Comiskey Park

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This article is about the original Comiskey Park. For the current stadium that carried this name, see U.S. Cellular Field.
Comiskey Park
"The Baseball Palace of the World"
Old Comiskey
White Sox Park
Cominskey Park in 1990
Former names White Sox Park
(1910–1912, 1962–1975)
Location 324 West 35th Street
Chicago, Illinois
Coordinates 41°49′54″N 87°38′1″W / 41.83167°N 87.63361°W / 41.83167; -87.63361Coordinates: 41°49′54″N 87°38′1″W / 41.83167°N 87.63361°W / 41.83167; -87.63361
Owner Chicago White Sox
Operator Chicago White Sox
Capacity 28,000 (1910–1926)
52,000 (1927–1937)
50,000 (1938)
51,000 (1939)
50,000 (1940–1946)
47,400 (1947–1953)
46,550 (1954–1972)
44,492 (1973–1982)
43,695 (1983–1985)
44,087 (1986–1987)
43,931 (1988–1989)
43,951 (1990)
Record attendance 55,555 (largest)
May 20, 1973
White Sox vs. Minnesota
511 (smallest)
May 6, 1971
White Sox vs. Boston
Field size (1910)
Foul lines – 363 ft (111 m)
Power alleys – 382 ft (116 m)
Center field – 420 ft (128 m)
Backstop – 98 ft (30 m)
(1986)
Foul lines – 347 ft (106 m)
Power alleys – 382 ft (116 m)
Center Field – 409 ft (125 m)
Backstop – 86 ft (26 m)
Surface Natural grass
AstroTurf infield (1969–1975)
Construction
Broke ground 1910
Opened July 1, 1910
Closed September 30, 1990
Demolished 1991
Construction cost $750,000
($19 million in 2014 dollars[1])
Architect Zachary Taylor Davis
Osborn Engineering
General contractor George W. Jackson[2]
Tenants
Chicago White Sox (MLB) (1910–1990)
Chicago Cardinals (NFL) (1922–1925), (1929–1958)
Chicago Bulls (AFL) (1926)
Chicago American Giants (NAL) (1941–1952)
Card-Pitt (NFL) (1944)
Chicago Mustangs (NASL) (1967-1968)
Chicago Sting (NASL) (1980–1985)

Comiskey Park was a ballpark in Chicago, Illinois, the home of the Chicago White Sox from 1910 through 1990. Located at 35th Street & Shields Avenue, it was built by team owner Charles Comiskey and designed by Zachary Taylor Davis. It was the site of four World Series (one of which was played by the Chicago Cubs because of a lack of seating at Wrigley Field) and more than 6,000 major league games. The field was also the site of the 1937 heavyweight title match in which Joe Louis defeated then champion James J. Braddock in eight rounds.

For a number of years, off and on, the Chicago Cardinals of the NFL called Comiskey Park home when they weren't playing at Normal Park or Soldier Field. The 1947 NFL Championship Game was held at Comiskey, the last league title for the franchise, now in Arizona.

The successor to Comiskey Park opened in 1991, across 35th Street and south of the 1910 ballpark. The new stadium was renamed U.S. Cellular Field in 2003. The original Comiskey Park is now sometimes referred to as "Old Comiskey Park."

Early years[edit]

The park was built on a former city dump that Comiskey bought in 1909 to replace the wooden South Side Park. It was originally built as White Sox Park, but within three years was renamed for White Sox founder and owner Charles Comiskey. The original name, White Sox Park, was restored in 1962, but it went back to the Comiskey Park name in 1976.[3]

Comiskey Park was very modern for its time. It was the third concrete-and-steel stadium in the major leagues to be built since 1909. As originally built, it sat almost 32,000, a record at the time. Briefly, it retained the nickname "The Baseball Palace of the World."

The park's design was strongly influenced by Sox pitcher Ed Walsh, and was known for its pitcher-friendly proportions (362 feet to the foul poles; 420 feet to center field). Later changes were made, but the park remained more or less favorable to defensive teams. For many years this reflected on the White Sox style of play: solid defense, and short, quick hits. The park was unusual in that no player ever hit 100 home runs there: Carlton Fisk set the record with 94.[4]

The first game in Comiskey Park was a 2-0 loss to the St. Louis Browns on July 1, 1910. The last game at Comiskey was a win, 2-1, over the Seattle Mariners on September 30, 1990. The White Sox won their first-ever home night game, over St. Louis on August 14, 1939, 5-2. The first no-hitter at Comiskey Park was hurled by Vern Kennedy on August 31, 1935, in a 5-0 win over Cleveland.

