Lucas Giolito splits his start in the MLB: The Show Players Tournament

Virtual baseball: Lucas Giolito is a proven ace in real life, but how does he fare in the video game world? (twitch.tv/generalgio)


Lucas Giolito, in his 1983 Sunday White Sox jersey, made his debut last night for the MLB: The Show Players Tournament, where one player from each team represents his respective ball club in an online baseball tournament. (Feel free to read Janice Scurio’s introduction to the event on SSHP to further familiarize yourself with the friendly, yet competitive competition!)

I took it upon myself to live-tweet the event, and I had a blast doing so! In case you missed it or just want to re-live last night’s opening events, I present to you … the game recap!


Game 1: Atlanta Braves at Chicago White Sox

To kick off the night, Giolito squared off against Luke Jackson of the Atlanta Braves. Rightfully so, Lucas Giolito opted to pitch the virtual game as himself. Giolito pitched into an early, bases-loaded jam to begin the tournament. However, like the ace Giolito is, he threw a fly out in-between two strikeouts to escape the jam unscathed. Unfortunately, Lucas could not capitalize on a major momentum shift, so the game remained scoreless after one full inning.

Both players settled in for the second inning, and failed to score.

However, to lead off the third and final inning, Luke Jackson went deep off of virtual Aaron Bummer for a solo shot to open the scoring, 1-0. Ace on the mound and an ace in the game, Giolito kept the damage to one. Looking for one to tie, two to win, Giolito went down 1-2-3.

Jackson squeezed by with a 1-0 victory, as Giolito dropped his first game of the tournament, resulting in an overall 0-1 record.


Game 2: Chicago White Sox at Miami Marlins

Shaking off a close game, Giolito stormed into his second match against Miami Marlin’s Ryne Stanek. Giolito opened the scoring with a deep two-run shot off of the bat of virtual Eloy Jiménez, 2-0 Good Guys!

For the bottom of the frame, Giolito started newly-acquired White Sox pitcher Dallas Keuchel. Stanek was able to snag a run, but that was all the Giolito/virtual Keuchel pairing surrendered in the inning.

Extra bases galore took over in the top half of the second inning. Lucas started with a leadoff double, which was immediately followed by an RBI triple! Then the triple came home on a single. Lucas scored two additional runs later in the inning; up 6-1, Lucas entered the bottom of the frame, where he pitched a scoreless inning!

Top of the third, Lucas snagged an extra run as he entered the bottom half up, 7-1. Keeping with the game’s momentum, Giolito pitched another scoreless inning and paved his way to his first victory of the tournament!

Lucas improved the Sox’s record to 1-1 overall and was looking to start a winning streak!


Game 3: New York Mets at Chicago White Sox

After some technical difficulties on Jeff McNeil’s end, game three of four was underway. Giolito started virtual Reynaldo López, who gave up a triple and walk to begin the game, but once again, the ace on the mound and in the game escaped the jam without allowing a run to cross the plate. However, similar to game one, Giolito could not score in his half of the inning.

Knotted 0-0, the second inning saw McNeil and the Mets score four runs. On the bright side, Giolito grabbed two runs in his half of the second to keep the game close!

McNeil was able to tack on an insurance run in the top of the third, adding to a 5-2 lead. Giolito looked for three to tie, four to win, but he left the final frame with a goose egg.

Lucas and the virtual Chicago White Sox sat at 1-2 overall as they went into their fourth and final game of the night.


Game 4: Chicago White Sox at Toronto Blue Jays

Ready to move on from his second loss of the night and even up his overall record, Giolito put up a crooked number in the top half of the first inning against the Toronto Blue Jays’ Bo Bichette.

Bichette was 3-0 to start the MLB: The Show Players Tournament, so going up 3-0 in the first was a crucial accomplishment for Giolito. Giolito also left Bichette scoreless in the first, as Giolito pitched as his virtual self once again.

Giolito managed a few baserunners in the second inning to continue the pressure, but the runners did not find their way home. As for Bichette’s half of the second, he rocked a solo-shot to centerfield, but the ace kept the damage at one.

Entering the final inning up 3-1, Giolito threatened to score but could not add anymore insurance runs. Looking for the save and victory No. 2 on the night, Giolito put in Alex Colomé to seal the deal. As consistent as Colomé was for the 2019 season, virtual Alex is no different!

Lucas Giolito and the virtual Chicago White Sox put an end to Bichette’s three-game winning streak and evened their overall record at 2-2.


Afterthoughts

Interestingly, Lucas is 2-0 on the road, and he is 0-2 at home to the start of the Players Tournament!

Lucas Giolito currently resides in second place in the AL Central. Niko Goodrum and the virtual Detroit Tigers lead the division with a 3-1 record, with Kansas City and Cleveland yet to play. One game out of first and a few competitive games under his belt, look for Lucas to challenge Goodrum for the top spot in the division.

Overall, Lucas had a solid start to the tournament. His next scheduled set of games will occur this Wednesday, April 15 at 8:00PM CST; once again, I will live-tweet his performance in a Twitter thread. MLB is also keeping track of the records and schedules on their website. Lucas will play another four games: Pittsburgh, the North Side, Kansas City, and Colorado.

If you wish to watch Lucas live, make sure to give him a follow on his Twitch account, where he streams all of his practices and competitive games. All streams are available to re-watch at any given time! His commentary is fantastic, he constantly answers fans’ questions (he even demonstrated each of his pitching grips last night), and he radiates pure wholesomeness. Come for the MLB: The Show Players Tournament, but stay for Giolito’s wonderful character and personality.


 

 

Experience 2005: early April voicemails

Thanks, Dad: You know I recognize your voice, right?


As the 2005 season got underway, I started to keep things — ticket stubs, newspaper articles — and I began to jot thoughts down. I started an essay after the 2005 season that I never finished. All of those writings have never seen the light of day, but here we are, 15 years later, so maybe it’s a good time to drag them out. Some of these entries will be full-length, others shorter, like this one.

