Cubs, Sox pack the Windy City

Cubs, Sox pack the Windy City

CHICAGO -- The scene in the Windy City was to die for.

Four teams, two ballparks, one busy day and night for any baseball nut.

"We call it our bucket list," Cardinals fan Ken Gauf said outside of U.S. Cellular Field. Gauf wanted to take in games in two Major League parks in one day before "kicking the bucket." He got the chance on Friday.

Chicago hosted a gathering of baseball's patriarchs, as the Cubs hosted the rival Cardinals under the sun and the White Sox welcomed the Red Sox under the lights. It didn't quite measure up to the party in Beijing on Friday -- 204 countries -- but, for baseball, it was a big deal.

"If you're a baseball fan, this is the ultimate day," Cubs supporter Jeff Danek said inside Wrigley Field.

Chicago's teams rarely play at home on the same day. However, a similar baseball blanket covered the city on April 22, when the Cubs finished a two-game set with the Mets, and the White Sox began a series with the Yankees.

The party lasts through the weekend, and it includes two first-place teams and a Wild Card leader. The clubs held a combined record of 262-198 going into their series. In the heat of playoff races, no wonder a total of 80,210 people took in the games.

Here's a quick timeline (all times Central Time):

11:20 a.m.: The gates opened at Wrigley Field.

"It was a good smell," said Col. Derek Paquette, 47, a Red Sox fan who made his first visit to Wrigley as an appetizer for Boston's game later on. "Smells like history."

1:22 p.m.: Cubs left-hander Ted Lilly threw the first pitch of the day, a fastball strike to Cardinals left fielder Joe Mather. The weather was sensational, 72 degrees with a nice breeze and wispy clouds above Lake Michigan.

4:30 p.m.: Cubs catcher Henry Blanco hit a walk-off single in the 11th to propel the Cubs to a 3-2 victory. Ex-Cardinal Jim Edmonds hits two homers for the Cubs.

"Considering Edmonds had two of their runs, it was pretty hard to take, but it took a Cardinal to win the game for the Cubs," said Vivian Romo, wearing an Albert Pujols jersey, while waiting in line for tickets to the Red Sox-White Sox game. Romo and her boyfriend, a Red Sox fan, didn't realize the White Sox were playing in Chicago, too, until looking at the center field scoreboard inside Wrigley.

Following Blanco's single, fans from all four teams packed the Chicago Transit Authority's Red Line to commute from the North Side to the South Side. One oblivious rider was stunned when he boarded one of the train cars.

"I didn't know there was a Cubs game today," he said. A few seconds later, someone mentioned the second game. "A Sox game and a Cubs game in one day?" he asked. Yup, and the day was only half over.

5:30 p.m.: The gates opened at U.S. Cellular Field, with a sellout crowd of 38,671 eventually churning through.

"Both teams are in first place," said White Sox fan Jason Danek, who attended both games with his brother, Jeff. "It's August 8th, two of the most storied franchises in town, sellouts in both stadiums. Both crowds are electric."

7:11 p.m.: White Sox lefty Mark Buehrle tossed the first pitch of the White Sox-Red Sox game.

9:37 p.m.: Bobby Jenks closed out a Chicago sweep, as the White Sox down the Red Sox, 5-3.

A group of nine male Red Sox fans enjoyed both games as part of a bachelor party weekend. For airplane reservations out of Boston, hotel rooms and game tickets, their vacation bill will run upward of $5,000. It was worth it.

"Baseball was the deciding factor [for choosing the party's location]," said Justin Dominguez, 25, who once went to seven Major League stadiums in seven days. "We knew that we wanted to go away [from Boston] for the bachelor party. This is a good excuse."

The fun isn't close to running out. There are still two more days of this.

"It's going to be a nightmare coming back to work on Monday," Dominguez said. "That was a mistake not having taken that day off."

Nick Zaccardi is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.