Special baseball events[edit]

World Series[edit]

Comiskey Park was the site of four World Series. In 1917, the Chicago White Sox won games 1, 2 and 5 at Comiskey Park and went on to defeat the New York Giants four games to two. In 1918, Comiskey Park hosted the World Series between the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox. The Cubs borrowed Comiskey Park for the series because of its larger seating capacity. The Red Sox defeated the Cubs four games to two. Games one, two and three were played at Comiskey Park. The Red Sox won games one and three. Attendance was under capacity in that war year. The best crowd was game 3, with some 27,000 patrons. Following the 1918 Series, all three teams went on extremely long championship droughts; the Red Sox ended an 86-year drought by winning in 2004, while the White Sox ended an 88-year drought the following year. As of 2013 the Cubs have not won the World Series, and unlike their crosstown rivals have gone nearly seventy years since appearing in the Series (their last appearance was in 1945).

In 1919, the White Sox lost the infamous "Black Sox" World Series to the Cincinnati Reds, five games to three in a nine-game series. Games three, four, five and eight were played at Comiskey Park. The White Sox won game three and lost games four, five and eight.

In 1959, the White Sox lost four games to two to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Games one, two and six were played at Comiskey Park. The White Sox won game one and lost games two and six. With their win in Game 6 at Comiskey Park, the Los Angeles Dodgers became the first West Coast team to win a World Series.

Comiskey saw its last post-season action in 1983, when the White Sox lost the American League Championship Series to the Baltimore Orioles, 3 games to 1, with games 3 and 4 being in Chicago.

All-Star Games[edit]

Outside of Old Comiskey Park, 1986

Comiskey Park was the site of three Major League Baseball All-Star Games, and each of them marked a turn in the direction of dominance by one league or the other:

  • The first-ever All-Star Game was held there in 1933. It began as a promotion by Arch Ward, sports editor of the Chicago Tribune, in connection with the 1933 Century of Progress Exposition being held on Chicago's lakefront. The Americans defeated the Nationals, helped in part by a home run by Babe Ruth, who was nearing the end of his career, but could still swing a mighty bat. The game also inaugurated a stretch when the Americans dominated, winning 12 of the first 16 (skipping 1945 because of wartime travel restrictions).
  • The park next hosted the July classic in 1950, a game unfortunately best remembered for Ted Williams' collision with the outfield wall that broke his elbow and ended his playing season. Less remembered is that it began a turnaround for the Nationals, who won the game in extra innings and started to win frequently, a trend that continued for more than three decades, building up an astounding 30 wins against only 6 losses and 1 tie (during 1959–1962, two games were held each year).
  • The 50th Anniversary All-Star Game in 1983 was held at Comiskey Park in commemoration of the first All-Star Game at that same venue. The American League's lopsided win, including the first-ever grand slam in an All-Star Game, by Fred Lynn, turned out to signal an end to the National League's crushing dominance in the mid-summer classic. During the last 8 years of the park's existence the Americans went 5-3, and they have continued to win much more often than not since then, as of 2007. Hosting a winning All-Star Game was also a good omen for the Sox, as they won their division in 1983, the first baseball title of any kind in Chicago since the Sox won the 1959 pennant.
  • Comiskey Park was the most frequent home to the Negro League East-West All-Star Game from 1933 to 1960. The Negro Leagues' All-Star Game achieved higher attendance in some years than its Major League Baseball counterpart,[5] thanks in part to Comiskey's high attendance capacity.

This coincidental connection of White Sox ballparks to significant points in All-Star history would continue at U.S. Cellular Field. Beginning with the game at the Cell in 2003, new rules awarded the winning league home field advantage in the World Series. The American League All-Stars won the 2003 All-Star Game on Chicago's South Side, and began an American winning streak that continued through 2009.

Fans[edit]

From the 1970s until its demolition in 1991, Comiskey was the oldest park still in use in Major League Baseball. Many of its known characteristics, such as the pinwheels on the "exploding" scoreboard, were installed by Bill Veeck (owner of the White Sox from 1959 to 1961, and again from 1976 to 1981). Another Veeck innovation was the "picnic area", created by replacing portions of the left field walls (the side of the field not facing the setting sun) with screens and setting up picnic tables under the seating areas. This concept was later extended to right field. During Veeck's second ownership, he installed a shower behind the speaker horns in the center field bleachers, for fans to cool off on hot summer days.

