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It's been said here in Chicago that Sox fans hate the Cubs, while Cub fans hate the Sox fans.

That's a cliche and a truism, but today I was reminded why people say that. Sox fans are filled with such hatred for the Cubs; some of the loudmouths sitting near me in the LF bleachers at the Park Formerly Known As Comiskey, were trying to incite their heroes to hit every one of the Cubs in the head with balls or bats. "It'd be worth a loss just to do that." I mean, come ON! Then there are those who complain that people in the Wrigley Field bleachers do nothing but drink and don't watch the game. OK, so we have more than our share of those. But there were plenty of people sitting around me who were doing just that, even though the game was tense and exciting.

This was my first visit this year to the Ballmall, which has a fancy corporate name that I'm simply not going to give any PR to here -- not unless they want to give me a cut of the $68 million or so they're giving the White Sox -- and they have used some of that money to make some physical changes in the plant.

First, they painted the facades and the outside ramps a very dark gray, and the underside of the half-roof over the upper deck black. This makes the place look even more dark and forbidding than it did before. The scoreboards have been changed; there is no longer any score or stat information on the board in CF; it's just a DiamondVision board. All the scores, stats, etc. are on the board in LF, and sitting in LF as I was, that board is almost impossible to see -- even if you stand up, the linescore is on the bottom, so it's almost unreadable.

On the 1B and 3B facades, there is a mini-video board which is mostly for advertising; the linescore boards that used to be there have been moved to the LF and RF corners, not within normal line-of-sight; i.e. if you are looking at the action, you have to then glance to the corners to find the count. And, the Sox retired numbers, which used to be on the facade of the club-level seats, have been removed, replaced with representations of the scoreboard pinwheels.

A big thumbs-down, then, to the cosmetic changes.

I got a look at the seats I'll have for the All-Star Game; they are indeed "partially obstructed" by the huge patio the Sox have built in CF; you can't see about 1/3 of the right field corner. But otherwise, I'm much happier to be there than to be 25 rows up in the upper deck in the corners, which was where the other tickets they offered me were.

And Sox security is at it again. I wanted to say hi to some friends seated down the 3B line. Nope, can't go down those stairs. What do they think -- some idiot is gonna run on the field or somethin...

Oh. Never mind.

So, I had to go down into my own section, then walk back ten sections through the seats to say hello. And after the game, they had security standing blocking anyone trying to walk back toward 3B and gate 5 to leave, trying to force everyone out onto the south side of 35th Street. Well, I was parked north of 35th, so once again, it was back down to the seats, then over past the security cordon, so I could leave from the gate I wanted to leave from.

If you're thinking, Al's avoiding talking about the game, you're right. The Sox beat the Cubs 4-3 on a Jose Valentin home run in the bottom of the 9th, after the Cubs had mounted a stirring comeback off Sox closer Billy Koch in the top of the inning, scoring two runs after loading the bases with none out.

Honestly, there was a fair amount of good today. Matt Clement threw very well; now if he could only do this consistently, the Cubs would again have four very good starters. Mark Grudzielanek had four hits; in fact, the Cubs hit Danny Wright, Tom Gordon and Koch pretty well, having nine hits and five walks, and therein lies the problem -- they couldn't get them home, stranding 12. This can't continue; someone is going to have to step up and carry this team.

As expected, the absolute hatred Sox fans have for Sammy Sosa spilled over today; I've never heard the booing that loud. And though professional athletes say it doesn't bother them, I could see it getting to Sammy today, as he struck out three times, including twice with the bases loaded. When he came up for the third time with the bases jammed in the 9th, at least he managed a sac fly. The cork thing has got to go, Sox fans -- it's yesterday's news. He did it; he admitted it; he was assessed a penalty and paid it. Now think about it. What if you, the Sox fan, had served your jail term and...

Oh. Never mind.

Somewhere, somehow, Jim Hendry is going to have to get this team some offensive help. There's a black hole at catcher, and the bench seems weaker than ever.

Sign seen: A Sox fan had a sign that read "Cubs may have Wood, but Sox have a bigger Koch".

Clever, actually.