Comiskey Park
"The Baseball Palace of the World"
Old Comiskey Park
White Sox Park
Comiskey Park in 1990, its final season
Map
Former namesWhite Sox Park
(1910–1912, 1962–1975)
Location324 West 35th Street
Chicago, Illinois
Coordinates41°49′54″N 87°38′03″W / 41.83167°N 87.63417°W / 41.83167; -87.63417
OwnerChicago White Sox
OperatorChicago White Sox
Capacity28,000 (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 attendance55,555 (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)
SurfaceNatural grass
AstroTurf infield (1969–1975)
Construction
Broke ground1910
OpenedJuly 1, 1910[1][2][3][4]
ClosedSeptember 30, 1990[5]
Demolished1991
Construction costUS$750,000
($24.5 million in 2023 [6])
ArchitectZachary Taylor Davis
Osborn Engineering
General contractorGeorge W. Jackson[7]
Tenants
Chicago White Sox (MLB) (1910–1990)
Chicago Cardinals (NFL) (1922–1925, 1929–1930, 1940–1958)
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 baseball park in Chicago, Illinois, located in the Armour Square neighborhood on the near-southwest side of the city. The stadium served as the home of the Chicago White Sox of the American League from 1910 through 1990. Built by White Sox owner Charles Comiskey and designed by Zachary Taylor Davis, Comiskey Park hosted four World Series and more than 6,000 Major League Baseball games. The field also hosted one of the most famous boxing matches in history: Joe Louis' defeat of champion James J. Braddock, launching his 11-year run as the heavyweight champion of the world.[8][9]

The Chicago Cardinals of the National Football League also called Comiskey Park home when they were not playing at Normal Park, Soldier Field, or Wrigley Field. They won the 1947 NFL Championship Game over the Philadelphia Eagles at Comiskey Park. Much less popular than the Bears, the Cardinals had their last season at Comiskey in 1958, and they left for St. Louis in March 1960. The Chicago American Giants of the Negro American League called Comiskey Park home from 1941 to 1950.[10] The park was also home to the Chicago Mustangs and Chicago Sting of the NASL, and hosted the final edition of the original Soccer Bowl.

The park was demolished in 1991, after a new Comiskey Park stadium (later renamed U.S. Cellular Field, then Guaranteed Rate Field) opened just to the south.

Early years

Comiskey Park in 1913. The "South Side" label refers to the White Sox themselves, not the stadium.

White Sox Park was built on a former city dump that Charles Comiskey bought in 1909 to replace the wooden South Side Park. Within three years, it was renamed Comiskey Park. The original name was restored in 1962, then it changed back to Comiskey Park in 1976.[11]

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 seated 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 (110 m) to the foul poles; 420 ft (128 m) 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 hit 100 home runs there: Carlton Fisk set the record with 94.[12]

The first game in Comiskey Park was a 2–0 loss to the St. Louis Browns on July 1, 1910.[3][4] The first no-hitter at Comiskey Park was in 1911, hurled by Ed Walsh on August 27, a 5–0 win over Boston. The Sox won their first home night game, over St. Louis on August 14, 1939, 5–2.[13]

Special baseball events

World Series

Comiskey Park was the site of four World Series contests. 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 1–3 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.

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 3–1, with Games 3 and 4 in Chicago. Baltimore went on to win the World Series.

All-Star Games

Comiskey Park in 1954
Comiskey Park in 1986

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

Fans

From 1971 until its demolition in 1991, Comiskey was the oldest park still in use in Major League Baseball (it had already been the oldest in the American League since 1955). 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!"

Longtime White Sox organist Nancy Faust

Starting in the 1970s, Sox fans were further entertained by organist Nancy Faust who picked up on spontaneous chants of fans who were singing tunes like, "We will, we will, SOX YOU!" and popularized 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; Caray would take this tradition with him to the Cubs at Wrigley Field, which has continued even with Caray's death in 1998. 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 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 511 spectators attending a game against the Boston Red Sox on Thursday, May 6, 1971.

Disco Demolition Night

Main article: Disco Demolition Night

A major and oft-mentioned promotional event 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.[15][16][17] 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.[18] 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,[19] but league officials ruled it a forfeit the next day,[20] the fourth in American League history, all in the 1970s.[21] Later, some blamed Dahl; some blamed Veeck. Howard Cosell even blamed then-White Sox announcer Harry Caray, saying Caray contributed to a "carnival" atmosphere. In reality, a handful of rowdies had taken advantage of a situation for which stadium security was woefully unprepared. "I never thought that I, a stupid disc jockey, could draw 70,000 people to a disco demolition," Dahl said in a Tribune interview. "Unfortunately, some of our followers got a little carried away." That was the last anti-disco rally for WLUP. But it brought Dahl national attention and established him as a radio superstar in Chicago.[22]

