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How The Other Half Lives

The Cubs having the day off, and it being a sunny (but still cold) day here, and wanting to forget about yesterday's disaster, I decided to take in the opener at the newly renovated Ballmall on the South Side.

It's different, all right. As most of you know, about a third of the upper deck at the Cell was lopped off over the winter and a cantilevered roof (very similar in design to the roof lines at the old Comiskey Park, though it also evokes a darker Yankee Stadium facade) was put over the remaining two-thirds.

People used to complain about the upper deck, which is why they did this, reducing the capacity by about 6,600 seats. And even so, and supposedly this was a sellout, even though the announced crowd of 37,706 was about 4,000 under the listed capacity, by the third inning the upper deck, you guessed it, was about one-third empty.

One of these days I'll get down there, probably during the Cub series in June, and wander upstairs to get a look. There are now obstructed-view seats as there are support posts every couple of sections, though not many, and they put plexiglass panels behind the upper deck to make it less of a wind tunnel.

This may have had an unintended effect -- making the Cell a hitter's park. The Royals and White Sox combined for six home runs, four by KC, but the Royals got only four other hits, and the White Sox blasted the Royals 12-5.

I was sitting in the LF corner about 10 rows behind the LF foul pole, and that's a pretty decent seat, and right in full sun today, and the wind at that level is blocked, so until the very late innings when the sun's force is lessened, it was actually comfortable. I suspect part of the upper-deck vacating was due to the 22-MPH wind blowing right in their faces.

Other than that, there haven't been too many changes at the Cell since last year. The black steel beams that make up the new upper deck facade go well with the gray paint job on the other facades that was done last year, giving a more coherent look to the place. They have replaced the blue pads on the walls with green pads, like all other new parks. Now if they can get rid of the blue seats and put in green seats, it'll really look like a baseball park. Baseball parks should have green seats, not blue, Yankee Stadium notwithstanding.

Whoever's operating the new scoreboards at Wrigley Field must have migrated south today, because at one point the board there said that new Sox 2B Juan Uribe was acquired from Colorado on January 23, 1997. Either that or I was in a seven-year time warp today, because this is Uribe's first year with the Sox.

Among the ads on the scoreboard is a huge ad for Viagra (Proud Sponsor of MLB!) which we almost wound up putting on the air this morning on the ABC-7 morning show, behind Stacey Baca's left shoulder before I asked the camera crew to move her over a few feet.

One thing about the game. Will someone tell Billy Koch that it's OK to end the ninth inning of a game you're leading by seven runs and it's cold outside, in less than 20 minutes?

I ran into Mike there today, only I stood near his section for about 15 minutes looking before I realized he had been sitting in his seat all along. He hides well like that. He claims he can't be caught on film, but I don't really believe him.

I actually got through an entire game without hearing anyone yell "Cubs suck" there, although the very first T-shirt vendor I saw outside while walking up was selling shirts that said that. Poor South Siders, with their inferiority complex. You'd think they'd just be happy that they won on Opening Day.

And a piece of advice. That "O-E-O-Magglio" chant is getting really obnoxious. And despite the fact that the loudest applause in pre-game introductions was for Ordonez, I got the feeling that the Sox fans' true favorite is Paul Konerko, who obliged today by smacking a three-run homer.

I do have some Cub news today -- I heard from Kasey Ignarski, who was also at the Cub opener yesterday, though on the other side of the park:

I was just reading your blog and you say that the Cubs did not rip your ticket. Well... my ticket WAS ripped. Now maybe they are doing the scanner thing in the bleachers where you were, but I came in thru the front gate - thru the bag line (since I always bring in my backpack) and when I handed the girl my ticket, she ripped it and gave me back my stub.

Thanks for the heads-up, Kasey, and let's get 'em tomorrow.