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Friday, October 18

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Airbags

Q. Who were Wrigley and Comiskey and what were their legacies?

Last week I gave a brief introduction to the Wrigley family which was followed by some great comments from people filling in a few of the remaining blanks. This week I hope to do the same for the Comiskeys and the Chicago White Sox. Thanks again to Naz for submitting the question.

Charles A. Comiskey was the son of a Chicago alderman, and he first made his name in baseball as the first baseman and owner-manager of the St. Louis Browns of the American Association from 1882-1894. Near the end of the decade, Comiskey became involved in the birth and development of the American League, and, in January 1900, Comiskey brought his franchise to Chicago to be a part of the newly formed League. Known then as the White Stockings, the team played the first ever game of the American League on April 21, 1900 at their ballpark at 39th and Wentworth, on the grounds of the old Chicago Cricket Club. The White Stockings went on to win the first American League pennant that season.

In 1909 the White Sox got a new ballpark when Charles Comiskey purchased a lot on the corner of 35th and Shields. Architect Zachary Taylor Davis designed the stadium offically named White Sox Park. Davis would go on to design Wrigley Field a few years later. At the time, the new ballpark was the largest in baseball with a planned seating capacity of 35,000. White Sox Park was renamed Comiskey Park around 1913.

Charles Comiskey's name will forever be associated with the Black Sox scandal of 1919 in the which eight members of the White Sox agreed to lose the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds in return for payments from gamblers. Eddie Cicotte, Arnold Gandil, Charles Risberg, Oscar Felsch, Fred McMullin, Claude Williams, George Weaver and Joseph Jefferson "Shoeless Joe" Jackson were all indicted in the scandal. Some believe it was Comiskey's notorious penury that provided the motivation for the players to fix the Series because Comiskey had allegedly underpaid them for years. However, when the men were formally charged with conspiracy in 1921, Comiskey paid for their defense (though perhaps not for altruistic reasons). Although the players were acquitted by the jury, all eight Black Sox were banned from baseball for life.

Despite the Black Sox scandal, Charles Comiskey was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939, eight years after his death in 1931, in recognition of his role in building the American League.

After Charles Comiskey's death, J. Louis Comiskey replaced his father as the head of the White Sox organization until his own death in 1939. Ownership of the team then passed to Louis Comiskey's wife, Grace, who is notable as the first woman to lead a baseball team in the history of the American League. Grace Comiskey served as the team's president until her death in 1956, upon which ownership of the club passed to the next generation of Comiskeys -- her daughter, Dorothy Comiskey Rigney, and son, Charles Comiskey, Jr.

Dorothy Rigney, who was given the controlling interest in the White Sox, sold her share of the team in 1959 Bill Veeck for a reported $2.7 million. Charles Jr. strongly objected to the sale, and tried unsuccessfully in court to prevent Veeck from buying the team. After two years of bitter dispute, Charles Comiskey Jr. severed the final Comiskey ties to the White Sox when he sold his 46 percent holdings to a group of investors in 1961.

Finally, skipping ahead to 1986, the Illinois General Assembly passed the funding legislation that year to build a new ballpark for the White Sox. Ground for the new stadium was broken in May of 1989 on 35th Street, just across the street from the old stadium. At the time of its demolition in 1991, Comiskey Park was the oldest ballpark in the major leagues.

Obviously, by focusing on the Comiskey family, I omitted much of the team history. Feel free to fill in the blanks below or share your memories of old Comiskey Park.

Bibliography for parts 1 & 2

Golenbock, Peter. Wrigleyville: A Magical History Tour of the Cubs. New York: St. Martins Press, 1996.

Hartel, William. A Day at the Park: In Celebration of Wrigley Field. Rock Island, IL: Quality Sports Publications, 1994.

White, G. Edward. Creating the National Pastime: Baseball Transforms Itself, 1903-1953. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996.

Whittingham, Richard. White Sox: The Illustrated Story. Coal Valley, IL: Quality Sports Publications, 1997.

Ask me a question. Now. Don't make me come over there. Send your questions to librarian@gapersblock.com and it may be featured in a future column.

Next week: The answer to a 'shocking' question & measuring a Chicago mile.

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Comments

Naz / September 25, 2003 12:31 AM

The White Stockings! Awesome.

Andrew / September 25, 2003 3:03 PM

I have a brick from the original Comiskey Park, which I retrieved by sneaking under the fence after a night game in the new Comiskey. It currently holds my bedroom door open.

Joseph J. Finn / September 25, 2003 3:08 PM

Old Comisky was also briefly known as White Sox Park for a period in the late 60's (I can't rememebr exactly when), but it didn't take.

Alice / September 25, 2003 3:43 PM

Yes, the White Sox Park name made a comeback between 1962-1975.

Also, when the park first opened, it was very briefly referred to as "Charles Comiskey’s
Baseball Palace" or, alternatively, "The Baseball Palace of the World."

Fun stuff.

Andrew / September 25, 2003 3:45 PM

I love that the US Cellular Field has been dubbed "The Cell." The perfect kiss-off to the terrible, generic name.

Hollie / September 25, 2003 5:59 PM

Go White Sox! One thing about the Black Sox Scandal: The players agreed to throw a couple games of the 1919 World Series, not the whole Series as mentioned.

In 1919, the World Series was a nine game series and the players "agreed" to throw the first couple/few games knowing they could come back to win the whole thing. The gamblers never paid the players their share, so in turn the White Sox won a couple games. After about game five, the gamblers "pursuaded" a couple of the White Sox pitchers to throw the games that they had to pitch. Pursuaded meaning threatened them and their families and so forth. By then, the Cincinatti Red Stockings won the Series. The only people who saw any money was the White Sox starting pitcher for game one and the gamblers.

Hope I don't come off like I am splitting hairs..."Shoeless" Joe Jackson belongs in the Hall of Fame!!...Go Go White Sox!!

Cinnamon / September 25, 2003 8:25 PM

Why was Joe Jackson "shoeless"? Seriously, I'm curious. One of the things I keep meaning to look up.

Alice / September 26, 2003 9:24 AM

According to the "official website," Shoeless Joe got his nickname "after playing a minor league game in his stockings because a new pair of spikes had given him blisters on his feet the previous day."

Cinnamon / September 30, 2003 5:09 PM

Thanks, Alice.

 

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