U.S. Cellular Field Credit: Rich Hein/Sun-Times

It wasn’t just the elotes or the enticing smell of fried peppers and onions that got me. It was the diverse crowd of fans wholly intent on the ballgame. It was the summer of 2000 and I’d just moved to Chicago. I was at my first game on the south side, there to see the great pitcher Pedro Martinez (then with the Red Sox), but also to see the scrappy White Sox team that would make it to the playoffs that year, albeit briefly. There were few if any tourists, or folks from the North Shore, or bros wielding stacks of empty beer cups.

The same holds true up above in the cheap seats, where you’ll find a likewise attentive if not easily pleased crowd. It’s extraordinary how a collective hush can descend on a baseball game in the open air. Of course, the same thing can happen at Wrigley Field, currently home of the best team in baseball by a good measure. But you have to pay an arm and a leg to go to a Cubs game—the average ticket there is $51, $20 more than the major-league average. With Sox tickets for the upper deck starting at $7 ($5 on Sundays) for the real nosebleed seats, you can afford to go to see a game on a regular basis, and unlike at Wrigley Field, here it’s usually pretty easy to move to a more desirable section; the ushers aren’t going to razz you. Sections 530, 531, and 533 will all put you right on top of home plate for as little as $15 on Sundays.

Craft Beers of the Midwest (formerly Beers of the World) is just around the corner on the upper-deck concourse, along with a host of food vendors (vegetarian and gluten-free options included) and one of the city’s most stunning views of the downtown skyline from the ramps outside. There is now Diet Coke on offer, whereas at Wrigley you’re stuck with Diet Pepsi. Plus, you can tailgate in the parking lot before or after the game—verboten on the north side.

But what about the most important thing—the game itself? Alas, after an improbably strong start that had them in first place in the AL Central alongside the Cubs in the NL Central for the first two months of the season, I can’t say that the White Sox, now struggling to remain at .500 11 years after their World Series victory, will bring you anything but grief for the time being. But that in itself is a long-standing Chicago tradition—just ask any Cubs fan. If at last this truly is “the year” for them, why not check out the prospective American League World Series competition? v