Wrigley Field vs. US Cellular: The Chicago Baseball Experience

Posted by Paul Caputo on April 14, 2014
Ballpark Visits, Baseball, Cubs, White Sox / 2 Comments

Wrigley

I recently had the opportunity to attend two baseball games in Chicago—one White Sox game and one Cubs game. When I tell most baseball fans about this experience, they ask, “How did you like Wrigley?” and I say, “I went to a White Sox game, too,” and they say, “Oh? Wrigley’s amazing, huh?” and then I say, “Do you want to hear about the White Sox?” And then their eyes turn to little spinning computer beach balls, as though they are trying to process something and it’s not working and I’m going to have to force quit and start the conversation over. And then they say, “Did you know you can see the game from the rooftops of the apartment buildings across the street from Wrigley?”

So I thought I’d offer this point-by-point comparison of the two stadiums and see which one is really better. The result may surprise you!

The Stadium
Wrigley Field, celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, is iconic. (Because I am a sentimental baseball fan and a blogger, I am required by law to use the word cathedral when writing about Wrigley: cathedral cathedral cathedral.) While Wrigley is a relatively comfortable place to watch a game, old ballparks offer certain challenges. When I asked an usher in the upper deck where the nearest men’s room was, he started with “Go down this ramp…” and ended with “It’s not as far as it sounds”—which means it was far. Still, it is one of the historic cathedrals (I told you) of baseball that all fans must see at least once, along with Fenway, Dodger Stadium (to a lesser extent), and before they tore it down and replaced it with an exact replica, Yankee Stadium.

US-CellularOn the other hand, US Cellular Field, which opened in 1991, was built in an architectural style called Soviet Prison Bauhaus. It’s blocky and gray, but functional. Even with wide concourses and bathrooms right there on the same level that you’re already on, it’s basically the last of the crappy old stadiums built immediately before the nice new ones starting with Camden Yards (1993) and Coors Field (1995).

Advantage: Wrigley.

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Going Down

Posted by Phil Broder on April 11, 2014
Bloggers To Be Named Later / 4 Comments

Relegate 3Quick, name a profession where you get paid a lot of money, and if you do a lousy job you get rewarded? OK, Wall Street stockbroker, that was the easy answer. But I would have also accepted “NBA player.” Because if you suck, you’re still going to get paid an outrageous salary. And the worse you do, the better your chance of being rewarded by playing alongside a top draft pick next season. You know it’s true. The NBA’s annual race to the bottom rewards teams that do poorly. While some would argue that that’s a very American thing to do, I say it’s time to do the European thing. It’s time for relegation.

If you’re not a fan of British Premier League Football, relegation might be a new concept for you. Basically, the three teams at the bottom of the standings at season’s end are sent down (relegated) to a lower league (what Americans call “the minors”). The top two teams in that minor league are promoted to the Premier League, while the teams in 3rd through 6th places have a playoff to determine which of them also gets promoted. For the relegated teams, they lose a substantial amount of TV money, which means they usually can’t afford their best players. And contractually, players on relegated teams take huge pay cuts, often as much as 30%. That’s right, if you do a bad job, you get paid less. How often do you see a team at the bottom of the standings hoist a banner?
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More Songs About Baseball

Posted by Phil Broder on April 10, 2014
Bloggers To Be Named Later / No Comments

Last week I told you about the music of The Baseball Project. And last night I went to see — for the first time — a Texas musician named Sam Baker. Full disclosure: I’ve been a huge fan of Sam for years, so much so that my dog is named for him. Sam’s story is amazing: he was visiting Peru in 1986 when a terrorist blew up his train, killing everyone around him and badly injuring Sam. He survived the blast damage, a severed artery, renal failure, and gangrene, was med-evaced by the Air Force back to Texas, and relearned to play the guitar with a mangled hand, ringing in his ears, and short-term memory loss. Now, the songs he writes are poignant vignettes of everyday life in America. Which brings us to Baseball. Take a listen. Somewhere this weekend in America, this song will be happening. As someone reminded me last night, we’re all living in a Sam Baker song.
Sam Baker

Boog Powell of the Beloit Snappers on his name, staying warm, life in the minors

Posted by Paul Caputo on April 09, 2014
Athletics, Baseball, Baseball (Minors), Video Interviews / No Comments

On a frigid opening day in southern Wisconsin, the Beloit Snappers (low-A, Oakland A’s) lost 5-1 to the Burlington Bees in front of a sparse crowd. In his first game with the Snappers after spending last season with the Vermont Lake Monsters, Herschel Mack “Boog” Powell IV went two for four and made a nice catch in centerfield—all before meeting the host family he’ll be living with this season. After the game, Powell spoke with me about his familiar name, how he stays warm in freezing weather, and life in the minor leagues.

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Opening Day in Beloit: Frigid Baseball, Lonely Turtles, and I Sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Posted by Paul Caputo on April 07, 2014
Athletics, Ballpark Visits, Baseball, Baseball (Minors) / No Comments

Snappers-opening-night

It was opening night for the low single-A Snappers of Beloit, Wisconsin, and in more ways than one, we were a long way from the bright lights and glamor of the team’s Major League affiliate, the Oakland A’s. The game had all the trappings of a great minor league experience—Snappy-Turtle-selfieI parked for free, the food was cheap, there were fun activities between innings, and I got a selfie with the team’s mascot, Snappy D. Turtle.

The players themselves—barely older than teenagers, if that—live with host families and travel by bus from game to game as they try to scrape and claw their way from the bottom of the minor league barrel. Between the cold weather and low-A ballplayers shaking off the early-season rust, it was not the crispest game I’ve ever seen. (Though it was not appreciably worse than the White Sox game I saw in Chicago the day before.)

The team announced a paid attendance of 282, but one Snappers employee in the press box did a rough head count and came up with a number closer to 75. At one point, an activity in which children were supposed to race around the bases between innings was scratched because, as the call came in over the radio in the press box, “we don’t have the demographic.” (That is, there were no kids there.)

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