Jayson Tatum

While the St. Louis Cardinals were sweeping the Chicago Cubs last weekend, the Chicago White Sox played host to the Minnesota Twins.

My daughter, Bryson, had just completed her freshman year at Dominican University in the northwest suburb of River Forest, Illinois and sang at the baccalaureate service on Saturday. I drove up Sunday and before heading home on Monday with a SUV full of her belongings, we decided to take in Sunday’s White Sox game.

My late father had cousins that resided in Chicago and his dad was a graduate of the University of Chicago. They were southsiders and they were White Sox fans. They wanted nothing to do with the Cubs.

I attended a game at old, raggedy Comiskey Park long before I ever set foot in Wrigley Field and I still count myself as a White Sox fan. The Sox moved into a new stadium in 1991 and it now carries the name Guaranteed Rate Field.

I purchased two tickets on StubHub in the club level section for $24 each – less than half of their true value. I had no idea it was a swank area of the stadium with a carpeted concourse and a host or hostess who could take your order from your seat.

White Sox starter James Shields had pitched a solid game against the Cardinals last week, only to see his work be wasted when St. Louis rallied for a win late in the game.

He took the mound again on this gorgeous Sunday afternoon against the Twins and he gave the fans something special.

Shields carried a perfect game into the sixth inning, retiring the first 16 batters he faced. He surrendered a walk to end the perfect outing but survived the inning without giving up a hit.

His no-hitter stayed intact until he gave up a single with one out in the seventh inning. The White Sox bullpen would ultimately give up three runs in the inning and, after rallying in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game, the White Sox would lose 5-3.

But the fans in attendance, about 18,000, certainly enjoyed the game and their team of young players. The White Sox are in rebuild mode. They aren’t very good and are on track to win just 48 games this season.

After Shields lost his ho hitter and the lead, my daughter and I decided to go down to the lower concourse and check out the scene. More great food and many Latino dishes, including “elote,” or Mexican corn on the cob. The corn is shaved from the cob into a bowl and cheese, mayonnaise, lime and chili powder are mixed in. Yummy!

Another highlight was when White Sox player Tim Anderson, who is black, walked up to the batter’s box and “All I Know is Trap” blared through the stadium speakers. Fans of all colors and ages seemed to spring to life.

Walking into the stadium reminded me of St. Louis games when I was in my teens. There were many empty seats, but the people there were baseball fans. They were there not to worship the franchise, be part of a “nation” or join the see-and-be-seen crowd. They were there to see baseball. It’s a good feeling. One that sometimes gets lost in Busch Stadium.

A White Sox game also offers something you don’t get a lot of at Busch or Wrigley – diversity.

There were many black and Latino families at the game. Parents and kids were decked out in White Sox gear. Young people of various ethnicities sat together in all parts of the stadium. Yes, there are minority families at Cardinals games, but it seems like we are exceptions rather than part of the rule.

Another fun part of the White Sox experience was its parking lot adjacent to the stadium. It cost $10, was well-guarded and you could bring in your grill, coolers, chairs and get your tailgate on before the game.

Scores of fans were partaking in the pre-game party before heading into the game. People were playing all kinds of music, playing bean-bag toss, eating, drinking and having a grand time. There was still a Mexican flair to the gathering, being the day after Cinco de Mayo.

Yes, the White Sox are bad, but their fans sure seemed to have a good time. We’ll probably go back when she returns to college in late summer. By then the White Sox will be hopelessly far from first place or a postseason berth. But I’ll bet the great vibe that was in the air last Sunday will still be around.

Go Sox, and good guys do wear black.

Tatum’s time to shine

First, the Boston Celtics lost superstar free-agent forward Gordon Hayward on the first night of the NBA season to a grisly leg injury. It happened against the rival Cleveland Cavaliers.

Guard Kyrie Irving, who came to the Celtics in a trade with the Cavaliers after he made it clear he wanted out of LeBron James’ shadow, was playing at an all-star level before he was lost for the season after knee surgery.

The Celtics’ season seemed doom, even though rookie Jayson Tatum was having a solid first season. The Chaminade and Duke product was thrust into a starting role, more minutes than anyone thought he should play and the spotlight.

He is flourishing and is headed for a showdown with the Cavaliers in the NBA East Conference final. The Celtics held a commanding 3-1 series lead after a 101-98 overtime win on the road against the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday and then a 103-92 loss on Monday.

Tatum led Boston with 24 points in the overtime victory and added 20 in the Game Four loss. He has scored 20 or more in six consecutive playoff games for the Celtics and is the only player in NBA history to score 20 or more points in six postseason games at 20-years old or younger. He broke his own record of five straight games.

Tatum is also adding his name to the Celtics’ record book.

He has scored 201 points in the playoffs, and the only Celtic to score more as a rookie in the postseason is Tommy Heinsohn (229 points). He surpassed Celtics’ immortal Larry Bird, who scored 192 postseason points his rookie year.

Game Five of the series was scheduled for Wednesday night in Boston. Tatum could pass Heinsohn in that contest and should certainly overtake him of the Celtics advance to take on the Cavaliers.

Last week, 76ers legend Julius “Dr. J.” Irving fired up Philly fans and first-round draftee Markelle Fultz when he told ESPN “Tatum probably should have been the first pick in the draft.”

“He was there. I guess there was just, it was all about the fit. And we took Fultz, Philly took Fultz… Tatum has been awesome, it just seems as though when you get a player who can raise the level of their game at playoff time, you’ve got somebody special.

“I like Tatum. I like what he brings to the table.”

Following the Game Three victory, Celtics coach Brad Stevens said, “No moment is too big (for Tatum).”

“He’s got guts. He’s a competitive guy. Sometimes I think we misconstrue some of these slight guys when they come out of college for not being tough, but he’s tough and very competitive.”

The Celtics would be underdogs against James and the Cavaliers. The stage is set for Tatum to show the world just how tough he is.

Alvin A. Reid was honored as the 2017 “Best Sports Columnist – Weeklies” in the Missouri Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest. He is a panelist on the Nine Network program, Donnybrook, is a weekly contributor to “The Charlie Tuna Show” on KFNS and can also be heard on Frank Cusumano’s “The Press Box.” His Twitter handle is @aareid1.

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