Archive for June, 2009

Free Music at Millennium Park

Monday, June 29th, 2009

Dirty Projectors

The Dirty Projectors

Sea and Cake

The Sea and Cake

Sox vs. Dodgers – Attended Game #9 (6/23/09)

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

Sox and Dodgers

White Sox 2, Dodgers 5

My friend Brad was visiting from Nashville, so we took in a game at The Cell as the Sox took on the best team in baseball, the Dodgers. I wasn’t aware of this fact, but in the middle of the game, Brad confessed to me that this was his first major league baseball game. How exciting! I only wish the game was that exciting.

Yep, we lost another one at home. While the Sox have been decent on the road, batting a team average of .280, the Good Guys are a weak .217 when having home field advantage. Which all translates to frustrated fans. Other than a blast from Paul Konerko, we weren’t given much to cheer about. Of course, the very next game the Sox beat the Dodgers 10 – 7 with six home runs. So, I guess we just picked the wrong night.

If I was more superstitious, I would be putting the blame on myself. I mean I haven’t seen a victory since May 7th. And not a single victory since I bought my new Sox cap. I actually use to be superstitious when it came to sports, but after witnessing too many Grizzlies’ losses, I concluded that it was beyond my control. Still, it would be nice to hear that victory song again!

Dodgers

The Dodgers hanging out in the bullpen.

Joe Torre

Joe Torre talks to his troops.

Here’s a fun fact for you: The highest attended baseball game in history was between the Dodgers and the White Sox at Game 5 of the 1959 World Series at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. On that night, 92,706 folks witnessed the Sox beat the Dodgers 1 – 0, as Nellie Fox scored the only run and Sandy Koufax got the loss for the Dodgers.

Rain out.

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

I was suppose to be working with Ellen who was going to be at the Crosstown Classic between the White Sox and the Cubs but the game was called off due to the weather. More than anything, I was looking forward to watching free baseball. Oh well.

Sox vs. A’s – Attended Game #8 (6/3/09)

Monday, June 15th, 2009

SoxvsAs

White Sox 3, A’s 5

A friend of mine in the video business has season tickets for the Sox so whenever we get to work together we have a lot to talk about. Well, two weeks ago, he asked me if I wanted to join him and a few friends for a night at The Cell. You don’t have to ask me twice!

I met up with my friend at his condo in the South Loop. Check out his view! You can actually see The Cell from his balcony.

SteveView

That’s it in the right hand corner. After eating steaks and potatoes (guy’s night out, huh?), we drove over to the ballpark. This was the first time I had experienced the parking lot of the stadium. For some reason, it looks strange to see tailgating at a baseball game. The game itself was a bit rough.

After a successful road trip (5 – 1), the Sox started a long home stand that was… well, let’s be honest, horrendous. Out of twelve games at The Cell, the Sox only came away with four wins. Forget about home advantage! That evening the Sox lost another one against a pitcher they hadn’t faced before. After the loss, the Sox were 6-1 against such pitchers. Ugh. Oh, and did I mention it was cold?

47

Yep, 47 degrees! Ah, a summer night at the ballpark.

Still, it was a lot of fun hanging out with the guys. And we did see an amazing line drive homer from Jermaine Dye. Check out the guys having a good time here.

Redbirds vs. Cubs – Attended Game #7 (5/29/09)

Saturday, June 13th, 2009

Redbirds Our Seats

Redbirds 0, Cubs 5

Ever since my renewed interest in baseball, whenever we’re visiting Memphis, I look forward to catching a ballgame at AutoZone Park. And as Apryl mentioned in a previous post, that’s just what we did. Apryl and I had been talking about attending the Redbirds game on the 30th, but when I learned that on Friday night the Redbirds were going to be honoring Memphis’ Minor League past by donning Memphis Chicks uniforms for the evening, I knew that was our game!

