comiskey park chicago

Comiskey Park – Chicago’s Forgotten Gem

In April of 2016,  Wrigley Field – Home of The Chicago Cubs – celebrates its 100th year hosting Cubs games.

Meanwhile, the White Sox play at U.S. Cellular Field.

Sometimes referred to as “The Cell,”  the home of the Chicago White Sox was not necessarily a welcome change from its predecessor: Comiskey Park.

Comiskey Park was demolished and replaced by U.S. Cellular Field in 1991.

However, new doesn’t necessarily mean better, and while the park was as modern as any in baseball at the time, it lacked personality. It felt sterile and cold, and was criticized as being designed more for football than baseball.

After all, baseball parks were  supposed to give that “up close and personal” feeling, and The Cell didn’t provide that.

There were attempts to keep the Comiskey aura, using older style facades and even relocating the trademark “exploding score board” to the new park.

But many traditionalists scoffed at the efforts and vowed to avoid The New Comiskey.

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The “Old” Comiskey: Baseball Palace of the World

The White Sox began playing baseball in Chicago at the turn of the 20th century.

The team was purchased by Charles Comiskey in 1894, and he decided to move them to Chicago for the 1900 season.

The White Sox took up residence at The South Side Grounds, a small park located roughly for blocks south of today’s location.

After playing there at South Side for nine years, Comiskey wanted to capitalize on his team’s success by building a new (and much larger) park.

He traded the minor capacity of the South Side Grounds (roughly 15,000 people) for the much grander digs of Comiskey Park (capacity: 32,000 people at its completion).

Upon its completion in June of 1910, Comiskey was dubbed “The Baseball Palace of the World.”

During its lifespan, the venue would be expanded only once, in 1927. The expansion added double-decker grandstands and increased Comiskey’s seating capacity to a staggering 52,000.

Saying Goodbye to a Classic Baseball Venue

While changes had taken place over the years, two of the most notable came after Bill Veeck bought the team in 1959.

For starts, the outfield picnic areas and the aforementioned exploding scoreboard were added.

By the 1980’s, it was becoming apparent that pumping money into the old park was no longer a viable option.

The owners at this time (Jerry Reinsdorf and Eddie Einhorn) had spent millions of dollars in renovations, but Comiskey was the oldest park in use at the time.

Many in-depth studies of the structure concluded that too much needed to be done for continued renovation to make financial sense.

Facing some substantial obstacles to getting another park built, the White Sox began to threaten to move the team out of Chicago and into Florida if some sort of accommodation wasn’t made.

Ultimately, an agreement was reached, and a deal struck to build a “new” Comiskey Park on a piece of property adjoining the old park.

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September 30, 1990, the book was closed on the old Comiskey, with all of baseball saying goodbye to a classic baseball venue.

Time Marches On

While some Chicago baseball fans had a difficult time saying goodbye to the old Comiskey Park, you can’t say that its demise was more significant than other stadium closures – most notably the “old” Yankee Stadium or The House That Ruth Built.

But time marches on.  Still, the thing about the old Comiskey is that it wasn’t appreciated for what it was: a classic old ballpark steeped in baseball history.

Maybe it wasn’t as glamorous as its cross-town competitor Wrigley Field, but it has certainly become Chicago’s forgotten gem.

Top Photo Credit: Ken Lund

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Dale Schahczinski
Goal driven team leader, with industry experience spanning all aspects of operations and administration.