Following the sheer success of the previous years trip (read about it here - LINK) plans for the next transatlantic adventure were quickly in the pipeline. The destination? The midwest. Return flights were booked to Chicago by Christmas. Four Bases had an annual tradition, roll on the 25th August.
Fast forward 9 long months. We are watching the Chicago White Sox host the Seattle Mariners at US Cellular Field thinking does it get any better than this? In short no. No it doesn't. For those who have never had the chance or should I say the privilege to visit Chicago, add it to your bucket list. Located next to Lake Michigan, the City is fantastic. A highlight of both our experiences in Chicago was sitting next to that weird shiny bean in a little bar drinking the local brew, Goose Island just thinking is this real life. 24 Hours ago we were both at work pushing paper and now were 3 hours from seeing Robinson Cano hit clean up for the M’s. Whatever you enjoy, just do it.
US Cellular Field was a surprisingly really pleasant ballpark, why I was surprised I don't know given the field was only built in 1991, but it was clean open didn't have a bad view within the whole stadium. One of the neatest and most memorably things about the stadium was the absolutely gorgeous sunset backdrop with the city of Chicago in the foreground. For the best view I would recommend sitting along the first base line and walking back our to the concourse as and when the sunsets. Have a look at the third photo in the first Chicago subset of photos for the evidence. That with a beer is just perfect!
Our time in Chicago was a brilliant one and one only enhanced by Ben's phenomenal discovery of the Midwest's greatest breakfast joint- Yolk. Wow.
During our time in the Windy City, we took in an open top bus tour (classic Brits abroad tourist move) but what a great way to see the Chicago in all its finest. Trump Tower, Soldier Field- Home of the Chicago Bears, Millennium Park we saw it all.
After struggling through Manchester United vs Hull at Milwaukee airport and seemingly a much longer flight than just the hour we were airborne, we touched down in St.Louis. Unsure really what to expect given the recent political events of the tragic shooting of Micheal Brown in the neighbouring district of Ferguson, we set about on the town.
St Louis was exceptionally welcoming, clean and a pleasure to visit. Given the fact the city had recently lost their beloved Rams to Los Angeles, the vibe of it being a sports town was incredibly strong. After checking in at our hotel in central St Louis, was strolled down the hot streets to Busch Stadium. One of the supposed great ballparks of America. And we weren't let down.
What greets you when you walk into Busch Stadium can only be described as male heaven on earth. Its a complex with cinema sized screens beaming out ESPN with neighbouring screen showing every live game of baseball currently on (These screens are on the disappointing 100"). Neighbouring the screens are countless bars, nacho joints, burger joints, wing joints and a DJ pumping out the latest chart music.
This is really sport done right.
Before each game the Cardinals game day hosts give out free beer tokens to the fans which had travelled the furthest. Safe to say that no one rivalled Surrey or Gloucestershire. Free beer for the Bases. Go on the boys!
Over the course of the next 16 hours we managed to take in 2 games between the Oakland Athletics and the St. Louis Cardinals. The first of which was Saturday night behind home plate, something seriously special and the second, up in the bleachers kicking back in the sun reflecting on a tough few days of drinking.
Late Sunday afternoon we flew back from St Louis to Chicago, where we kid you not. We witnessed the worlds longest nose bleed. Shout out to the poor lad sat next to Ben, who despite losing what can only be described as a pint of blood, had his rather pushy mother insist that he did his Math homework. Keep it real kid. We hope your crimson is now topped up again.
I have never ever been to a place with such low expectation and left having had so much fun than was the case in Milwaukee. When we told people at home where we going; Chicago & St Louis - OK, big sports towns, good bars etc. But Milwaukee? Why on earth when two twenty somethings ever want to go there from the UK. But my god, what a place.
So we arrived via the train (brilliant experience) and checked in at the Hyatt in the town centre. It just so happened that there was a German wedding on and half the contents of the train were here for that, not the Brewers game (who knew?). With the sun shining and the afternoon ahead of us, we both knew there was only one thing to do. Head to the bar. Where's best? After a quick google we had it. The destination? Kelly's Bleachers.
Fast forward 4 hours, 8 pints and $20 down becoming local legends on the juke box courtesy of Oasis, The Courteeners, The Stone Roses, Blur and every other typical British indie band we were ready for the game.
We had some how managed to wangle onto the end of some poor group of girls tailgate party which was good fun (even if it did cost us a couple crates of Bud Lite).
The game was fantastic, Jordy Mercer hit a grand slam, we drunk lots of beer and thats about all we can remember. Thats about all we can remember from our time in Milwaukee. We met up with said tailgate girls after the game and headed into Milwaukee for a night out. Lots of beer, lots of laughing and a very painful flight to St Louis the following day.
Thank you Waukee.
And so the Four Bases wagon rolled back into Chicago for the finale of the tour. After a Sunday night back from St.Louis we hit the sack for an early night with a bag day ahead of us on the Monday.
Monday was probably the day we were both the most looking forward to, and it didn't fail to deliver. The order of the day was a tour of Wrigley Field followed by the Chicago Cubs hosting the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Whilst on the Subway from the centre of Chicago to Wrigleyville, Joel managed to bump into one of his childhood friends, Stuart from 7,000 miles away who was in town visiting his then girlfriend. Stuart was as much of a baseball nut as us both so made for the perfect companion for sitting in a bar, talk baseball, watch the world go by and drink the local brew. Small world but a perfect Monday.
When Stuart left reluctantly to meet his girlfriend after work, we both set out for our tour of America's oldest ballpark. I can honestly not put it into words, just how good the tour was and if you ever get the chance to take it whilst in town. YOU MUST.
Our last evening of the trip was spent in the centre field bleachers watching Jake Arrieta pitch the Cubs to a win over a divisional rival en route to their first World Series win in over 100 years. What a perfect ending.