I have fond of memories of watching the Memphis Chicks (Kansas City Royals affiliates) playing at Tim McCarver Stadium. Tim McCarver Stadium was notorious for being one of the ugliest of all Minor League parks. The reason for this was the oddity of having a grass outfield mixed with an artificial turf infield. It just looked awful. Of course, when I was younger none of this mattered. It was just exciting to be watching professional baseball even if the Chicks were only Class AA.

Now I’m not sure if I’m recalling this correctly, but I seem to remember one game on Independence Day when Bo Jackson was playing for the Chicks (This was a couple years away from the “Bo Knows” ads, but even then Jackson was seen as something special.). It was the bottom of the ninth inning with the game tied, and Jackson was taking a large lead off of third. And then suddenly, Jackson broke loose and sprinted homeward. He slid into home plate, was called safe, and the excitement was followed by a 4th of July firework display. Did this really happen? I mean it seems too perfect, right? (Sometimes baseball is magical.) I have been trying to research this game but even with the extensive stats on baseball, it’s quite difficult tracking down details on a Class AA Minor League game that took place over 20 years ago. It’s okay, I’ll live with my “memory”.

Unlike Tim McCarver Stadium, the Redbirds’ AutoZone Park is regarded as one of the best ballparks in the Minor Leagues. And while I personally haven’t visited many other Minor League parks, I find it hard to believe they could get any better than the one planted at 200 Union Ave. In my last baseball post, I mentioned how the Birmingham Barons left Rickwood Field in the city for a new park in the suburbs. It seems that’s quite common with cities that host a Minor League team. If it’s not in the suburbs it’s most likely not in the heart of downtown. The Redbirds could have easily done the same and built AutoZone park outside the city, perhaps near the Agricenter. But how can you compare making your way to the ballpark by passing The Peabody with walking through a large, concrete parking lot? If you favor the latter, I don’t think we would agree on much other matters.

That night, the Redbirds were taking on the Iowa Cubs. We actually got to the game a little late because Apryl, her sister Steph, and I were chowing down on some barbecue at the Bar-B-Q Shop. Which I might add was totally worth our tardiness. As we were walking into the park, I snapped this photo:

Redbirds Open

Sure, the surrounding scenery is impressive, but it’s the openness of the ballpark which really gets me. In fact, it reminds me a lot of the lower level of the Cell. In a lot of past games, I have walked throughout the game around the concourse, watching from multiple views, each one of them great. However, for that evening, we stayed in our seats for the entirety of the game.

And why move? My brother-in-law Adam, who works with the Redbirds, is quite gracious and lent me and Apryl his season ticket seats for the night. And as you can see from the photo that opens this blog entry, the seats were quite nice. We were right above the Redbirds dugout, so I was able to grab some nice photos of the team walking off the field, as you can see:

Redbird Chick

How bizarre to see that Chicks’ logo on an active jersey again!

Also being so close to the Redbirds’ dugout put us in direct view of the Chicks’ Indian mascot showing the crowd how to do the tomahawk chop. The Tomahawk Chop, which Apryl found a bit embarrassing, is more commonly associated with the Atlanta Braves. However, when I was following the Braves through my youth, I don’t remember this chant. Perhaps, it’s because I was a fan during the rough years, before their successful run in the 90’s. Anyway, squirm if you like:

As for the game, it was pitcher’s duel until the ninth inning when the Redbirds started playing similar to the Chicago Cubs in the playoffs last season, and gave up five runs to the Iowa Cubs. During that horrendous 9th, I saw something I had never seen in baseball, a huddle. Really, just like you see in football. See below:

the huddle

Unfortunately, whatever was said, didn’t effect the results. After several careless errors, the game got away from the Birds, and the Cubs took the victory.

Evidence perhaps why I shouldn’t shoot baseball games. I completely loose control of the shot when out of the corner of my eye, I see that the shortstop is about to make an error.

Cubs win.

No worries though. As long as there’s a house band, no one leaves disappointed!

And we sure didn’t. It’s always nice to catch a ballgame at AutoZone. Heck, it was nice to be at a ballgame in May without having to wear a coat. Thanks Steph and Adam.

Hayden and Steph

Go Redbirds! Go Sox!

Let the summer festivals begin.