After the Opening Day victory, the Sox win Game 2 of the season in a thrilling, 9th-inning comeback. But they miss the chance to sweep Cleveland in the series finale to start the season 3-0, with the bullpen imploding in the 11th inning.

I get home from work, and there’s a message on my answering machine. “Uh, hi, Laura. This is your dad. (He always announces himself in this way. As if I don’t know.) Looks like the Sox aren’t going 162-0 after all.  Alright, bye.”

***

The Sox have a pattern going: they win the next three series by winning the first two games of each, then dropping the third. Minnesota, Cleveland again, Seattle. The pitching is so good, but I am irked at their inability to get a sweep. Bad sign for the future, I think. It’s all smoke and mirrors. No killer instinct. Blah blah, other cliches.

“Uh, yeah,  hi, Laura. This is your dad. You know, if the Sox win every series, then they’ll win the whole thing. OK, bye, talk to you later.”

[Note from the future: My answering machine – actual tape and all – got quite the workout in 2005.]


 

Experiencing 2005: Opening Day, 4/4/05

Love at first sight: It’s possible Bitmoji has changed her mind about Scotty Pods already.


The day is beautiful, low 60s and sunny, as good as it gets in early April. I’m on the Red Line, rumbling toward the South Side to meet up with Wally. Wally is a Missouri native and a Cardinals fan first and foremost. But the White Sox are his 1(a) team, and he’s nearly as passionate as I am. I know this is for real, because his love for the Sox goes back to the days of Frank, Robin, and Jack McDowell. Wally and I have attended two Sox games together, and they lost both. Badly. This is our last chance, and we both know it. We’re superstitious enough to realize that there is no way we’ll ever attend another game together if we get our third strike today.

The train is screaming through the subway tunnel, and the couple behind me is debating the best way to Midway Airport. The woman says that she called CTA, and they told her to transfer to the Orange Line at Lake. I turn around. “That’s actually not the best way. There are lots of stairs involved, which is annoying with a suitcase, and it’s not that well marked. Transfer at Roosevelt Road. Lots of signs and an escalator. Much easier. In fact, I’m getting off there. You can follow me.”

The woman, Kathy, is grateful. She’s heading to Florida to visit her sister. Her husband, Roger, is wearing a Sox hat. He’s going to Opening Day, too. We trade fan stories for the rest of the trip: best games, favorite players, funniest ballpark memories.

At Roosevelt Road, I guide Kathy to her train. She is genuinely thankful and seemingly a little surprised to find such a friendly soul. It’s good karma, I tell myself. And you need all the good karma you can get on Opening Day.

I meet Wally at a bar on South Michigan Avenue for a drink and remote broadcast by a sports radio team that I like. At the park, I walk to Parking Lot A to step on old home plate. As I do this, a man nearby asks, “Why are you doing that?”

“For luck. I do it every game.” I reply.

“Doesn’t seem to be working,” he grumbles.

“Maybe I just haven’t been doing it enough yet. Maybe luck is cumulative.”

I buy a scorecard outside Gate 4 at a kiosk manned by an older African-American. I decline the pencil, because of course I brought my own.

* * *

“What do you think the keys are to the season?” Wally asks in between handfuls of peanuts.

“Two things,” I say, popping a nut into my mouth, the spent shells falling to my feet. “One: Can Jermaine Dye even come close to replacing Mags in right field? And two: Is A.J. Pierzynski just a troublemaker or is he That Guy that we’ve been needing for so long?”

While nervous about offensive capabilities — new guy Tadahito Iguchi looked terrible in each of his three strikeouts — I’m thrilled with the show of pitching prowess. And other new guy Scott Podsednik does looks to be speedy. Wally and I decide to put a stamp on our euphoria and buy some Sox merchandise. When we get to Grandstand — if they don’t have it in Sox colors, you don’t need it — I can’t believe my eyes: there’s a line to get in. To a store. Selling Sox merchandise. There’s a bouncer at the door and everything. What is this, Studio 54? Wally and I wait in line for 10 minutes, and the bouncer says this is typical early in the season, and when the Sox win. “When they lose,” he says, “people walk by like they got blinders on, like we’re not even here.”

New purchases in hand, Wally and I wander the neighborhood a bit. We come across guys playing bags in the street and drinking Modelo Especial out of the back of their minivan. They invite us to join them, and how can we say no?

We then hit a couple of neighborhood bars, also packed. One bartender shrugs, “On Opening Day, everybody thinks they’re going to win the World Series.”

On our way out of one bar, I run into Roger, my friend from the morning’s El ride, on his way in.

“Must be destiny,” he says. “It’s going to be a good season.”

To top off the day, I win $265 in my NCAA office pool when North Carolina beats Illinois that evening. The only sour note is a local sports columnist’s take on the upcoming season: He writes that White Sox fans have no reason to think this team will be more than .500, they let their best player go, their pitchers are B+ at best, they will be offensively inept. Perhaps he is right, but that doesn’t matter right now.

Tomorrow, I will worry. Today is Opening Day. And anything is possible.

Experiencing 2005: The Offseason

Looking Back: LL Bitmoji didn’t exist in 2005, but man, she would have loved it.


As the 2005 season got underway, and the White Sox were regularly winning two of every three games they played, I started to keep things — ticket stubs, newspaper articles — and I began to jot thoughts down. (I also did this in 1983, at the age of 12, but that’s a retrospective series for another year.) I started an essay after the 2005 season that I never finished. All of those writings have never seen the light of day, but here we are, 15 years later, so maybe it’s a good time to drag them out. Some of these entries will be full-length, others only a paragraph or two. But they were my thoughts and feelings at the time, edited very little in present day. Expect a new post every seven-to-10 days.

I have, stored in a box under my bed, a scorecard from a baseball game. I have many such scorecards from many baseball games, but this one is special. This one told the future. White Sox vs. Twins, Sept. 22, 2004. The Sox won, 7-6, on a bottom-of-the-ninth double by Paul Konerko. Our beloved Mighty Whities, as my dad was fond of calling them, were long out of it by this point, having predictably swooned in September, once again outdone by the Twins. Still, a win is a win is a win, and they must be celebrated. Across the top of the scorecard, in my dad’s block-letter scrawl are the words, “Wait ‘till next year!”