From 1960 to 1990, Sox fans were also entertained by Andy the Clown, famous for his famous Jerry Colonna-like elongated cry, "Come ooooooooooon, go! White! Sox!".

In 1965, The Beatles performed at the ballpark on Friday, August 20.[6]

Longtime Sox organist
Nancy Faust

Starting in the 1970s, Sox fans were further entertained by organist Nancy Faust who picked up on, and reinforced, the spontaneous chants of fans who were singing tunes like, "We will, we will, SOX YOU!" and the now-ubiquitous farewell to departing pitchers and ejected managers, "Na-na-na-na, na-na-na-na, hey-hey, GOOD-BYE!"

Before he became an institution on the north side with the Cubs, Sox broadcaster Harry Caray was a south side icon. At some point he started "conducting" Take Me Out to the Ball Game during the seventh-inning stretch, egged on by Veeck, who (according to Harry himself) said that the fans would sing along when they realized that none of them sang any worse than Harry did. Harry would sometimes broadcast from the center field bleachers, where he could hobnob with fans and get a suntan (or a burn).

The largest crowd ever at Old Comiskey Park was in 1973 with a crowd of 55,555 (which was 11,063 over capacity) on May 20 for a doubleheader against the Minnesota Twins, which also had the promotion of "Bat Day". By contrast, just over two years earlier, the smallest attendance at the park was recorded, with a puny number of 511 souls showing up for a game against the Boston Red Sox on Thursday, May 6, 1971.

"The Night Disco Died"[edit]

The most famous (or infamous) promotional event ever held at Old Comiskey was "Disco Demolition Night" in 1979, organized by longtime Chicago radio personality Steve Dahl and White Sox promotions manager Mike Veeck (Bill's son) on Thursday, July 12.[7][8] Between games of a make-up doubleheader between the White Sox and the Detroit Tigers, Dahl and his crew destroyed a pile of disco records that fans had brought in exchange for a ticket with a discounted price of 98¢ in honor of Dahl's station at that time, WLUP-FM, the frequency of which was 97.9 MHz (98 FM). More than 50,000 fans were in attendance, along with another 20,000 who crashed the gates even though the game was sold out.[9] The demolition tore a huge hole in center field and several thousand fans, many of them intoxicated, stormed the field, stole equipment, and destroyed the infield. The nightcap was postponed,[10] but league officials ruled it a forfeit the next day,[11] the fourth in American League history, all in the 1970s.[12]

Transitions[edit]

When Bill Veeck re-acquired the team, he took out the center field fence, reverting to the original distance to the wall (posted as 440 in the 1940s, re-measured as 445 in the 1970s) ... a tough target, but reachable by sluggers like Oscar Gamble and Richie Zisk and other members of a team that was tagged "The South Side Hit Men". They were long removed from their days as "The Hitless Wonders". During that time the ballpark also featured a lounge where one could buy mixed drinks. This prompted some writers to dub Comiskey "Chicago's Largest Outdoor Saloon".

Final years[edit]

Batting practice at Old Comiskey Park, 1986

In 1969, AstroTurf was installed in the infield and the adjacent foul territory, with the outfield and adjoining foul territory remaining as natural grass. It was the first outdoor field in the major leagues to install artificial turf.[13] After seven seasons, the artificial turf was removed prior to the 1976 season.[3][14]

During the last 8 years of its existence, Comiskey's annual attendance surpassed the 2 million mark three times, including the final season when the team contended for much of the year before losing the division title to the Oakland Athletics.

White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf received more than $200 million in public financing for the new stadium after threatening to move the club to St. Petersburg, Florida. An interesting phenomenon occurred in the Illinois state legislature, in that the Speaker (Michael Madigan) literally stopped the clock on the evening of June 30, 1988 so that the legislature could report that the money had been granted on June 30, and not July 1. The stadium now called Tropicana Field was constructed by officials in St. Petersburg in an effort to lure a Major League Baseball club to Florida. The deal was sealed in a last-minute legislative maneuver by then-governor James R. Thompson.[15]

Site of Comiskey Park as it looked in 1992

Comiskey Park was demolished in 1991, a process that started from behind the right field corner, and took all summer. The last portion to come down was the center field bleachers and the "exploding" scoreboard. The site of the old park was turned into a parking lot to serve those attending games at the new Comiskey Park (later renamed U.S. Cellular Field).

