A Haven for the Diehard Sox Fan
  Home > Features > Road Trip! > Chicago 2003 > Page 2

Road Trip to Chicago

June 16-18, 2003

U.S. Cellular Field

The next day, after my class was finished, I headed back to the ballpark. There was another promotion for Tuesday night games at U.S. Cellular Field. Tickets were half-price for anyone who brought an empty Pepsi bottle or can. The infield seats I had been in the night before did not qualify for this promotion, so I chose a seat in the lower level in left field, paying only $12. When I first arrived, I went down to the front row next to the Red Sox dugout, where all the Red Sox fans had congregated to try to get autographs. A lot were New England transplants now living in Chicago, or college students going to school in the area, but there were others like me who had travelled out for the week. I wound up getting autographs from Bill Mueller and Jeremy Giambi. Manny Ramirez signed a few too, but not where I was standing. (When Derek Lowe walked by, I noticed he was wearing his pants down to his shoes, with no socks showing. Two weeks ago in Pittsburgh, he had pulled his socks up over his pants in an attempt to break his streak of bad outings on the road. He was great that night, and also pitched well in his next start in Milwaukee, also with his socks up. So I yelled out, "Hey Derek, we're on the road. Pull your socks up!")

When I got to my seat, I was a little disappointed. Fenway's right field grandstand seats get criticized (and rightfully so) because they face the wrong direction, out toward the outfield instead of angled in toward the plate. But the seats at this modern ballpark were every bit as bad. We were angled toward center field, and every time someone walked up the aisle or a person in the rows next to us stood up, it blocked the infield. Luckily I was seated next to some good, knowledgeable fans, even if they were rooting for the White Sox. The man on my left, who was there with his granddaughter, told me how he used to root for the Red Sox because he loved Ted Williams. The guy on my right asked about John Burkett, who was starting that night. I told him how I go to a lot of games back home and almost every time I see Burkett pitch, we lose. He had really been struggling lately. The game I had been to a month ago when he had beaten the Angels was his only quality start in May. (A quality start is defined as at least 6 innings pitched with 3 or fewer earned runs.) There was talk of dropping him altogether when the Sox acquired Byung-Hyun Kim. But at the time, Pedro was on the D.L., and Kim took his place in the rotation instead of Burkett's. When Pedro returned, Casey Fossum got hurt, so both B.K. and Burkett were still needed in the rotation. Now Ryan Rupe had been called up and could possibly replace Burkett. Going into this game, Burkett was basically one more bad start away from being released.

U.S. Cellular Field The Red Sox went in order against Bartolo Colon in the first, and Burkett took the mound. He gave up a double to Willie Harris to open the inning. D'Angelo Jimenez followed with a double, scoring Harris. Frank Thomas was next, and he hit another double to score Jimenez. Magglio Ordonez hit the ball near the right field foul pole - almost a home run, but ruled a ground-rule double. I told the guy next to me, "Maybe some good will come of this, and they'll get rid of Burkett now." He did finally get out of the inning, but we were already down 3-0.

In the second, the Red Sox got back in it, when Kevin Millar and Trot Nixon hit back-to-back solo shots to make it 3-2. In the third, Manny Ramirez hit a three-run homer to give the Red Sox a 5-3 lead. And miraculously, Burkett had turned it around. After the four straight doubles to open the game, he retired the next 18 batters in a row. He wasn't throwing any harder than 84 mph ("And that's his fastball," I cracked) but the White Sox hitters were baffled. "Why don't you like this guy?" the people next to me asked. "He's doing great!" I knew the White Sox were having trouble scoring runs this year, but I didn't have the heart to tell them that it must be worse than they thought, if they couldn't score runs off Burkett. "They've just never seen any pitches that bad before, and they don't know what to do with them," was my answer. I was partly right; they were being fooled, as he rung up a total of nine strikeouts, eight looking, but he was also pitching a great game. Frank Thomas was a strikeout victim for the second time that day in the sixth inning. When he came out to take the field for the seventh, he was still arguing with the umpire about the called strike three and he was ejected. Brian Daubach took his place at first base.

I asked the guys next to me how Daubach was doing this year, and they said he hadn't had a lot of playing time. I told them that if he ever got a chance to play more, they'd really like him, because when he gets hot he can carry the team for a week at a time. When Burkett allowed a hit and a walk in the seventh - the first baserunners for the White Sox since the first inning - he was replaced by Mike Timlin, who quickly got out of the inning. But after two quick outs to start the eighth, Daubach was up and hit a homer off Timlin to cut our lead to one run. The fans on either side of me were now standing up and high-fiving each other over my head. They wanted a high-five from me, too, because I had said I liked Daubach, but I wouldn't do it. I just shook my head and said, "Told ya you'd like him."

In the top of the ninth, the Red Sox loaded the bases on a Nixon single, a Mueller double, and a walk to Giambi. Jason Varitek knocked in an insurance run on a sac fly. Johnny Damon was up next and executed a perfect suicide squeeze bunt to score Mueller and give the Red Sox a 7-4 cushion. Brandon Lyon pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for the save. I shook hands with the White Sox fans I had been sitting next to and wished them luck... after we wrapped up this series, of course.

For more pictures, please go on to...

Page 1           Page 2           Page 3

HomeDepartmentsFeaturesArchivesMore InfoInteractSearch Road TripsRedSoxDiehard.comRandom page
E-mail the webmasterPost to Message Board
This page and all photos copyright © 2003-2004 by Kristen D. Cornette.