Transitions

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".[23]

Final years

Batting practice in 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.[24] After seven seasons, the artificial turf was removed prior to the 1976 season.[11][25]

During its last eight years, Comiskey's annual attendance surpassed the two million mark three times, including the final season when the Sox contended for much of the year before losing the western 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 (a similar threat was later used by the San Francisco Giants until they broke ground on what would be their current ballpark in late 1997). An interesting phenomenon occurred in the Illinois state legislature, in that the Speaker (Michael Madigan) 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 (which arrived in 1998 in the form of the expansion Devil Rays), but Miami beat the Tampa Bay area to the punch when it launched the expansion Florida Marlins in 1993. The deal was sealed in a last-minute legislative maneuver by then-governor James R. Thompson.[26]

Site of Comiskey Park as it looked in 1992

On September 30, 1990, with 42,849 in paid attendance, the Chicago White Sox played the last game at Comiskey Park, defeating the Seattle Mariners 2–1 . Mayor Richard M. Daley (a lifelong White Sox fan) threw out the opening pitch, legendary Sox player Minnie Miñoso delivered the lineup card to the umpires, and well-known ball-park organist Nancy Faust played for the crowd during the final game. Also, former White Sox Vice President Charles Comiskey, grandson of the man for whom the park was named, was on hand. The final play occurred when White Sox closer Bobby Thigpen forced Mariners' second baseman Harold Reynolds to hit a grounder to second baseman Scott Fletcher, who in return threw it to first baseman Steve Lyons for the force-out.[27][28] The crowd then joined the organist by singing a final rendition of their unofficial victory song "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye".[27]

Comiskey Park was demolished in 1991; starting from behind the right field corner, the process took all summer to complete. 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, now Guaranteed Rate Field).

Comiskey Park depicted on a 1912 Sanborn map

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!"[citation needed] On its best days,[when?] Comiskey was stuffed to the gills,[further explanation needed] with 55,000 people or more lining the aisles and even standing for 9 (or 18) 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. Chicago sportswriter Alan Solomon remarked in 1988 that growing up in Chicago, "Wrigley Field yayed and Comiskey Park roared.[29]

'Old' Comiskey's home plate is a marble plaque on the sidewalk next to Guaranteed Rate 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 made a reference of 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.

Nicholson home run

On May 6, 1964, White Sox outfielder Dave Nicholson hit a home run that either bounced atop the left-field roof or entirely cleared it. The home run was officially measured at 573 feet, and is one of baseball's all-time longest.

No-hitters at Comiskey

Notable concerts

Date Artist Opening act(s) Tour / Concert name Attendance Revenue Notes
August 20, 1965 The Beatles King Curtis
Cannibal and the Headhunters
Brenda Holloway
Sounds Incorporated
1965 US tour 56,000 Two shows[32]
July 10, 1976 Aerosmith Jeff Beck
Stu Daye
Rick Derringer
Jan Hammer
Rocks Tour
August 5, 1978 Aerosmith
Foreigner
AC/DC
Mahogany Rush
Walter Egan
Summer Jam
August 19, 1978 The Eagles
Steve Miller Band
Pablo Cruise
August 5, 1979 Journey Molly Hatchet
Eddie Money
Santana
Thin Lizzy
Evolution Tour
August 18, 1979 Blondie Beach Boys
Atlanta Rhythm Section
Sha Na Na
U.S. Tour '79 This show was part of Chicago Jam.[33]
August 19, 1979 Rush Permanent Waves Tour This show was part of Chicago Jam 2 concert series.[34]
July 23, 1983 The Police Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
A Flock of Seagulls
The Fixx
Ministry
Synchronicity Tour 50,000 As soon as The Police hit the stage, they were covered in a swirl of red, yellow and blue smoke. The red, yellow and blue lighting scheme and video projections were used during the whole show.[35]
July 24, 1983 Simon and Garfunkel Summer Evening Tour
October 12, 1984 The Jacksons Victory Tour 120,000 Two shows were moved from Pittsburgh.[36]
October 13, 1984
October 14, 1984

Other events

Boxing

Soccer

Date Team No. 1 Result Team No. 2 Attendance Round
May 4, 1990  Colombia 2–1  Poland Semi-finals
Mexico Atlas 2–0  Costa Rica
May 6, 1990  Poland 2–1  Costa Rica Third place match
Mexico Atlas 0–0 (4–2 pen)  Colombia 8,783 Final

References

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Events and tenants
Preceded by Home of the Chicago White Sox
1910–1990
Succeeded by
Preceded by Home of the Chicago Cardinals
1922–1925
1929–1930
1940–1959
Succeeded by
Preceded by Host of the All-Star Game
1933
1950
1983
Succeeded by