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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Phoning for a Winner--not Whiners!

There is no limit to the absolute lunacy that Sox fans are subject to.  The things they become upset about know no limits.  Take for example the sale of naming rights to Comiskey Park to U.S. Cellular for $68 million over twenty years. 

Sox fans have been griping since 1995 that the upper deck is too steep.  They cite this as their number-one reason for not going to Sox home games.  Of course from 1991-94, the upper deck seats were just fine.  Then the Sox fortunes changed and the fans stayed away in droves. 

Of course they also did this in the ‘60s when the old ball park suddenly was discovered to be in a bad neighborhood, and again in the 1980s when the teams fortunes again took a turn for the worse.  The bad ballpark is just the excuse du jour for our intrepid fans. 

So The Chairman decided to do something about it.  Lower deck seats were brought closer to the field of play.  The bullpens were turned so they were parallel to the outfield fences, the concourses were renovated, and the club level concourse was made into something that no longer resembled my grandparents’ basement. 

These renovations were accomplished through club revenue in the first phase and a windfall that The Chairman managed to wangle from the Illinois Sports Stadium Authority when they became the governing body for the renovated Soldier Field in the second phase. 

But the funds to overhaul the upper deck were just not there.  This is because The Chairman had been turned down by at least one or two corporations when the naming rights to Comiskey Park were offered to them. 

Then last week The Chairman found a buyer.  U.S. Cellular, a company based in Chicago decided to ante up the bucks to change the name of Comiskey Park to U.S. Cellular Field.  The primary use of this cash, to be doled out over twenty years, will be to renovate the infamous upper deck. 

Sox fans are happy about that, right?  After all, something is finally going to be done about that eyesore, right?  Well, pal, if you answered yes, then you just don’t know your Sox fans. 

“How dare they remove the venerable name of Comiskey?” some of them cried.  The Comiskey name means baseball on the South Side!” 

That’s right.  A large group of Sox fans just can’t bear to see the Comiskey name removed from a ball park that has nothing to do with a family that has had nothing to do with ownership of the Sox for forty-four years. 

And it isn’t like someone stole the club from them.  You see, the Sox were owned by Grace Comiskey, the widow of Charles Comiskey’s son J. Louis Comiskey.  For years Grace was content to watch the Sox make her a small profit.  Her son Chuck was designated by Lou Comiskey to take over the club when he came of age.   

But Chuck was volatile when he was a young man.  At one point he even dared to leave the Sox to join the Liberty Broadcast Network, a radio network that specialized in “recreating” games.  This was a popular practice in rural areas of the country that had no access to major league games.  An announcer would read the Western Union ticker account of the game, adding his own embellishments.  Sound effects and crowd noises were used to enhance the sense of realism. 

Chuck came back, but his sins were many, including demanding a raise from the board of directors of the Sox.  Grace felt that she couldn’t trust her son to wisely manage the club, so she left the majority interest in the club to her daughter Dorothy, wife of former Sox pitcher John Rigney.  Naturally Chuck sued, but he lost due to some ambiguities in Lou’s will. 

Eventually Grace decided to sell her interest, but wanted Chuck to pay her what she felt the stock was worth.  Chuck thought that as her brother, he deserved a break on the deal.  So Dorothy offered her share of the stock to Bill Veeck who put down a deposit.  Chuck then suddenly had a change of heart, but it was too late.  Veeck would not retract his offer.  Chuck became a minority partner in the club. 

Veeck told Chuck that he would have a say in the operations of the club and then proceeded to run the club his own way.  Chuck made a last-ditch effort to buy Veeck’s stock when Veeck was forced to sell because of illness, but was blocked.  Arthur Allyn bought the Sox, and Comiskey sold him his share. 

So the Comiskey family, a family that managed to bring the Sox five pennants in just under sixty years of continuous ownership, left baseball forever.  All that was left was the name on the ball park standing at the northeast corner of 35th and Shields. 

Of course that ball park is no longer there.  The current Comiskey Park, the one that has no ties to the Comiskey family, stands on the southeast corner.  

Should Sox fans bemoan the fate of the Comiskey name?  We can only offer our own opinion.  The Comiskeys were no better or no worse than any other baseball owners.  It says something about the Old Roman’s ego that he named his ball park after himself.  Even The Chairman hasn’t done that. 

The current structure is The Chaiman’s monument, for better or worse.  If he wants to sell the naming rights, that’s fine with us – especially if the remodeling that the naming rights will fund takes away the last excuse Sox fans have for not going to games. 

Of course, knowing Sox fans, they still won’t go to games, and the reason they’ll cite is that they don’t like the new name.


Editor's Note: Hal Vickery has been a White Sox fan since 1955 when he was five years old. For much of that time he also had a secondary rooting interest in the Cubs, which he has shown the good sense to abandon. When not cheering for or writing about the Sox, Hal teachers chemistry and physics at North Boone High School, in Poplar Grove, IL. Hal commutes there daily from Joliet, where he lives with his wife Lee, and their dog, Buster T. Beagle. Hal's opinions are not necessarily those of North Boone High School, his wife, or Buster T. Beagle. You can write Hal at nsmf@aol.com.

More features from Hal Vickery here!

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Phoning for a Winner--not Whiners?

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