Thursday, June 11th, 2009

With temps in the 50’s right now, it’s hard to imagine that summer is right around the corner. However, if proof is what you need, just check out this extensive list of neighborhood festivals and street/block parties taking place in the next couple months in Chicago. Nearly all of these include music acts and are either free or ask a donation of no more than $5. Here is a small sample of musicians and groups I wouldn’t mind checking out under the warm sun:

Chicago Blues Festival: Pinetop Perkins, Bettye LaVette, Honeyboy Edwards, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings
Ribfest Chicago: Office, Jukebox the Ghost, Margot and the Nuclear So & So’s, Thao with the Get Down Stay Down, Annuals
Taste of Randolph Street: Dr. Dog, Urge Overkill, The Hold Steady
Wicker Park Festival: Elvis Perkins In Dearland, Junior Boys
Millennium Park Music Series: Dirty Projectors, Sea and Cake, The Feelies, Black Moth Super Rainbow, Pit Er Pat

And let’s not forgot the Pitchfork Music Festival (Built to Spill, Yo La Tengo, Tortoise, Flaming Lips, Grizzly Bear, The Walkmen, M83, Beirut, etc.) and Lollapalooza (which hopefully I get to work for a third year in a row)!

John Vanderslice

John Vanderslice at last week’s Metronome Music Festival in Logan Square.

And, Future Rock at the same festival.

Barons vs. Braves – Attended Game #6 (5/27/09)

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

The Field

Rickwood Classic
Barons 2, Braves 3

Two weeks ago, I traveled with my Dad to Birmingham, Alabama to attend The 14th Annual Rickwood Classic. The event, as Apryl mentioned in the previous post, takes place once a year at historic Rickwood Field, the oldest operating ballpark in the United States. Rickwood Field, which opened in 1910, has been the home park for the Birmingham Barons since 1910 and was the home of the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro League from 1920 until 1963. Some of the legends of the game that have graced the field include Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Ted Williams, Stan Musial, and Reggie Jackson. And despite the fact that the current Barons left Rickwood over twenty years ago for the suburbs, the park (thankfully) still lives in the past. Check out the historic marker outside the ballpark:

RIckwood Field Historic Marker

As you can see, Rickwood Field takes great pride in being the “oldest surviving baseball park in America.” Now, I suppose I should tell you that there are others making claims to the oldest ballpark. One of these is Labatt Park in Ontario, Canada, which has a baseball history that dates back to 1877. Of course, Canada is not America, so Rickwood’s claims are still true. Fuller Field, in Clinton, Mass., on the other hand, states it has held a baseball field since 1870. However, I would argue that while Labatt Prark and Fuller Field are both historic places, they are baseball fields as opposed to a baseball park like Rickwood. So, in my book, Rickwood holds the record!

Alright, let’s get to the game. The first pitch was supposed to be thrown at noon, so we left Memphis early in the morning. We gave ourselves way more time than we needed and arrived at the ballpark around 10:30 am. While we were driving there, I was thinking what a shame it was that the Barons only play one game a season at Rickwood. I mean, why did they have to leave for the suburbs in the first place? Well, when we arrived at the park, making our way through a dicey neighborhood, it begin to make sense. Still, you can’t beat character like Rickwood with a ballpark named Regions Park.

When I first heard about the Rickwood Classic, I read about how the players dress up in period uniforms for the game. However, when we got there, the teams on the field were in modern uniforms. Well, the Braves’ uniforms did seem a bit outdated but hardly vintage. As it turns out, the Braves were playing in 1982 replicas. So, a step back in time but not as far as I would have liked. Still, I found out later that every year the teams pick different periods. So, that’s nice.

Rickwood stands

Seating was general admission. We grabbed seats on the first base line with minimal obstructions and took in the first pitch, which actually took place closer to 1 o’clock. Our view of the game below:

Our view

As always, I have to get a shot of my hot dog. A Barons’ hot dog is a grilled dog with mustard and sauerkraut. A Barons’ dog is also yummy!

barons hot dog

One of the highlights of the game was getting to see Gordon Beckham. Beckham, who was a stand out at the University of Georgia and took them to the College World Series, has been seen as a future super star for the White Sox organization. The Rickwood Classic turned out to be Beckham’s last game with the Barons as he was immediately promoted to Triple A in Charlotte and then about a week later to the White Sox.