At the time Comiskey was demolished, Chicago's two baseball stadiums were a combined 157 years old.

Bill Veeck once remarked that "There is no more beautiful sight in the world than a ballpark full of people!" On its best days, Comiskey was stuffed to the gills, with 55,000 people or more lining the aisles and even standing for nine (or eighteen) innings on the sloping ramps that criss-crossed behind the scoreboard. The nearly-fully enclosed stands had a way of capturing and reverberating the noise without any artificial enhancement. As a Chicago sportswriter once remarked, "Wrigley Field yayed and Comiskey Park roared."

'Old' Comiskey's home plate is a marble plaque on the sidewalk next to U.S. Cellular Field, and the field is a parking lot. Foul lines are painted on the lot. Also, the spectator ramp across 35th Street is designed in such a way (partly curved, partly straight but angling east-northeast) that it echoes the outline of part of the old grandstand.

Shortly before the park's demolition, the ballpark was featured in the movie Only the Lonely. John Candy's character (on a first date) arranged to have a private picnic on the stadium grass under the lights with his date (Ally Sheedy). Candy referenced the stadium's impending demolition during the date.

When the Sox won the 2005 World Series, their victory parade began at U.S. Cellular Field, and then circled the block where old Comiskey had stood, before heading on a route through various south side neighborhoods and toward downtown Chicago.

Notable concerts[edit]

  • Summer Jam: Aerosmith, Foreigner, AC/DC, Mahogany Rush, and Walter Egan on August 5, 1978. The Eagles, Steve Miller Band, and Pablo Cruise on August 19, 1978.
  • The Police performed on July 23, 1983 as part of their Synchronicity Tour.
  • The Jackson 5 performed three concerts at Comiskey Park on October 12, 13 and 14, 1984 during their Victory Tour.[16]
  • Rush performed on August, 19, 1979 as part of Chicago Jam 2 concert series.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–2014. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved February 27, 2014.
  2. ^ http://www.ballparks.com/baseball/index.htm
  3. ^ a b "Bill Veeck era ready to begin". Florence (AL) Times. UPI. April 11, 1976. p. 45. 
  4. ^ http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/elias?date=20130410
  5. ^ Hayes, Marcus (1996-07-07). "Negro League Classic Was Big Event -- East-West Game Outdrew Major Leagues' All-Stars". Seattle Times. Retrieved 2008-06-22. 
  6. ^ a b "Beatlemaniacs, 56,000 of 'em, shriek and sway at Sox Park". Milwaukee Journal. August 21, 1965. p. 10. 
  7. ^ "White Sox disco bash was a bust". Victoria (TX) Advocate. Associated Press. July 13, 1989. p. 2B. 
  8. ^ "Blowup at the ballpark". Wilmington (NC) Star-News. Associated Press. July 11, 2004. p. 6C. 
  9. ^ "Disco riot". Bend (OR) Bulletin. UPI. July 13, 1979. p. 14. 
  10. ^ "Thursday night fever disrupts Comiskey Park". Tuscaloosa News. Associated Press. July 13, 1979. p. 10. 
  11. ^ "Friday's game officially a forfeit". Ludington (MI) Daily News. Associated Press. July 14, 1979. p. 8. 
  12. ^ "Riot causes Sox to forfeit". Daily Reporter (Spencer, IA). UPI. July 14, 1979. p. 7, Times Weekender. 
  13. ^ Brockmann, John (March 15, 1969). "'Artificial grass' infield set at Chicago White Sox Park". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. p. 18. 
  14. ^ "Free ripoff". Milwaukee Journal. press dispatches. March 13, 1976. p. 11. 
  15. ^ "White Sox Fill The Bill", AP Article from June 7, 1988, from the New York Times archives
  16. ^ Victory Tour (The Jacksons tour)

External links[edit]

Events and tenants
Preceded by
South Side Park
Home of the Chicago White Sox
1910–1990
Succeeded by
U.S. Cellular Field
Preceded by
Normal Park
Normal Park
Home of the Chicago Cardinals
1922–1925
1929–1959
Succeeded by
Normal Park
Soldier Field
Preceded by
First
Ebbets Field
Olympic Stadium
Host of the All-Star Game
1933
1950
1983
Succeeded by
Polo Grounds
Briggs Stadium
Candlestick Park