"The White Sox had long ago tested the loyalties of their rooters; the weak and faint of heart had fallen by the wayside and only the strong, dedicated and masochistic remained. If there is any justice in this world, to be a White Sox fan freed a man, or woman, from any other form of penance." -Bill Veeck, Veeck as in Wreck
My man D Weezy texted his sister Denise in the middle of the night, excited about going to see the White Sox for the first time in 2015 at U.S. Cellular Field. His name isn't really D Weezy of course, and I'm sure I've been told what it is, just as I'm sure he doesn't know my name. He just happened to be wearing a Wise jersey he got for cheap at the Sox yard sale the first few times we ended up at a game together. It doesn't matter though, we are White Sox family.
An hour later the hoosiers hit the road, headed to the Cell from the recesses of the armpit of America. They would arrive at 6 a.m., posting up at their customary position at the head of the line at Gate 2 a full five hours before we amble up and take our positions directly behind them. We point out every year how absurd it is for them to get there so early. They arrive at the same time if it's a 1:00 or 3:00 start, and are always there hours before the parking lot is even open. It's so stupid. They could have waited four hours and still been the first ones there, every single season. Fracking hoosiers. I would have been disappointed if they weren't there before us.
"Hey, the Irish brothers!" they welcome us with a friendly hello. We've hung out with these guys for eight years now, and apparently have a nickname. Dave is with us, but it is only his second season at Opening Day, so he hasn't earned a nickname yet. Styrofoam cooler space is offered up since we haven't brought any this year. It's just like old times.
Michigan is there. Dating when we first met, now a married couple expecting their first, a girl, Madison, next month. They leave their place in Michigan at an absurdly early hour as well, drawn to the dawn of a new season.
The night before I did some prep work, getting a 12-pack of Summer Shandy cans and a large sub from Unbeatable Eatables. I stick to the schedule and eat the sandwich at 11 a.m. sharp. Steve Eastwood is drinking Guinness, Dave a $10 sixer of something.
SSE makes his way to the gate -- diet coke and a pint of Jim Beam. We talk of family life, the sleep patterns of a 7-week-old baby, and bad baseball. Everyone is smiling. He heads off to find his ticket around 12:30.
The gates open, we file through the new metal detectors and into the bullpen bar. Hugs and kisses for my ladies behind the bar, Kelly and Denise. I'd call them both my girls, but Denise was stolen away from me by El Diablo at the second annual South Side Sox meetup. "The Greek kid" as she called him.
The other Denise and D-Weezy hang out with us for the pregame festivities before the five-people-yet-only-four-seats situation becomes an issue and they have to move on down the line. Not exclusively Opening Day friends, but good Sox people that have attended the same game in the same sections for several seasons. We find out not D Wise had a pretty serious stroke from his sister. His recovery had gone great, I never would have even guessed. It was good to see them out there.
Tom and Rosie are there, locals we befriended Opening Day eight years ago. Great people we have gotten to know so well over the years that we hang out without baseball in the background and know many of their family members -- mom, brother, sister, cousins, a whole clan of Sox fans. An invitation for a postgame party was extended our way. They are always a good time.
Torii Hunter is playing right field for the Twins. I have his ear, pointing out how he is the only guy older than me still playing baseball, and how, frankly, he is making us look bad. His whiff to strike out was brought up. Then, in the third, after Eaton grounds into a fielder's choice, Hunter takes his glove off and starts signalling wildly to his catcher. He knew Micah was going. Johnson is picked off shortly thereafter. Defeated, I holler, "Good call, old man!" Later I try him again on almost getting the ball out of the infield in the sixth. It didn't have much on it.
The Cell was packed. Huge crowds on the concourse, the bars were to capacity, the bathroom lines long. I was making my way in to drain the main vein when two familiar goons crossed my path: Teahenny Penny and craigws. They were on the hunt for NSR, allegedly also in the bullpen bar. I leave them to their search and go on to handle my business. Good seeing you fellas. Sorry to have missed you, NSR.
Headed back to the seat, I bump into an Opening Day amigo who I haven't seen in two years after a run of three straight seasons of first-day partying; Dominic and his wife whose name I forget. I don't recall much of anything at all from that last day we hung out at the ballpark. Their generosity with the patron and other goodies almost certainly to blame. I told them I have been looking for them ever since to return the favor. Promises are made to make it back out to the gate before the opener next year. I can't wait.
In the eighth the concourse is mobbed with people who can no longer hide from the truth by buying alcohol. People meander about. I look for Rhubarb, then take in the inning behind the Sox bullpen. Things aren't going well for the team. We leave hoping to catch the express Rock Island. The Twins score two more times before we make it to the platform and roll back to the burbs. The White Sox are 0-4.
Micah Johnson running into outs. Hector Noesi walking six. A manager calling for intentional walks. All of that was secondary on this holiest of days. Tens of thousands, hungry for a good time on the South Side. That was the story. Hopefully the boys can provide a reason to keep the party going as the summer progresses.