Gordon Beckham

While Beckham didn’t get a hit during the game, he did walk twice and scored one of the Barons’ two runs for the day. Another future Sox hopeful is catcher Tyler Flowers. Unfortunately, Flowers didn’t start the game, though we did get to see him pinch hit in the 9th inning:

Tyler Swings

He lined out to first. Oh well.

One of the funniest things that happened during the game was when a foul ball popped up and smashed one of the lights over the Barons’ dugout. Below, a view of the classic night lights:

lights

The broken glass fell directly on top of the Baron’s dugout and had to be swept up during the next inning by the grounds crew. Not quite The Natural.

Ground crew

Another thing that was funny was how the Barons would sit on top of their dugout instead of sitting inside. I’m guessing it was too hot in there.

on top of dugout

One of the craziest moments of the game was the folks on the rooftop. Now, I don’t think folks were really supposed to be hanging out on the roof, but they weren’t being sent away. Actually, it was a great place to catch foul balls, so there were quite a few kids up there. And the view was amazing. The photo at the top of this post was taken from the rooftop. Of course I went up there!

the roof

As the game progressed, we moved around the park to experience different views of the game. My favorite was our spot in the ninth, where we sat right next to the far right field. As soon as we were sitting down in our seats, we saw a Braves’ homer over the right field wall. The next batter hit it right over the right fielder’s head, bouncing it off the wall, making a loud smack that was quite glorious.

outfield wall

The Braves ended up scoring two runs in the ninth inning, which was enough to win the game. After the game, the fans were allowed on the field. I love this. What a wonderful move by the Barons’ organization!

after game on field

Check out the wonderful scoreboard that is operated by a human filling in the numbers.

scoreboard

Of course, the best part of the game was just being with my Dad. I never dreamed we would get to see two ballgames in one season. Next year, it will be the 100th anniversary of Rickwood Field. We already have plans for making it back!

Dad and I

Oh, I forgot to post this short, shaky video of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

Southern Tour, May 2009, Part 2: Birmingham and Nashville

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

Hayden had to get out of Memphis a second time, for a day trip to a baseball game in Birmingham. A few days later, on our way back to Chicago, we all stayed the night in Nashville with Hayden’s sister Paige and her family.

Birmingham

On Wednesday, Hayden and his dad got to cheer on Hayden’s favorite baseball team, a mere 650 miles away from U.S. Cellular Field. The fates must truly support Hayden’s love of the White Sox. Somehow the stars aligned so that my mom’s surgery was scheduled the day after Memorial Day, putting Hayden in prime position to get to Birmingham the following day for the Rickwood Classic. Only once per season, the White Sox’s AA affiliate, the Birmingham Barons, play at Rickwood Field, “America’s oldest ballpark.” Even being hoarse from his sore throat, Hayden couldn’t help feeling in heaven.

Rickwood Classic Ballpark

Exterior of Rickwood Field, the oldest operating baseball park in the United States

Rickwood Field Hayden up to bat

Hayden up to bat at Rickwood Field

I won’t relate all the details of the stadium and the game, only because Hayden promises to write a full recap later. More photos and video are here.

Nashville

On Sunday, we headed to Nashville—followed closely by Ashley, Sydney, and Clayton—to see Paige, her husband Mike, and their kids, Jackson, Andrew, Reid, and McKenzie Hayden. I don’t know what could have made their dog, Greer, think of making a brief escape. Hayden and I also went out that evening, not for escape, but to see our friend Brad. Fortunately, Eva had plenty of distractions to keep her from wanting to leave Paige’s house.

