same title,

Today, there are 18 restaurants in America named Adam's Ribs, including two on Long Island, on Park Boulevard in Massapequa Park and on the Montauk Highway in Babylon; and another on Cookstown-Wrightstown Road outside South Jersey's Fort Dix and McGuire Air Force Base. But only one is anywhere near Chicago, in Buffalo Grove in the northwestern suburbs.

Not far from that, in the western suburbs, is Wheaton, home town of football legend Red Grange and the comedic Belushi Brothers, John and Jim. John and Dan Aykroyd used Wrigley Field in The Blues Brothers, and Jim played an obsessive Cubs fan in Taking Care of Business. Their father, an Albanian immigrant, ran a restaurant called The Olympia Cafe, which became half the basis for John's Saturday Night Live sketch of the same name, better known as the Cheeseburger Sketch: "No hamburger! Cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger... No fries, chips!... No Coke, Pepsi!"

Don Novello, an SNL writer who played Father Guido Sarducci, said the other half of the inspiration was the Billy Goat Tavern, originally operated by Greek immigrant William "Billy Goat" Sianis, originator of the supposed Billy Goat Curse on the Cubs, across Madison Street from Chicago Stadium, from 1937 until 1963. At that point, Sianis moved to the lower deck of the double-decked Michigan Avenue, since it was near the headquarters of the city's three daily newspapers, the Tribune, the Sun-Times, and the now-defunct Daily News. Mike Royko, who wrote columns for each of these papers, made it his haunt and frequently mentioned it in his columns. Novello and Bill Murray, Chicagoans, were regulars at the Billy Goat; Belushi later said he'd never set foot in the place. And, while Sam Sianis, nephew of the original Billy, still serves up a fantastic cheeseburger (he was there when I visited in 1999), he deviates from the sketch: No Pepsi, Coke. It's open for breakfast, and serves regular breakfast food. It looks foreboding, being underneath the elevated part of Michigan Avenue, and a sign out front (and on their website) says, "Enter at your own risk." But another sign says, "Butt in anytime." 430 N. Michigan Avenue, lower deck, across from the Tribune Tower. Red Line to Grand. The original location near Chicago Stadium has effectively been replaced, at 1535 W. Madison Street.

You may notice some other film landmarks. The Chicago Board of Trade Building was used as the Wayne Tower in Christopher Nolan’s Batman films. And Chicago stood in for Metropolis in the Superman-themed TV series Lois & Clark, with the Wrigley Building and the Tribune Tower as standout landmarks.

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Every American should visit Chicago. And with the Sox having the smaller attendances, you'll have an easier time getting into U.S. Cellular Field than into Wrigley. Have fun -- but remember, be smart, and don't go out of your way to antagonize anyone.

1 comment:

rosetta stone said...

i like CC Sabathia .