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White Sox Fri Apr 24 2015

Food, Fight: A Night with the White Sox

Chicago White SoxThe lowest point of the last five years for the White Sox wasn't the collapse of 2012 or when Gordon Beckham dropped a game-winning pop-up in 2013. No, it was this damning interactive feature by the New York Times.

The publication took a trip around the league and named the best and worst food item at every stadium. They didn't follow that template with the White Sox, though. The Times said that every concession item at The Cell was garbage. "What to Avoid: Everything," the graphic said.

In the years since, the club has ramped up the food choices at Sox Park, from the grandiose (the "Winning Ugly Grand Slam," a four-meat sandwich) to the simple (the "Walking Taco," which is Fritos covered in chili), from the familiar (Beggar's Pizza by the slice) to the exotic ("Adobo Mango Chicken Sausage").

Yesterday, the Sox hosted "Taste of Chi Sox," where fans got to sample newer menu items in the Miller Lite Extra Base bar above the 100 level down the left field line. I attended, loaded up my plate, and could safely say that if you listen to the Times and avoid these items, you're a world-class yutz.

• I was thinking of bypassing the Pickle Chips but I'm glad I tried them. They are phenomenal. The fried pickle slices are good alone, crunchy and flavorful, but they are even better with the tangy chipotle ranch sauce they come with. I could eat a pillowcase filled with pickle chips, they are that addictive. Grade: A.

pot roast.jpg• The Pot Roast Sandwich could possibly become the Sox's signature ballpark food, like sushi in Seattle or pierogis in Pittsburgh. OK maybe that's a stretch, but it's a good sandwich. The pot roast is a little dry, but the bun soaks up the juices to balance it out. The potato croquet on top is excellent. Grade: A.

• Until like six years ago I thought a "cream puff" was just an insult. I didn't know it was an actual dessert item. The Salted Caramel Cream Puff is real and it's a quality snack. It's light on salt but rich with cream and a caramel flavor in a flaky pastry. The downside is that it is messy to eat. It's mostly hollow, empty space, and the exterior is sticky. Not a problem if you're at a table, but sitting in your seat in section 134 might be an issue. Grade: B+.

• I'm a fiend for spicy food so it bugs me when places promote how "hot" their mild-at-best dishes are. The Spicy Chicken Sandwich didn't make me run for water, but it was indeed spicy. It has a lasting tingle to it. The celery, carrots and bleu cheese on top of the breaded chicken breast makes it like an order of wings that has transformed into a sandwich. Grade: B+.

• The most solid sandwich in the land just might be the Cuban Sandwich. The Sox didn't do anything to jazz up the classic. It's just pork, ham, Swiss, mustard and pickles on French bread. It'll hit the spot but it won't blow you away. Grade: B

MapleBacon_ujvohx55_jfiz9xx6.jpgBacon on a Stick is exactly what you think it is. The thick-cut bacon isn't bad, and the stick part helps to keep your hands clean, but I could take it or leave it. Grade: C.

The Cuban, pickle chips, cream puff and bacon on a stick are all available on the 100 level. Unfortunately for the common man or woman, the spicy chicken and pot roast sandwiches are club level only. I don't know the prices of all six items, but I'm sure they are not for the thrifty. Otherwise, these and the other newer concession options have lifted the Sox up from the culinary doldrums.

******

After the tastings there was still a ballgame to be played last night. It was a good one - Chris Sale and the Sox faced Yordano Ventura and the Royals. The Sox missed a few late opportunities and lost 3-2 on an Eric Hosmer RBI double in the 13th inning.

The real story was a bench-clearing brawl to end the seventh inning. The story traces back to Opening Day, when Jeff Samardzija hit Lorenzo Cain with a pitch after a Mike Moustakas home run. On Thursday, things continued when Jose Abreu was hit by Ventura, and Sale plunked Moustakas and brushed back Lorenzo Cain. In the seventh, Adam Eaton hit a chopper back to Ventura, which the pitcher fielded. Eaton yelled something at Ventura, and before tossing to first, Ventura said "F--- you" to Eaton.

The benches cleared, the bullpens rushed in, punches were thrown, players pushed, shoved and restrained and, after all of it, Samardzija, Sale, Ventura, Cain and Edinson Volquez - who threw a wild punch at Shark - were all ejected.

It was a pretty good brawl. The players got physical, not as much "hold me back!" nonsense as there usually is. Three different times the fracas died down, only to have a few guys continue the scuffling.

1b00327b592f8a12740f6a7067009054.jpgSamardzija stood out the most. He was upset that such a wild haymaker was thrown at him so he was willing to mix it up. As order was being restored and as the ejected players were leaving the field, Samardzija got the loudest ovation. It's good that the new guy was so involved. It was like a sign that he officially became part of the team. Pitchers have the most to lose in brawls, because one bad punch or one rough suplex could mess up their throwing arm, but Shark wasn't thinking about that. He just was protecting himself and his teammates.

Even though the park was maybe 30 percent full due to several reasons (the Bulls and Hawks were on, it was a weekday night and it was a very frigid night), the fans were still into it. Surprisingly, a decent number of Royals fans were there, almost all sitting behind the Royals' dugout, and they made their voices heard throughout the night. They even got a "Let's Go Royals" chant going.

Of course, the Sox fans didn't like this. They chanted "K.C. Sucks" and started heckling during a Hosmer at-bat. A chorus of "Let's Go White Sox" had a little more oomph after that. Even in extras, the remaining Sox fans stayed loud. The Royals and Sox don't like each other, and from the looks of it, neither do the fans.

I like that the Sox have bad blood with the Royals. It'll inject some tension into this rivalry of up-and-coming teams. The Sox have 15 games left against the Royals, including three to during the rest of this weekend series.

 
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