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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

A Comiskey Speaks!

To many fans, the name change of Comiskey is not something to get emotional about.  If the team or ballpark is improved, what is the big deal?  Charles Comiskey historically is controversial to say the least, and some blame him for creating the atmosphere that fostered the 1919 Black Sox Scandal.  Others think any criticism is just another way to lash out at Jerry Reinsdorf.  But to Maureen Comiskey, who was born and raised in Bridgeport, the name represents a strong sense of history and honor that still has a place in Chicago. 

The Old Roman was Ms. Comiskey’s great uncle.  She was raised to take pride in the name and its prominent place in Chicago.  Along with having the family ties, Ms. Comiskey grew up as a devoted Sox fan.  As a little girl she sat on Harry Caray’s knee when he was out in the center field bleachers.  Her brothers served as batboys, the family had pictures of Comiskey Park in their home and were season ticket holders. She said Tom Egan, Sox catcher during the early ‘70’s, who had one roof top home run at Comiskey, taught her how to pitch.   One of her first reactions to the name selling?  “They can’t be that hard up for money,” she said with disgust.

Ms. Comiskey strongly feels that the historical tie between the Comiskey family and Chicago did not die with her great uncle.  Her family is still alive, she said and to her, the Comiskey name means baseball, Chicago baseball.

“We’re angry that we got pushed aside,” Comiskey said, describing her family’s feelings.  “They sold out to the corporate side.  What has happened to old-fashioned baseball?

“The name meant so much,” she said.  “That is who I was.  I feel so cold.  We’re not whining.  I can handle what comes in the 21st century.  But baseball isn’t supposed to do this.”

In addition to being a lifelong White Sox fan and having a famous name, Maureen Comiskey has been blind since birth.  Although other sports have been described to her in detail, baseball is the one sport she feels she can truly experience. 

“You can hear the pitch,” she said.  “It is a slower moving game, and it is easier to keep track of.  I can be doing 1000 things and listen to a game and understand what is going on.”

However, the name change has changed other things such as her enthusiasm for attending White Sox games.  She is also miffed at the some of the media reaction to naming the park U.S. Cellular Field.

“He doesn’t know, he doesn’t have the right to speculate,” Comiskey said in reference to Chicago Tribune columnist Mike Downey writing that Charles Comiskey would give a “thumbs up” to the deal.  “I do know that our family wouldn’t sell his name.”

Comiskey was also miffed at and puzzled by Chicago Sun-Times reporter Greg Couch.  Couch had written that U.S. Cellular obtaining the naming rights was actually saving the Comiskey name.  A true perplexed look came over her face when that statement was read to her.

“I don’t get that,” she said exasperated.  “What does that mean?”

Comiskey is also upset the name change will take place before the 2003 All-Star game.  However, in the end, losing a bit of the past is the biggest issue for her.

“You can’t accept this with no emotion,” she said.  “You don’t want to think of this as just a business because of the history.  When did it begin?”

Editor's Note:  Dan Helpingstine is a free lance writer living in Highland, Indiana.  In the early 80's, he worked as a stringer for The Times, then based in Hammond, Indiana, covering business-labor news.  For six years, he worked as a part-time sportswriter for the Merrillville Herald, a weekly that was a part of a chain of weeklies in Lake and Porter Counties.  He covered high school football and basketball.  In 1995, Helpingstine had a short story published in a murder mystery anthology entitled Murder Is My Business.  He also has had articles on the JFK murder published in the Post-Tribune of Gary.  His new book is titled "Through Hope and Despair."  It is the story of one fan's roller coaster ride with the luckless White Sox.

More features from Dan Helpingstine here!

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