Chicago White Sox Opening Day: Irish Nachos and the Baroque Batter’s Box
April 13, 2012
Not everyone loves baseball but all people, (except, perhaps, Angelina Jolie) love food and while our national pastime isn’t always played at the highest level at Chicago’s U.S. Cellular Field, there is always copious amounts of unique and satisfying sustenance.
Luckily, on Opening Day on Friday, the White Sox were as enticing on the field as the food was delicious in the box seats as the Sox dispatched those Tiger Lilies from Detroit, 5-2, for the South Siders’ fifth straight home-opening victory.
First, the food: Since long before the days of Bill Veeck, the Sox have offered a tasty cornucopia of goodies and 2012 follows that tradition with new offerings that include the Balkan Dog which is a pork, beef and lamb hot dog smothered with all kinds of stuff including eggplant sauce. There’s also a Pastrami Cheese Steak, Bases Loaded Baked Potato, Meatball Mania – which is a bunch of meatballs on a stick (hot damn!) and, my personal favorite: The Irish Nacho Helmet.
I am of Irish descent and I have been to Ireland and let me just say that the old joke that one of the shortest books in the world is Great Irish Cooks is actually no joke at all. But Irish Nachos defy those ugly slanders and ignominious legacy and leave you feeling happy, Gaelic, bloated and ready to burp all over the rest of the American League. God Bless Baseball.
The Irish Nacho Helmet is a green souvenir batting helmet about the size of a Chicago-style softball (16-inch) overflowing with fresh made-to-order French fries. Now, if they stopped right there I would be happier than Chet Lemon with the wind blowing out. But the Irish Nacho Helmet is an ambitious sort and covers those fried taters with cheese. And sour cream. Chives. And, oh yes, because this is Chicago and this is America and who really wants to live to be 50 anyway: bacon.
Abner Doubleday and Alexander Cartwright loved bacon. Babe Ruth lived for bacon. Gates Brown and James Baldwin have both requested in their wills to one day be buried in bacon.
When the sun is shining, your favorite team is about to take the field and you have a green batting helmet full of French fries, cheese and bacon you find yourself weepy and melancholy, hopeful and anxious, because you see better life’s door wide open yet you know life really can’t be vastly improved upon, can it? I dreamt of sharing my Irish Nacho Helmet with Sofia Vergara or Aisha Tyler but would that really be better? What if they ate them all? What if they licked all the leftover cheese from the helmet bottom? It would be like finally meeting the Easter Bunny and realizing he doesn’t roll his own.
No, don’t dream when you’re eating from the Irish Nacho Helmet. Don’t ask for more and don’t dare feel sorry for those who live outside the world of the Irish Nacho Helmet. Life is tough. Enjoy what your hard-earned $8 can give you.
Oh yeah…the regular Nacho Helmet the Sox introduced lat year which is a regulation batting helmet housing nacho chips, cheese, lettuce, salsa, sour cream, jalapenos and the dreams of a new generation? We got one of those, too.
The game: The White Sox aren’t supposed to be good this year. The baseball cognoscenti are convinced the Sox can’t hit, won’t pitch and don’t dance. But on Friday, Jake Peavy stared down the mighty Tigers for a one-hitter into the seventh and the Sox bullpen, known for now as “Matt Thornton and a bunch of guys with high jersey numbers and low salaries,” acquitted themselves well enough on a mostly overcast 60-degree day to get the job done.
At the plate, it was old Pale Hose reliables A.J. Pierzynski and Paul Konerko leading the way with Konerko lining an RBI single in the sixth and then, remarkably, scoring from first on (remarkably again) a triple from A.J. Konerko will probably be in an oxygen tent until the All-Star break but there is some hope as the Sox first got on the board thanks to a home run from young left fielder Dayan Viciedo who also made a rally-crushing, likely game-saving diving catching to end Detroit’s seventh.
Shortstop Alexei Ramirez drove in a run and helped turn a terrific double play in the eighth to get out of another jam. Third baseman Brent Morel had an RBI and a run scored while hitting from the No. 2 hole and young skipper Robin Ventura seems to know just when to bring a pitcher in – and just when to take him out.
The Sox still aren’t getting much from designated hitter Adam Dunn (.182, 2 RBI), outfielder Alex Rios (.176, 1 RBI), and second baseman Gordon Beckham (.150, 0 RBI) but maybe they just haven’t had the Irish Nachos yet.
This South Side home opener was fun and victorious but also a little weird. Sox fans are always a happy if skeptical bunch and strange things seem to happen on the South Side. During the introductions two jet fighters flew over. Um, wasn’t that supposed to happen during the National Anthem? I guess they jumped the gun. Then they flew over again during the National Anthem but, again, a few notes early. They must have missed rehearsal.
In the first inning something happened that I’ve never seen before at a baseball game: Prince Fielder eating a salad. Just kidding. Detroit third baseman Miguel Cabrera was up to bat after Peavy had already set down Austin Jackson and Brennan Boesch and Cabrera began complaining to the umpire and using his bat to gesture to the batter’s box. A lively discussion ensued and then Tigers skipper Jim Leyland put down his Sanka and Tareyton and emerged from the dugout and joined in the chat. Cabrera was telling umpire Adrian Johnson that the batter’s box wasn’t quite lined up right and Johnson at first seemed to say he was nuts but then, sure enough, Roger Bossard’s grounds crew was called out and the batter’s box was erased and they laid down a new one.
Sox fans jeered Cabrera who laughed it off and then, after about a ten-minute delay, stepped back in and launched Peavy’s first pitch to right field and into the glove of Rios. Ha-ha.
The only thing better than victorious baseball at U.S. Cellular Field on Opening Day is any kind of baseball on the South Side on a warm night in June, July or August or any kind of baseball in October. The White Sox probably won’t reach the second week of October but a triumphant start doesn’t hurt their chances. For now it’s comforting enough to know the next six months will be filled with a properly-aligned batter’s box and little helmets full of heart-stopping calorie bombs.
It’s April. And we’re on our way.