* * *

The 2005 season begins during the Hot Stove league, December 2004. I wake one morning, turn on ESPN, and learn that the White Sox have traded left fielder Carlos Lee, he of lots and lots of home runs, to Milwaukee for some light-hitting guy I’ve never heard of. Scott Podswhositswhatsit?

My first action upon hearing this news is to call my father. I do not make pleasantries, I don’t even say hello. “What do you think?” are the first words out of my mouth.

Dad sighs large, and I imagine him at the kitchen table, maybe just finishing breakfast, rubbing his hand across his forehead in the weary frustration that long-suffering Sox fans know all too well.

“Well, Laura,” he says with an edge of bitterness, “I can tell you this: I’m not real keen on spending $3,000 of my hard-earned money to go see that team.” He and Mom have been considering celebrating their 35th anniversary this summer with a large group gathering at the park; this is the $3,000 of which he speaks. I don’t blame him.

Then in February, Magglio Ordoñez, probably the Sox’s best all-around player, signs with the Tigers. I have been a White Sox fan as long as I can remember, from the moment I knew what a baseball was. I share my dad’s disappointment. I’m bitter, too.

* * *

Winter passes, and so does my bitterness, and even little of my skepticism. At least, I point out to Dad as spring training approaches, when they lose, we’ll see them lose in a different way. We’ve had many seasons of Sox teams that slugged eight, nine, 10 runs in a game and the next day are unable to scrape together a single measly run and lose 2-0. Maybe this year, they’ll lose 3-2. I am interested in seeing this new-look team play.

At a family gathering in mid-March, my parents and I engage in our annual prognosticating.

“I don’t know,” Dad says, sipping a beer in my parents’ basement, one corner of which has been dubbed The Shrine for its collection of Sox memorabilia. The collection is about quality, not quantity — a seat from Old Comiskey anchors the corner, and the only two autographs are from Bill Veeck and Harry Caray (when he was with the Sox, of course). “They’re going to have trouble scoring runs, and the pitching has lots of question marks. I think they’ll win 85 games.”

I shake my head. “I’m more confident. They’re going to be better than that. I say 88 games.” Dad laughs at what passes for confidence — a whopping three games difference.

“You’re both wrong,” my mother challenges. “They’re going to win 100 games.”

I look at her and ask her what the hell pipe she’s smoking.

My optimism eventually becomes strong enough that I decide to do something I’ve never done before: attend Opening Day. [Note from the future: Yes, my very first Opening Day happened to be in 2005. Was this unprecedented event solely responsible for the Sox’s success that year? Discuss in the comments.] I make plans with my friend Wally and consider myself slightly mad as I purchase the tickets. What am I so excited about?


 

Dingers and zombies and nerds, oh, my!

Even online games are dinger obsessed!


Disclaimer:  Yes, COVID-19 is very real and serious, both with respect to health and economics. Dingeritis is not. But still …

These are obviously bizarre times. As the COVID-19 situation continues, those following professional advice will be singing “Happy Birthday” to themselves so many times while washing their hands that they’ll come to wish they won’t ever have to attend another birthday party and hear the damned song, which is pretty ironic, considering the whole process is designed to make sure that they will.

hand washing
Singing “Happy Birthday” will never be the same.

Financially, the shutdowns are devastating for millions who are out of work for the duration and for millions more who are watching their 401(k)s dwindling to 201(f)s. But the timing so far isn’t bad from the standpoint of many a business, because productivity in the American workplace is roughly zilch in March anyway, given that employee attention is given 100% to filling out and then cussing about their March Madness pool sheets. Irony again, since everyone knows the pool will be won by the elderly bookkeeper in the corner office who bases her picks on favorite colors or the similarity to the names of her cats, just as it is every year. (Yeah, yeah, that’s misogynistic as all get out. Also totally accurate.)

pool sheet
2020 NCAA Pool Sheets will see much less red ink

Given all that badness, the lack of any sports to follow for the indefinite future may seem a minor inconvenience, but it does leave us without the usual escape valve from our own reality just when we could really use it. How to fill that gap? Hey, it’s the 21st Century, when technology helps us overcome a shortage of escapism by creating a path to escapism from the escapism. For those of us ardent enough about the game to be South Side Hit Pen followers, that means artificial baseball, and not just artificial in the sense that somebody is feeding the batters knowledge of what upcoming pitches will be.

Now, there are several excellent baseball video games you can buy, but that means an outlay not just for the game, but also for the operating system to play it on, hardly a desirable situation in perilous economic times. Did I mention my 201(f)? There are a few online games you can purchase for reasonable amounts — but then, any amounts these days seem unreasonable, as you spent all your money stockpiling toilet paper and canned artichoke hearts.

tp
Finding El Dorado

So, as a public service, to help you fill in the time when you’re not hoarding toilet paper or pretending to work from home (or, if you’re a certain kind of nutcase, exchanging emails blaming the whole mess on a Chinese/Democratic party/George Soros/big pharma/GrubHub conspiracy), I did in-depth research on free baseball games you can find online. Because I spent half a century as a reporter/columnist, I was able to put to use that extensive experience and utilize the very best method to discover the needed information: I Googled “free online baseball games.”

The first hit was “baseballgamesonline.org.” It was an outstanding find, with 28 games, but also a depressing one, the sadness coming from the nature of those games.

First on the list is State of Play. I made a quick journey into State of Play and found it, while not baseball, a kinda sorta reasonable substitute. There are pitches, you hit the ball, you run. The batter is aiming for a target on the field, which isn’t exactly baseball, but at least it’s on the field, unlike the horror that was to follow.

state of play
State of Play, with a target not commonly sought by real batters.

Next is Baseball Stadium, which has instructions in Japanese, but does seem to strive for some baseballness.

After that? Fuggedaboudit.

Number three is Destruction League, which, as you probably cleverly ascertained, is about destroying stuff … knocking down buildings with your mighty homers, etc.

