If you ask James Duda where he’s been during every White Sox home game since 2014, he can tell you immediately: He was in the stands, cheering on his team.
That’s where he was Sunday — the first home game in the best-of-five series against the Houston Astros — and Duda’s 588th straight home game.
If the average baseball game lasts three hours, Duda has spent roughly 74 days since 2014 in Guaranteed Rate Field. “I don’t think about it as time; it’s a lifestyle,” he said.
Lines of fans decked out in black wrapped around the sold-out stadium, each hoping to see the Sox rally from a 2-0 deficit to the Astros.
This season is the “fruits of the rebuild,” Duda said. “It’s time to win.”
“The streak,” as he refers to it, originated when Duda’s now-wife said, “We’re going to a lot of games, why don’t we just go to all of them?”
A season ticket holder since 2005, Duda is also the founder of a popular Sox fans Facebook group, Chicago White Sox Pride and Passion, that boasts more than 21,600 members.
Duda, a door attendant for a building in Lincoln Park, arranges his work schedule so he can make every single Sox home game. Of course, there have been a few close calls — including a delayed flight from a road game, and the death of his cousin. He also doesn’t count 2020 as a factor in the streak.
“If they would have allowed us in the stadium, I would have been there,” he said.
Duda’s fandom began at an early age even though his family didn’t have money to go to many games. Growing up in Albany Park on the Northwest Side, he would watch the Sox on TV with his father.
“The North and South Side thing never meant anything to me,” he said.
“Baseball was always my sport,” he said. “And the Sox were always my team. So that was kind of how it started.”
But when Duda first got season tickets in 2005 — the year the Sox won the World Series, of course — he was working the night shift and couldn’t make all of the home games.
In 2007 he met his wife, Amber, who didn’t start out as a huge baseball fan.
“We met through mutual friends in the offseason,” Duda said, laughing.
Once baseball season rolled around, the pair began going to games together and connected over their shared distaste for Cubs fans.
They got married in August of 2011. “We made it on a Sox road game,” he said. “So we didn’t miss any home games!”
And then they flew to Baltimore the next day for an away series.
After Amber Duda proposed going to every game, he began making goals. “My first goal was to see the White Sox play a road game in each ballpark,” he said.
“That’s kind of what we did throughout that whole decade. It was 90-plus games pretty much every year,” he said.
The next goal was to attend 100 games in a season, both home and away. That was accomplished in 2011.
“I’ve done that about six times since, from 2011 on,” Duda said.
Then with 2014 came the big goal, the one that would turn an innocent question asked by his wife into a lifestyle.
“So my whole schedule revolved around (it) ... the last home game I missed was Aug. 14, 2013. ... I couldn’t go to that one because of work,” he said.
By this time, Duda and his wife had been to every stadium, so they emphasized road games less, while focusing on attending home games.
In fact, one road game weekend in New York in 2017 almost cost Duda his streak.
Duda and his wife were flying home on a Sunday after an away game when his daytime flight got delayed until 5 p.m. — and there was a home game that night.
“I was just posting on Facebook, I was kind of blowing it off, I was like, ‘Well I guess the streak ends here,’” he said. The couple got into O’Hare International Airport around 6:30 p.m.
“My wife looks at me and she’s like ‘You’re not missing the game,’‘’ he said. “She’s like, ‘I’m driving you right to the game.’”
He made it. Later that year, he said he also hit a personal milestone — attending 121 home and away games.
While he clearly is a superfan, Duda, who created his Facebook group in 2015, wants to see positive and negative feedback about the team and the organization.
“I wanted (the Facebook group) to be very large, I wanted to get the pulse of the fan base. I did not want the White Sox, this big business, this corporate business that we’re following, to push us around,” he said.
“I’ve met a lot of people, sometimes it gets a little annoying, like, I’ll be at the game, and there will just be random people. They come up and I don’t even know who they are. They say, ‘Hey, James,’ because they see me and people post memes with me on the page and stuff. So they recognize my face, and I’m like, ‘Who the hell are you?’” he laughed. “But I don’t mind, and it is nice because you get to know people.”
Between the posters on the Facebook group and the season ticket holders, Duda and other fans have built a strong community.
“Let’s face it, we don’t have as many fans as some of the other teams, like the Cubs,” he said. “So it’s kind of like everybody knows everybody.”
Earlier this year, a rain delay allowed him to avoid a hard choice when a close cousin’s funeral service was scheduled during a home game. He was able to stay for the whole service and still make the game.
“Would I have missed the game for the service?” he said. “No, I wouldn’t have. ... Jeremy wouldn’t want me to miss the game.”