I found myself alone with my thoughts in “Platinum Box 125” at Comiskey Park in Chicago last week.
Actually, I was pretty much just alone, wondering at first why I was there.
The Tampa Bay Rays were playing the Chicago White Sox and it had been raining for some time. When I got off the “El” at 35th Street, the rain turned to sleet and I followed the one man with a White Sox cap walking toward the stadium.
I was in town for a meeting, but decided to come out early to chalk off another ballpark. It has been a tradition of mine for some 40 years. This would be my 23rd Major League ballpark, including two different stadiums in Atlanta, Baltimore, Seattle and the two Yankee Stadiums.
Baseball has been a love of mine since I was a youngster, but like any relationship, our time together has sometimes been strained.
After the strike in 1981, I swore off the game only to be lured back by the play of Don Mattingly and a cable upgrade that included ESPN that was a birthday gift from my bride.
The strike in 1994 hit me harder. That was the year they canceled the World Series and I swore I was done.
But Derek Jeter came along in 1996, along with a son, and that October I watched the Yankees celebrate their first World Series triumph in 18 years. I wrote a column explaining to my baby boy why we are Yankee fans and why baseball is so great.
But I’m stubborn and I resisted being lured back. I refused to have my heart broken again.
But the Yankees continued to thrill, and my son learned why Daddy yelled at the television, teaching him not to hate the Red Sox, but respect them while always rooting against them.
I took him to the old Yankee Stadium.
I took him to the new Yankee Stadium, and when the Yankees won Game 2 of the 2009 World Series with my brother and son by my side, I knew it would never get any better than that. I have not been back to the Stadium since.
Jeter retired, and part of me thought I should join him, but the ballparks keep luring me back.
Last year, it was Pittsburgh for a Pirates game, this year Chicago.
The rain delay was 1 hour and 39 minutes, but the $1 hot dogs helped. I had three of them.
When the game started, it was 38 degrees and there were just a half-dozen people in my section behind the Tampa Bay dugout.
My ticket cost $14, but I could pretty much sit anywhere.
Two days earlier, there were 974 fans for the game.
The newspaper said there were less than 1,000 for this one as well.
There I was, alone with my thoughts amidst a sea of green seats. I recognized only one name in the starting lineups for the two young teams. But I could hear the umpire calling balls and strikes. I could hear the chatter in the infield, and best of all, I could hear each and every Chicago heckler.
I decided to have another beer and ‘dog.
Actually, this wasn’t even really Comiskey Park, it was Guaranteed Rate Field. I had missed the original Comiskey, but the seats were still the same forest green as the old ballpark.
There were a half-dozen bronzed statues around the outfield concourse immortalizing the great Chicago players from the past — Nellie Fox, Luis Aparicio, Harold Baines and Frank Thomas.
There was also a statue of Carlton Fisk.
I hate the former Red Sox catcher.
So I took a photo of the Yankees nemesis, with me glaring in the foreground. On my Facebook page, I commented that I still don’t like Carlton Fisk.
I thought it might be a long day, but it didn’t turn out that way.
Tampa Bay pitcher Tyler Glasnow carried a no-hitter into the fifth while striking out 11 in just six innings. He looks like he has a bright future.
You could hear the ball pop into the glove every time.
You could hear fans complaining about balls and strikes.
Tampa Bay hit a few home runs and it was 8-0 with only one inning to go.
I debated another hot dog — hey, there were no lines—but the cold was settling into my bones. It had been a great afternoon.
This was the first time I experienced Major League Baseball without a Major League Baseball crowd. I kind of liked it.
I took another look around the ballpark, and wondered if this was what it was like in the 1934 when the White Sox averaged just over 3,000 fans a game.
The afternoon had whirled by and as I walked back toward the subway, I considered, just for a second, that the Cubs were playing on the other side of town in a couple hours.