At least in Destruction League, you only destroy buildings. Next is Homerun in Berzerkland, in which you not only destroy stuff, but “hit the nerd to the maximum possible distance.” Yep, the nerd. That’s not particularly p.c., which the creators apparently came to realize, because the updated versions, Berzerkball and Berzerkball 2, dropped the idea of hitting the nerd. In them, you instead hit a geek as far as you can.

After all the berzerkitude, the Nos. 7 and 8 Baseball Master and Going Going Gone Baseball are all about homers, as is No. 10, Baseball Challenge. Going Going is listed as an ESPN product — so much for the “Worldwide leader” BS. No. 9 did put a little spin on the ball, Shatter Baseball being about smashing out windows, but it must be about homers, because, generally speaking, the only windows on the field itself are those of opportunity.

Then comes the first association of baseball with the walking dead —  No. 11 Zombieland. Naturally, it involves smashing balls at zombies, which isn’t real baseball unless you’re playing against the Tigers. There will be a return to zombie-bashing in later games, zombies apparently having less influence with the p.c. police than nerds.

Then it’s back to smashing dingers and windows until, finally, at No. 15, speed comes into play with Stealin’ Home. In this one, the whole idea is to steal bases, with the added touch that you can do it frontwards or backwards.

That was the one concession that baseball involves something besides homers, zombies or nerds, until we get to No. 21, Nice Catch, which follows No. 20, Zombie Baseball, where you only have a baseball bat to defend your home against, well, you guessed it.  Yep, all the way to 21 before there’s any acknowledgement that baseball involves defense. It’s like the whole online game industry was designed by the White Sox organization.

nice catch
Nice Catch — apparently, defense is only played in Japan.

After that, it’s back to homers and stuff beyond the park getting shattered. Presumably, all these games are teaching young people these days that the only thing in baseball is homers, which explains the juicing of the ball, the 2019 season and Daniel Palka. Well, OK, the only thing except zombies. And not just young people, but the honchos of MLB.

Most of these online games look so awful, and also so indicative of what MLB’s becoming, that where the major leagues are concerned, COVID-19 may just be an accelerant of the sport’s  tendencies toward long, slow suicide. Hope not.

Meanwhile, though, back to Happy Birthday.

Nancy Faust providing perfect handwashing time

Thankfully, for Sox fans, endless renditions of “Happy Birthday” are not a necessity. As the linked video demonstrates, “Na na na na … Na, na, na, na … hey, he-ey … good-bye” sung at a reasonable ballpark pace, is 10 seconds — so the recommended 20 seconds if repeated, as it always is, gets you through your handwashing whilst providing the closest thing to baseball you may find for a while. Feel free to thank me for bringing that up.

Meanwhile, stay safe. Especially if you’re a nerd, geek, or zombie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A fan’s guide to the quirkiest 2020 MLB team promotional items

Uncomfortable on an airplane? Thanks, Giants, and thanks, Buster Posey, for this unique 2020 “promotional item.”


MLB fans love free stuff. They also love free weird stuff, with team logos and sponsor names plastered all over.

Here is a list of the quirkiest items you can collect from each MLB team with the purchase of a regular-season ticket in 2020. Note that promotions and special events are subject to change.


National League East

Atlanta Braves
On June 23, the first 15,000 fans through the gates will receive a replica Ronald Acuña Jr. chain, for some reason.

Miami Marlins
On August 30, you could become the proud owner of a solar dancing Billy the Marlin figurine. Dancing Billy the Marlin is designed to distract you from the pain of the tortured existence of at least 10% of the Marlins’ fan base.

New York Mets
On May 30, the Mets will give away a Mrs. Met as DC Comics’ Wonder Woman bobblehead to the first 25,000 fans. As if a humanoid baseball wasn’t already terrifying enough — now she’s trying on costumes and entering the world of cosplay.

Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies are getting in the Earth Day spirit by offering all fans a reusable straw set on April 22. Philadelphia sports fans love the planet, everyone.

Washington Nationals
The reigning World Series champions mostly offer bobbleheads that are limited to the first 10,000 fans because they want someone to get punched in the face, but on July 26 they will give away a yet to be specified “Sesame Street Item” that might appeal to those baseball fans who also really love Big Bird. Like most of their other promo items, the Sesame Street exclusive will only be available to the first 10,000 people through the gates.


National League Central

Chicago Cubs
On May 9, the Cubs will knock off a 2018 Red Sox promotion by offering the first 10,000 fans a Craig Kimbrel Grow-a-Beard. This item is essentially a far less adorable Chia Pet. If you feel like you missed out on this opportunity in 2018, or you’re just a big plant person, this is a wonderful chance to fill that inexplicable hole in your heart.

Cincinnati Reds
Cincinnati consistently have some of the best quirky items in the game, and 2020 is no exception. On April 26, the team is giving away a commemorative Marty Brennaman microphone (with a sound chip honoring Marty’s Reds Hall of Fame induction) to the first 20,000 fans.

Milwaukee Brewers
America loves Bob Uecker, so the Brewers offer a new Uecker giveaway item just about every year. This year they’re giving away a Bob Uecker talking bobblehead on June 28. This will look great next to the Bob Uecker magic 8-ball, Bob Uecker alarm clock, and Bob Uecker talking bottle opener you may have already accumulated.

Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates offer their fans a wide variety of giveaway items every season — from wearables to pierogi bobbleheads. On August 7, the first 20,000 fans can be the envy of baseball fans everywhere by obtaining a Pirates fedora. *tips*

St. Louis Cardinals
Like their division counterparts, the Pirates, the Cardinals offer their fans a large selection of promos. On May 23, the first 30,000 fans who are 16+ will receive a Paul Goldschmidt bobblehead. But it’s not just a Paul Goldschmidt bobblehead, but a bobblehead that includes Goldschmidt’s golden retriever and a photo frame for fans to insert a photo of any dog they happen to love.

This promo is for Purina Pooches in the Ballpark, an event where fans can bring their dogs into Busch Stadium with a special ticket. Most teams now have at least one “bark at the park” event on their schedule, but not all offer a dog-related giveaway to non-special-ticket fans. Cool move, Cardinals.


