12:01 a.m. CDT, April 9, 2010
Opening day at the ballpark. Father and child. The special memories will last a lifetime.
Unfortunately, so will the memory related to me by a fellow lifelong White Sox fan, Dr. Paul Nemeth.
He took his 6-year-old son to Sox Park on Opening Day to see Mark Buehrle pitch and defeat the Cleveland Indians.
This was an Opening Day that Nemeth and his son will never forget. Ever.
"I guess I'm just an old-fashioned kind of guy," said Nemeth, who at 45 isn't exactly a geezer.
Nemeth was born and raised in Sox country, near Archer Avenue and Midway Airport. As an emergency room doctor, he works a lot of hours. But he took a day off from the hospital and they sat in the upper deck, above third base, in Section 544.
They were having a great time. Who wouldn't? He's always loved the Sox and his son loves the Sox too, as would any good, properly raised child.
"He knows all the players' names," said Nemeth. "He can really follow the action now."
And that's the problem. The action.
One thing about taking little boys to the game is that little boys have to go to the restroom at the wrong time. When my sons were that age, every time they had to go, Frank Thomas or Paulie Konerko would hit a home run.
On Monday, Nemeth's son had to go, and his father took him to the nearest restroom. They stood in line for the first urinal next to a row of stalls.
As they waited, Nemeth said, he noticed noises coming from the last stall. A man's legs — clad in blue jeans and sneakers — were sticking out from under the stall door.
"The toes were pointing up," said Nemeth. "The legs were shaking and quivering. From a visual standpoint, all you had to see was the legs quivering to know something was going on."
As a trained physician, he had an idea what was happening in there, but he worried it might have been something else.
"It was bizarre. It caught the attention of a lot of people. I tried to turn my boy's attention away from it, then I thought, ‘Is someone having a seizure?'
"So I kicked the door, just to get a reaction. I just wanted to make sure nobody was dying in there. That's when I heard a woman's voice yell, ‘HEY, STOP!' Something was going on and I had interrupted."
Moments later, the stall door opened, and a tall, thin, blond man exited. The tall man held his arms up in triumph.
"His arms were straight up, like in victory," Nemeth said. "Everybody was hooting and hollering and giving high-fives."
Then a second person left the stall, someone Nemeth described as apparently female, "scurrying" out of the restroom with a shirt or coat over her head.
"It was disgusting. Probably the most disgusting thing was the encouragement this guy received from the other guys in the bathroom. You can't even go to a baseball game anymore without being subjected to this?"
His son began asking questions. Nemeth told him not to worry about it. They finished their business and got out of there.
He went up to a Sox employee and told her about it. By then, the offending couple were long gone.
"I know that the White Sox have no control of it," Nemeth said. "There's nothing they can do. You can't have security outside each stall."
Perhaps not outside every stall. But they'll have security — off-duty cops — watching every restroom. Bet on it.
That's because two big-time Sox fans, guys who can actually name great players of the past, read the Tribune and won't let it happen again. Their names are Mayor Richard Daley and Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf.
They're parents. And so are many Sox players.
Team spokesman Scott Reifert, who is also a father, confirmed that Nemeth spoke to a fan liaison about the incident.
"We want everyone to have a good time at the ballpark, especially little kids," said Reifert. "This is a very rare incident. No one can remember the last time something like this was reported."
The Sox want to apologize and offer Nemeth a chance to bring his son to a "kids day" promotion at Sox Park.
But if the Sox gave him a choice, would he pick a fan-appreciation freebie or more security in the restrooms?
"The security, of course," he said. "Hey, I love the Sox. So do you. But it just made me angry. There were other kids in that restroom. And I never want this to happen to another father, another child."
Nemeth is still a Sox fan. And he'll do the right thing and raise his son to be a Sox fan. He won't scar the boy for life by taking him to Wrigley Field until the child is of the age of reason.
But the Nemeths will have their memories. So will the guy in the restroom stall.
"This guy will talk about this experience for the rest of his life," said Nemeth, sarcastically. "How he did it in the bathroom at a Sox game. What a man."
The guy in the stall isn't a man. He's protoplasm in a T-shirt, smelling of beer.
And I doubt that he's a dad.
Click to view image: 'cc87ee9ea334-baby3.jpg'
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