During the long, brutally cold Chicago winters, people fantasize about what summer will be like. Whether it’s cookouts, fireworks at Navy Pier or just walking outside without worrying how many layers of jackets and coats you’ll have to don, summer feels like an appropriate reward for the trials and tribulations of the preceding months.
Amid all of those glorious fantasies, there is one that stands out both because of its ready availability and because of its uniqueness in sports: the baseball teams that call the North and the South Sides home for the summer.
Granted, the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox aren’t the only sports franchises that share an occupation and a hometown. In fact, there are three other areas in the country that boast multiple teams, with the Los Angeles area (Angels and Dodgers), the Bay Area (A’s and Giants) and New York (Yankees and Mets) all containing two teams.
Despite that commonality, things are different in Chicago. The two teams’ stadiums are only separated by about 10 miles. If you’re one of the smart fans who eschews driving in favor of public transit, you’re covered no matter which team you support. The Addison Red Line station is located just one block east of Wrigley Field on the North Side, and the Sox/35th Red Line stop lies just one block east of U.S. Cellular Field, a mere 13 stops down the line.
With the short distance between the stadiums and the ease of access, it is possible on rare occasions to take in games for both teams in one day. On July 3, such an opportunity presented itself to baseball fans in the city, as the Cubs took on the Miami Marlins in a matinee affair at Wrigley Field, while the White Sox battled the Baltimore Orioles at U.S. Cellular Field in the evening.
The morning commute into the city was a breeze, with light holiday traffic and a relatively empty Red Line train north, allowing for a simple and nearly effortless jaunt up to Wrigley.
Once at the ballpark, the contrasting sights of old-school charm and new school blend together right away. The park is surrounded by areas under construction, as the team prepares to build a new clubhouse and hotel along the third base side of the stadium. There’s also the massive new bleachers, which welcomed a new addition on Friday as Hot Doug’s set up shop with a concession stand in center field. Couple all of that with the new videoboards, the lush green ivy and the old-school scoreboard, and the sensory experience at Wrigley was more potent than ever.
As for the game itself, things got off to a good start but slowly went south. Jason Hammel allowed two solo home runs, but that was all the offense the Marlins needed as the Cubs squandered several scoring opportunities and dropped a tough 2-1 loss in front of a crowd of over 41,000 people.
After the game and the press conferences concluded, it was time to hop on the Red Line and head south. Or at least that was the plan. With such a large crowd, the CTA Addison station was packed to the gills with Cubs fans, and the line stretched from the station all the way to the southeast corner of Wrigley Field. A walk up Sheffield Avenue to the Belmont station helped alleviate the traffic and congestion, and despite a tight squeeze, a spot on the train ended up becoming available for the now slightly shortened journey south to U.S. Cellular Field.
That part of the journey was more adventurous than the morning commute to Wrigley. As the train lurched south through the Fullerton stop, more and more Grateful Dead fans came onboard, forcing the Cubs fans to the left side of the southbound train. Looking down the car was a similar experience to seeing the Meeting of Waters in Brazil, with blue-clad Cubs fans occupying one side of the train and the tie-dyed shirts of Deadheads lining the other, with neither side seemingly willing to mix with the other.
After the initial shock of the mass invasion of the train car by fans on both sides of the aisle, laughter and anecdotes of days past took over the proceedings. Cubs fans recounted the game at Wrigley, as well as memories of games in the past. Meanwhile, the Grateful Dead fans swapped stories about concerts they’d attended in the past and expressed what it meant to see the band perform one more time at Soldier Field.
Slowly, those stories ebbed and came to a stop as fans disembarked at the Lake Station (mostly Cubs fans) and at Roosevelt (Deadheads), and in its place came an eerily quiet journey as the train sped through the remaining stops on the way to Sox/35th.
With less than two hours to go until first pitch, Sox fans slowly made their way into the stadium, but the crowd had a decidedly different feel. Most fans were content to remain in the parking lots tailgating until first pitch drew near (kicking up a delicious aroma of beer and barbecued meats in the process), and as the game began fans flocked quickly to their seats.
Much like at the Cubs game earlier in the day, offense was hard to come by and pitching ruled the day. John Danks hurled a masterful game for the White Sox, pitching his way out of several jams and locating his pitches with a precision that fans of the Pale Hose have seen all too infrequently this season. The Sox did get a spark of offense from Jose Abreu as he launched an opposite field home run, and that was all they needed as they picked up a 1-0 victory over the Orioles.
As fans filtered out of the stadium following the game, most remained in their seats to take in a fireworks display. Standing on the train platform waiting for the northbound train back into the Loop and watching the brightly colored explosions high overhead, one got the sense that the weekend was just getting started. All of the rainbow and tie-dyed colored cars streaking by on the Dan Ryan only added to the sensory experience, and for a brief moment in time, one couldn’t help but be reminded of what a tremendous thing summertime in Chicago is.