National League West

Arizona Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks don’t love promos, and they especially don’t love unique promos. The most interesting giveaway on their schedule is April 11. The first 20,000 fans will receive a Ketel Marte switch-hitter bobblehead that depicts him batting lefty and batting righty. Two Ketel Martes in one figurine? Amazing.

Colorado Rockies
As of March 3, the Rockies website reads “2020 Rockies Promotional Item Schedule is coming soon!” The Rockies don’t want you to come to Coors Field in 2020. They’re not making moves, and they’re not giving you freebies. Perhaps all their scheduled promos for the season featured Nolan Arenado.

The good news is the Ketel Marte switch-hitter bobblehead is offered at a Rockies at Diamondbacks game, for any Rockies fan looking to jump ship.

Los Angeles Dodgers
On April 18, the Dodgers are offering a short-sleeve hooded t-shirt, which sounds like the dumbest clothing item imaginable — but also very appropriate for this team.

San Diego Padres
Do you like the Padres? Probably not. But do you like PUPPIES? Good news: The Padres are giving away a Padres & Puppies calendar on March 29 in an attempt to reduce your hatred of Manny Machado. Giveaway is limited to the first 15,000 fans in attendance.

San Francisco Giants
Ah, San Francisco, a hub of technological innovation. Such innovation has manifested itself into the Giants’ “Buster Hugs” neck pillow giveaway on May 30. The first 20,000 fans will receive the chance to think about Buster Posey every time they’re uncomfortable on an airplane. Someone somewhere is very proud of this idea.

Honorable mentions include the Lou Seal “Flipper” hat on May 9, the Johnny Cueto gnome on July 25, and a Star Wars Yoda hat on August 29. Unlike the Dodgers, the Giants did have the wonderful thought to include long sleeves in their hooded t-shirt giveaway on April 22. Innovation.


American League East

Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles have plenty of scheduled giveaways planned for 2020 to drive fans to Camden Yards in spite of the likelihood of abysmal on-field performance, but they tend to favor practical over peculiar: infinity scarves, fanny packs, and beach towels, oh my! On June 21 they are offering a canvas beverage holder to the first 10,000 males 18 and over. That’s correct: only men are qualified to receive what is assumed to be a hipster version of the koozie … but that’s because it’s Father’s Day!

Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox fans are offering a series of player-designed hats as giveaways this year — probably to try to make fans care about the humanity of the remaining product on the field after crushing losses in the offseason. Fans lining up at Fenway will receive a Xander Bogaerts-designed hat on June 30, a Chris Sale-designed hat on July 12, and an E-Rodriguez designed hat on August 16. Player-designed gear is becoming more common across sports — no longer just a characteristic of the NBA.

New York Yankees
As you might expect from a team that has guidelines for facial hair, the Yankees have standard promotional item fare: ordinary bobbleheads and collectible cups. This year, the club is emphasizing the 20th anniversary of the 2000 World Series team, including a beer stein on May 22 and a commemorative bat for those 14 and under on June 7. The team must be feeling down after not securing a World Series victory in the 2010s despite massively large payrolls.

Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays, obsessed with audio bobbleheads, will offer six of them in total to all fans throughout the season: Charlie Morton on May 9, Willy Adames on May 30, Tyler Glasnow on June 13, Ji-Man Choi on June 27, Blake Snell on July 28, and Austin Meadows on August 29. That’s essentially their entire promotional budget spent on talking toys.

Toronto Blue Jays
Nothing says Canadian baseball like a Chewbacca messenger bag, which the Blue Jays will offer their first 15,000 fans upon entrance on August 15. Not a Star Wars fan and looking for more traditional yet still fun giveaways? Check out the Canadian Day Vlad & Dad dual bobblehead on July 1, or relive the 90s with the Blue Jays floppy hat on August 1.


American League Central

Chicago White Sox
No team in the Majors offers more wearable promotional items than the Chicago White Sox. They give away free T-shirts at all Thursday home games, each with a unique design, as well as a plethora of other clothing options throughout the season: puffy vests, hoodies, jerseys, and Hawaiian-inspired shirts. On June 27, they’re giving away a White Sox basketball jersey that includes an outline of the Chicago skyline to the first 20,000 fans — a fun get, especially if you’re a fan of both baseball and basketball.

Cleveland Indians
Nothing screams Cleveland like a trip to the beach. On August 12, the Indians are giving away round beach towels to the first 10,000 fans. That’s right. You can sit on the shores of Lake Erie on a non-rectangular surface if you secure this bad boy.

Detroit Tigers
On June 12, the Detroit Tigers are giving away a chip and dip bowl to all fans. If you like chips and you like dips, this would be an excellent night at the ballpark for you. There are so many types of chips and so many types of dips. The possibilities are endless.

Kansas City Royals
The first 10,000 fans through the gates at Kauffman Stadium on May 16 are set to receive a welcome home mat. People in the Midwest love saying hello with a side of passive aggression, so this makes sense.

Minnesota Twins
All fans going to Target Field on June 27 are set to receive an LED energy-efficient light bulb. That’s right: a light bulb. The Twin Cities are a beacon of practicality.


American League West

Houston Astros
Instead of keeping their heads hung low in embarrassment and shame, like they very well should be doing, the Astros have decided to go all-in on their 2019 AL pennant the first week of the season. Fans can receive a replica ALCS trophy on March 27, an AL Champions ring on March 28, and a Jose Altuve ALCS MVP Bobblehead on March 29.

This isn’t quirky; it’s just definitive proof that the Astros organization deserves all the scrutiny baseball fans can muster.

Los Angeles Angels
If you go to Angel Stadium (of Anaheim) on May 13, you may be one of 30,000 lucky people receiving a cowbell.

Other notable giveaways are an Angels rally monkey on May 31, an Shohei Ohtani snow globe on June 12, Anthony Rendon playing cards on June 21, a rope hat on August 14, an Ohtani pillow on August 19, a hockey helmet beanie on September 4, and a growler on September 25. If you like unique baseball promotional giveaways, Anaheim is the place to be.