McKenzie Hayden gnaws on a toy by the pool

McKenzie Hayden gnaws on a toy by the pool

Ashley, Hayden, and Paige

Ashley, Hayden, and Paige by the pool

Drew Greer and Sydney

Andrew, Greer, and Sydney after Greer’s escape and capture

Eva on the "Get it" rug

Eva on a maize, aka “get it” rug

On Monday, we packed up the car and had a smooth drive back to Chicago—except for half an hour of bad thunderstorms in Indiana.

A thunderstorm on I-64 in Indiana

More photos and video are here.

Southern Tour, May 2009, Part 1: Greer’s Ferry and Memphis

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

Starting Memorial Day weekend, we spent nearly two weeks in the South, visiting family and friends.

Greer’s Ferry

Eva and I stayed put most of the trip, she at Hayden’s dad’s place in Collierville, and I at my parents’ house in Memphis. However, Hayden left town the day after we got to Memphis. He went to his dad’s place in Greer’s Ferry, Arkansas, to fish and, of course, look for Bigfoot with his dad, sister Ashley, niece Sydney, and nephew Clayton.

Dad and Sydney fishing

Hayden’s Dad and Sydney fish in Greer’s Ferry Lake

Sadly, both Hayden and our old Canon ELPH digital camera got sick. Fortunately, Hayden’s sore throat and coughing subsided after about a week. Unfortunately, the little digital camera didn’t make it. Don’t worry though; there are still plenty of photos from the rest of the trip. Somehow Hayden was able to get over his loss and pick out a new camera, with his friend Daniel’s help, the very next day. More photos and video are here.

Memphis

I started my trip, without a camera, by hanging out with my sisters Lisa and Stephanie and seeing Summer and Elaina and their adorable kids Silas and Eva (not named after our cat). On Sunday morning, we brunched with our friends Brett and Vanessa. Later, Hayden saw his friends Daniel and Melanie, in town from LA, while I had a girls’ night with some friends from high school and college. Because two of the girls are moving away this summer, one to northern Georgia and the other only 2.5 hours south of Chicago (yay!), I commandeered the new camera.

Amber, Charlotte, Jennifer F, Caroline, Apryl, and Jennifer B R

Amber, Charlotte, Jennifer F, Caroline, Apryl, and Jennifer B R celebrate the last girls’ night for a long while

After sleeping most of Sunday and Monday, Hayden woke up long enough to go to a Memorial Day cookout with my mom, dad, sisters, and brother-in-law Adam. On Tuesday, I got up around 6:00 a.m. to go with the rest of my family to an outpatient surgery center for my mom’s gallbladder surgery. That woman has a higher pain tolerance than anyone else I know; she took only four pain pills and was back at work on Friday. Because she was so lucid Tuesday night and Wednesday, we were able to spend lots of time relaxing and chatting.

While my mom and I were lazing around, Hayden was with his mom cleaning out things in his old bedroom—including lots of old baseball cards—on Tuesday and with his dad at a baseball game in Birmingham on Wednesday (see more in Part 2).

Baseball Cards

Hayden’s tin of baseball cards

On Thursday, Hayden had lunch with his friend Greg, and I with my friend Becky. Then Hayden did a show on WEVL. After a nice chat with Judy, we went to dinner with my sisters and brother-in-law and stopped by Lisa’s house so Hayden could see how big her crazy cat J.P. Hubert has gotten.

On Friday, we introduced Stephanie to the Bar-B-Q Shop (she and Adam went back a week later) and enjoyed watching the Redbirds play in old Memphis Chicks uniforms (thanks for the tickets, Adam!). We ended the night by staying out much later than we had intended, until 2:00 a.m. Our friend Caroline was having a going away party, and every time we turned around, more friends of ours showed up.

Redbirds vs Cubs Stephanie and Apryl

Stephanie and Apryl at a Memphis Redbirds’ game

We dragged ourselves out of bed on Saturday to have lunch with our friends John and Julie and dinner with Brian, Michelle, and their sweet-tempered, smart, and funny son, Joe.

Hayden Apryl Julie and John

Hayden, Apryl, Julie, and John after a delicious lunch

Joe going down the slide, aka escalator

More photos and video are here.