By Mark Jacob and Stephan Benzkofer
June 23, 2013
The White Sox have had three home ballparks: South Side Park (1901-1910), the original Comiskey Park (1910-1990) and new Comiskey Park (1991-2003), since renamed U.S. Cellular Field (2003-present). Two weeks ago, we shared 10 things about Wrigley Field. Now, in Part 2, we head south to the Sox parks.
1 Comiskey Park's famous pinwheel exploding scoreboard, which was installed with great fanfare, wonder and ridicule in 1960, first erupted on May 1 of that year to celebrate Al Smith's two-run homer. But it wasn't just about the baseball. The contraption went off on July 4, 1961, to mark the birth of owner Bill Veeck's daughter Juliana. The sudden ruckus that afternoon must have startled the neighbors; the Sox were on the road.
2 Chicago teams have won the World Series five times, but only once have they wrapped up victory at home — and that was unavoidable since it was a Chicago-vs.-Chicago Series. The home-field triumph occurred in 1906 when the Sox beat the Cubs at South Side Park, aka the 39th Street Grounds, at 39th and Wentworth. (The Cubs clinched the 1907 and 1908 Series at Detroit's Bennett Park. The Sox wrapped up the 1917 Series at the New York Giants' Polo Grounds and the 2005 Series at Houston's Minute Maid Park.)
3 Sox owner Charles "Old Roman" Comiskey announced in January 1910 that his ballpark would be built in time to host baseball on July 1, but a slow start and a steel strike led to a ragged opener when his Sox faced the St. Louis Browns that day. Half of the upper deck was unfinished, and the field was a mess. Sox catcher Billy Sullivan, chasing a foul ball in the fourth inning, was tripped up by the newly laid turf. Outfielders also had to play a few wayward bounces and run "as if going through tall grass," the Tribune reported. The Browns won 2-0.
4 Watching baseball from rooftops wasn't exclusive to Wrigley Field. During the 1917 World Series, hundreds of uniformed soldiers and other fans gazed at the action from the towers of the 7th Regiment armory on Wentworth Avenue.
5 The White Sox were bombed in more ways than one on May 23, 1943. On the field, the South Siders were shelled 11-0 by the Washington Senators. From the air, the team and the nearly 15,000 fans were subjected to a mock air raid for about 30 minutes when Civil Air Patrol and Navy planes bombarded them with paper bombs. Air raid wardens reported 16 direct hits, including two near home plate. The crowd reportedly got a bit irate after play was repeatedly interrupted so wardens could retrieve the "bombs." Despite a warning from federal officials the day before that citizens shouldn't pick up the "bombs," the crowd roared its approval when Mule Haas, the Sox third-base coach, "made a spectacular catch of the last bomb," the Tribune reported.
6 The original Comiskey Park saw more championship football than baseball. The White Sox won it all in 1917, but the Chicago Cardinals football team brought home titles in 1925 and 1947.
7 Consider it a blessing in disguise. When the Sox played the Boston Red Sox on Thursday, May 6, 1971, in a makeup game from a rainout the day before, the hapless Sox committed six errors and lost 10-1 in what manager Chuck Tanner called "our worst game of the year." Luckily for the team, it was also the worst-attended Sox game ever at Comiskey, with just 511 fans counted — and no word on how many stayed till the end.
8 A number of firsts occurred at the first Comiskey Park: Cleveland's Bob Feller pitched the only Opening Day no-hitter there in 1940; Joe DiMaggio's famous 56-game hitting streak started there in 1941; the first All-Star Game was played there on July 6, 1933; and the color barrier in the American League was broken there when Larry Doby pinch-hit for the Indians on July 5, 1947.
9 It's well known that fans stormed the field on "Disco Demolition Night" in 1979, but less remembered is an incident five years earlier in which thousands of spectators ran onto the playing area. On the night of June 7, 1974, a popcorn machine caught fire under the first-base grandstand, sending thick smoke into the air. About 3,000 fans fled onto the field while firefighters quelled the blaze. In those less security-conscious times, the Tribune reported that fans made "good-natured efforts to pry up the bases." And as might be expected during the mid-'70s "streaking" craze, a man was spotted running naked through the infield.
10 When the Sox announced in 2003 that Comiskey Park was being renamed U.S. Cellular Field, some fans were upset. Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf promised: "We'll do something significant to commemorate the historical significance of the Comiskey name." A statue of Charles Comiskey was unveiled the next year, but little else with the Comiskey name remains. There's a concession stand called Comiskey Dogs and a menu item titled the Comiskey Burger, a cheeseburger with Chicago hot dog toppings. There were plans to give the Comiskey name to a restaurant at Gate 5, but Comiskey lost out to another naming-rights deal: The restaurant is called Bacardi at the Park. It does, however, have a Comiskey Chopped Salad on the menu.
Mark Jacob is a Tribune deputy metro editor; Stephan Benzkofer is the newspaper's weekend editor.
SOURCES: "Green Cathedrals" by Philip Lowry; "Waite Hoyt" by William A. Cook; chicago.whitesox.mlb.com; baseballamerica.com; baseball-almanac.com; baseball-reference.com; Chicago Tribune archives.
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