Oakland Athletics
The A’s drum-beating bleacher fans who cause many opposing fans anguish and despair will be celebrated on July 19 with a currently vague “bleacher tribute giveaway” listed on the team’s schedule. This celebration will happen against the Astros, which one can hope was intentional.

Seattle Mariners
The Mariners are giving away 15,000 patriotic cowboy hats on July 4, as one often thinks about cowboys when in Seattle.

Texas Rangers
Like the Rockies, the Rangers haven’t released a promotional schedule as of March 3, but maybe Seattle is willing to share some patriotic cowboy hats?

 

So, you’ve decided to become a White Sox fan …

Welcome, friend: Sitaspell. Take your shoes off. Let’s learn how to root for the White Sox … together.


Congratulations on taking the first step towards what might be a long and arduous journey through our humble fandom! Or maybe you’ll only be with us for a short time. Hey, this guide isn’t here to judge.

That’s your decision; this is, after all, at-will employment. 

Allow me to introduce myself; I’m a hereditary White Sox fan, and if you’ve seen that movie, having the fan run through your family can certainly feel like you’ve inherited something sinister. Due to budget cuts, I am both the resident IT person and HR generalist of the White Sox fandom. I’ll email you a link with your email and password, and make sure it’s a secure one, (nothing obvious like IL0v3Y@sm@niGr@nd@l!), but we’ll figure all that out at the end of this orientation. 

Whatever length your tenure figures to be with our beloved South Siders, this guide is here to serve as your New Fan Orientation packet, and to let you know what exactly you are getting yourself into.

So sit back, relax, and strap it down. And on behalf of everyone at South Side Hit Pen, home of innovative crowdfunded grassroots coverage of your new favorite team, welcome to the madness that is White Sox baseball!


Why are you here?

Let’s get this one out of the way: Let the homers call you a bandwagoner in the pejorative. Fandom is a choice, it’s not something that’s earned. Even if you’re like me, where your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, third cousin once removed or whatever, cheered for one team, truthfully, you’re still free to cheer for another. 

Casual, intermediate, advanced. We welcome all levels of fan. You can name only one or two players? Have the birth charts of the whole pitching staff saved on your phone? (By the way, oddly enough, stacked with Capricorns.) Got Baseball-Reference bookmarked so you can fire off stats on some plebeian who thinks Yasmani Grandal can’t be a leadoff hitter because his batting average was .170 batting first? 

The only gatekeeping at Sox Park you’ll see is performed by the security guard who wouldn’t let me in with a sealed bottle of vitamin water a few years back.

Maybe you’re here because your favorite player was acquired in a gustatory offseason free agent signing.

(We see you, Brewers fans.) 

Or perhaps you found yourself telling your friends and family that while you and your team love each other very much, that you’re taking a much-needed break and have decided to see other teams.

We see you … Astros fans? (Hey, again, no judgments here.) 

Or you maybe you are a recovering Cubs fan, upset at how the R*cketts family is spending their money, namely, not on players. We see you, too.

Let’s not forget those who are new to baseball altogether; perhaps you are finally buying into the hype via your friends, who won’t shut up about 108-ing, legend statue selfies, five-inning complete game shutouts, bat flips, or some guy who just seems to like to say hi to his own mom. 

You are seen. 

No one else can tell you how to fan but you, and we embrace that philosophy here on the South Side.

It all boils down to this: you cheer for the White Sox? We do, too. We have so much in common already!


The basics: Who’s Who

Screenshot 2020-02-21 at 9.53.00 PM

Rick Hahn

Our fearless GM, who makes calls and starts moves, namely as soon as he’s able to, the day after the World Series. Rick was first out of the gates and acquired the likes of Yasmani Grandal when other GMs were sleeping off their hangovers, and gifted Dallas Keuchel and Edwin Encarnación to the fandom right before December 25. 

Ricky Renteria 

The man making the lineups. Though he was the subject of scrutiny for being very experimental with the batting order last season, Ricky’s approval rating is high — especially now that he should have plenty of offensive flexibility with this offseason’s acquisitions. (We acquired a switch-hitting catcher who draws walks? Incredible!) Not to mention through testimonial, Ricky’s personable, positive, and respected by his players — a proven leader. 

Jason Benetti and Steve Stone 

We’re blessed by the baseball gods to have this dynamic announcing duo — Benetti, especially, is a gift with his wry insight and humor. Also, #SoxMath anyone? Steve Stone is the perfect comedic foil to Benetti, especially if you follow either of them on Twitter.

Southpaw

The fuzzy green dude is the working class hero we’ve been needing. Whether he’s at your wedding, corporate event, or goofing off with your kids at a game, Southpaw’s always down to entertain. But … why isn’t he left-handed?

Some other good names to know

Nick Madrigal, our hopeful second baseman on Opening Day.
Michael Kopech, a top prospect who just shaved his head for charity.
Luis Robert, a center fielder whom you’ve probably seen hit some sort of ridiculous home run video on social media.

These guys are the future of the organization, and we’re so excited to see them in 2020. 


The basics: What’s What

Screenshot 2020-02-21 at 9.55.22 PM

The 2005 World Series 

Yeah, it happened. 

So much magic. Scott Podsednik with the walk-off homer — his second postseason homer —  in Game 2, despite hitting no home runs during the 2005 season. Small ball, long ball, the 2005 White Sox did it all. A powerful lineup that hit 200 home runs in the regular season. A ridiculous starting rotation including Jose Contreras, Mark Buehrle, Jon Garland and Freddy García. Heck, the pitching staff’s entire ERA was 2.63. 

The legacy of 2005 is still felt to this day. Manager Ozzie Guillén continues to offer, um, insight from time to time. Every White Sox dad has that one jacket with the cream leather sleeves, the ’05 World Series patch on the sleeve. Any given bar on the South Side has that one neon World Series Champs Miller Lite sign, and chances are it’s rarely been turned off since.

108ing

What exactly is 108ing? Chances are, you’ve done it already. Not limited to the confines of the scenic view of the right field foul pole, any given time is probably an appropriate time for a beverage. On your way to a court appearance for a parking ticket? (Probably not then, honestly. HR is not responsible for any 108-related citations.) Waiting for medical test results? Generally thinking about the insurmountable weight of human existence? Time to 108. 

Tailgating

Sox Park is surrounded by vast parking lots, ideal for the ancient tradition of consuming self-prepared food and assorted beverages out the backside of your vehicle. 

STICK TALK!

Tim Anderson is changing the game, namely by unapologetically being himself and not giving a rat’s ass about whose feathers are ruffled by his incredulous bat flips. Timmy’s about having fun playing baseball, not this AcT liKe YoU’ve BeEn tHeRe bEfoRe crap. We love him so much that we built a whole-ass marketing campaign around the reigning AL batting champ.

Food

Sox Park (anyone calling it Guaranteed Rate Field is doing that because they have some legal obligation to) is home to some of the best ballpark food you’ll find. Anyway: fries topped with gyro fixins or buffalo chicken, helmet nachos, elotes, churros, an entire goddamn BBQ loaded baked potato. We’ve got it all. Come hungry; you will eat well at the ballpark.

Admit it: you’d buy this candle

A final note

With spring training just getting underway, there’s so much excitement in the fandom that hasn’t been seen in years. PECOTA? We don’t know her. The White Sox are projected to win 80-something games, but from the early player interviews, it sounds like winning is, well, a priority; the rebuild is complete.

However you choose to ride with us, you’ve made the decision to do so, since the other option was to, well, get run over. 

At any other orientation, an HR person would have you fill out a few forms, present a form of identification, maybe a check to jump-start your direct deposit, so you’d get paid.

As a White Sox fan, remember, you will pay. We’re not sure how yet, but you’ll certainly pay. 

We need to talk about The Hat

Frankenstein 2020: A New Era PR person must have hit “send” early on this press release, right? Right?


The 2020 MLB season has already been a particularly contentious year in baseball fashion.

The Jersey

Before 2020 even arrived, the MLB announced that Nike would replace Majestic as the league’s official uniform supplier.

When the new Nike jerseys were unveiled in December 2019, baseball purists had strong feelings about the presence of the iconic swoosh on the chest of the jerseys.

The jersey drama has mostly quieted down. However, there has been some recent outrage about regarding the price of the Nike jerseys compared with the Majestic jerseys.

The Hat

2020 is here and so is the latest baseball fashion scandal: the 2020 Spring Training hat released by New Era. The hats are varying levels of terrible, but the White Sox hat is in some special circle of Hell.

As I discussed in my last post, it’s not easy to be a White Sox fan, and that’s part of what makes it a noble collective. However, someone at MLB or New Era decided that we need to suffer as this hat is an assault to the eyes.

Unfortunately, we must take a close look at the hat to truly grasp the horror.

sox_2020_springtraining_hat

I’ll start out with the positives.

What Went Right

  • Back to basics: They did not mess up the most basic color scheme in existence (black and white).
  • Sox side logo: The side of the hat sports an actual White Sox logo, thus, in profile, fans and other innocent bystanders can tell which team this cap purports to represent.
  • Solid centering: Both the top-cap button and front-cap sticker appear to be 100% accurately centered.
  • Nope: There is no No. 4.

What Went Wrong

  • A whodunit mystery: I theorize an executive at either MLB or New Era has a child with a graphic design hobby and some light Adobe Photoshop knowledge, and that child was put in charge of designing this hat. But please, I am neither Nancy Drew nor Miss Marple, so share your own theories in the comments.
  • Nightmares in Photoshop: The most obviously offensive design flaw in this hat is that the primary and secondary logos are layered. Someone slapped the black Sox logo on top of the “Swingman” logo and called it a day. Have we run out of ideas for hats? Honestly, can we keep a consistent logo and just try different styles of hat instead: stovetop, bowler, newsboy, top hat, a nice cloche … anything.
  • Have we gone too far?: There are a total of three Sox logos on this hat. And the New Era logo and a massive logo for spring training on the back. For those not counting, that’s five logos on one hat. I am afraid to ask what’s next, but I have seen this phenomenon before in my native home of Alabama. Do you remember those Jeff Gordon racing jackets, adorned with logos? I do, because kids I went to elementary school kids wore the shit out of them. That’s the road we are heading down if this hat is allowed to exist. spring training
  • MESH: I get it. I get it: spring training is in warm climates, and the mission to properly wick sweat never abates. But: MESH.

Friends, I know I can be a bit critical, and perhaps most of you reading this don’t necessarily identify as fashionistas. However, I am not alone:

There were several routes the designers of this hat could have taken. However, this route goes full Wile E. Coyote off the cliff. And MLB and/or New Era expects us to drop $35.99 (plus shipping) on it.

Make the smart choice, friends. Don’t support this hat. We deserve better.

Point at the hat. Laugh at the hat.

But don’t buy the hat.

Southpaw: America’s true, gritty, working-class mascot

Hero of the masses: Gritty, meet a true mascot of the people, Southpaw. (@Southpaw)


Allow me to briefly step across the sports aisle to discuss Philadelphia Flyers mascot Gritty.

Gritty is a seven-foot-tall, amorphous, orange, hirsute being. You may be thinking “Well, that doesn’t really sound too different from other ambiguous sports mascots.”

Generally, I would have agreed with you. Until I looked deeply into Gritty’s eyes.

Gritty’s batshit gaze is the embodiment of something Friedrich Nietzche said:

If you look long enough into the void, the void looks back through you.

It makes a perplexing amount of sense that leftists have co-opted Gritty as a symbol of antifascism and working class rebellion. What initially began as a Philly-area adoption of Gritty as a leftist idol has become a nationwide sentiment.

The Jacobin, a publication that describes itself as “a leading voice of the American left, offering socialist perspectives on politics, economics, and culture,” claimed Gritty for the left with a simple tweet:

Although Gritty has been crowned as King of the Working Class, I would like to propose an alternative leader: Southpaw, the Chicago White Sox mascot.

Regardless of your social, economic, or political stances, it is a fact that Chicago has a vibrant and rich legacy or immigrant and working class neighborhoods. In the early 20th Century, Chicago was the site of many critical labor upheavals. These early strikers were men, women, and children who hailed from Pilsen, Bridgeport, Pullman, and other South Side neighborhoods.

The South Side in particular was home several working class industries (meat packing, steel mills, and basically all the other jobs no one wanted to do) as well as a large amount of black Chicagoans who arrived in the city after Reconstruction and in the Great Migration. Rich black industry grew in the South Side, but it was not without struggle. The Red Summer of 1919 occurred as a result of racial tensions bubbling over after increased job and housing competition. Slap an expressway in the middle of everything to further divide people, and, in an incredibly brief oversimplification, the South Side has long been a cauldron of racial, labor, and class tensions.

In contemporary times, it seems at times to be the South Side against the rest of Chicago and the world. I can only speak from a transplant’s experience, but the image outsiders (especially white folks) have conjured up of the South Side is one of wild-eyed fear and unknowing.

That fear and unknowing extends to White Sox fans. White Sox fans, as you all know, are a mystery to everyone that isn’t a White Sox fan. And to be honest, people should be scared of White Sox fans, as they are the baseball equivalent of self-flagellators.

While there are various White Sox players, commentators, and other symbols we idolize in our suffering, it is time to put away our earthly comforts and embrace the unknown that is Southpaw.

What is Southpaw? Like the mystery of the South Side and Sox fandom, honestly, none of us really know. But we find out what Southpaw isn’t from his MLB profile:

Some people think he’s an alligator, frog or even a dirty sock. Those are all really goofy, but he’s none of those. Southpaw is a fuzzy green dude that loves the Chicago White Sox. Southpaw’s favorite snack is Ants on a Log. No, not real ants (he’s not an anteater, silly), but the snack with celery, peanut butter and raisins. He had a pet rock once, but he rolled away.

Believe it or not, this vague description put to bed some questions we had at SSHP. Brett and I briefly discussed Southpaw’s gender identity and how we would go about finding out about it, but luckily, the MLB helped us figure out the proper pronouns to use for Southpaw.

We are able to glean a few insights about Southpaw’s viewpoints via social media:

Southpaw believes in a regulated work day. 

Southpaw puts his time in working in charity and entertainment, but quittin’ time is quittin’ time.

Southpaw is a creature of the people …

Even fans of the opposing team. If there are any Astros fans looking to jump ship, run into Southpaw’s warm embrace, comrades.

… and the people love Southpaw back.

Southpaw isn’t afraid to strike and stand up to bullies.

A true leader of the people is not afraid to go on strike or face down powerful figures.

Southpaw stands for equality.

And, finally, Southpaw doesn’t punch children.

Gritty recently ran into trouble with the law for assaulting a 13-year-old. From SI.com:

Philadelphia Flyers mascot Gritty is under investigation for allegedly assaulting a 13-year-old boy during a photo shoot, police said.

Chris Greenwell and his son Brandon met the hairy, googly-eyed mascot at a November event for season ticket holders. Brandon patted Gritty on the head after he and his father posed for a photo with him at the Wells Fargo Center, Greenwell told The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Greenwell said that as Brandon walked away, Gritty ran out of his chair and “punched my son as hard as he could.”


With a history of hardcore, working-class credibility, residence on the blue-collar side of a union-heavy city, love of the people and equality, and disdain for the powerful, Southpaw is America’s true working-class mascot.

When you gaze into Southpaw’s eyes, you will not see a void; you will see a comrade looking back at you saying, “Damn the man. Gritty, who?”

A visit from St. Reinsdorf


‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the GuRF
the Bossards were watering next season’s turf.
The bats were all hung on the bat racks with care,
in hopes that some base hits soon they would snare.

The coaches were nestled all snug in their beds,
a
s visions of adequacy danced in their heads;
And Kenny in his kerchief and Rick in his cap,
had just settled their brains for a long winter’s nap,

When out by third base there arose such a clatter,
they sprang from their snooze, hoping “pitcher,” or “batter.”
Away to the press box they flew like a flash,
tore open the shutters, and reached for some cash.

The moon on the crest of a shiny first base
gave a luster of midday all over the place.
When what to their wondrous eyes did they see,
but a whole bunch of players in a big SUV.

With a little old driver, so gruesome and scary,
they knew in a moment it must be St. Jerry.
More rapid than four-seamers the big gas-hog came,
and he whistled and shouted and called them by name:

“Now Yoan, now José, now Timmy, Eloy
now Lucas and ReyLo and Dylan, enjoy!
I’ve brought some new teammates to help pull the sleigh,
Even though it meant giving some money away.
Meet Yasmani and Dallas and Gio and Nomar,
two goodies, a maybe and one who won’t go far.

And see, way down there, in the backs of my sacks,
stuffed until late spring, ’cause our leadership lacks,
are Luis and Nick (not the saint, but close to it),
to grab more control, ’cause that’s how we do it.

To the left-field bleachers, to the right-field wall,
now swing away and, for a change, hit the ball!
And those of you who aren’t batters, but flingers,
try not to give away so many dingers!
As for the times that our team’s in the field,
don’t let your ineptitude be revealed.”

As hanging curves left plate center fly,
when they meet with the bullpen, mount to the sky;
so to the scoreboard the SUV flew,
with the sleigh full of players and St. Jerry, too.

And then, in a twinkling, they heard on the P-A,
the leader exhorting them all to go play.
As KenRick drew in their heads and were turning around,
through the luxury boxes, he came with a bound.

He said, “I knew that that man could no longer ignore us,”
and they knew right away he must mean Scott Boras.
And seven years is enough of a terrible team,
so I got you some help, so we can all dream
of a season that will be at least decent,
unlike the seven seasons most recent.
And there’s always an outside chance this team could
actually turn out to be pretty good.”

With a wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
he soon let them know there was nothing to dread:
Even if it’s a failure because of their work,
they’ll still be employed, a full life-long perq.

And laying a finger alongside his cash pile,
up the Dan Ryan, he drove with a smile.
And they heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,

“Happy Christmas to all, and taking a walk is all right.”