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Capacity: 43,951
U.S. Cellular Field (a.k.a.) Comiskey Park

 

General Information

Area of fair territory: 110,000 sq. ft.

Area of foul territory: Average

Fences: 8 ft.

Elevation: 595 feet

 

Foul poles: 347 ft.

Power Alleys: 382 ft.

CF: 440 ft.

 

Who Played Here: Chicago White Sox
First Opened: July 1, 1910
First night game: August 14, 1939
Last game: September 30, 1990
Demolished: 1991
Surface: Grass (1910); infield artificial (1969); infield grass (1976).
Capacity: 32,000 (1910); 52,000 (1927).

Architect: Zachary Taylor Davis; Osborn Engineering (1910)
Construction: George W. Jackson
Owner: Chicago White Sox
Cost: $750,000

Opening Day - July 1, 1910.

 

 

History

     Comiskey Park opened on July 1, 1910, for major league baseball.  White Sox owner Charles Comiskey wanted to build a modern stadium to replace South Side Park, which had become obsolete ever since Shibe Park ushered in the era of concrete-and-steel classic ballparks.  Legendary Hall of Fame pitcher Big Ed Walsh helped with the design of the park, and helped turn it into a pitcher's haven.  The outfield dimensions were healthy - 382 to the power alleys, 363 to the foul poles - but not so long as allow long ground balls to roll into distant crevices for extra base hits.  This issue made parks like Old Fenway Park (the pre-1934 version) and League Park favorable to run production, even though they suppressed home runs.  The backstop was also placed a long way back of home plate, allowing lots of pop ups to land safely in the catcher's mitt in foul territory.  As if the dimensions weren't tough enough on hitters, the grass was generally kept long to slow down rollers headed for the outfield.

     Ground was broken on February 10, 1910 and the White Sox played their first game there on July 1 that year - that says more about the high quality of manual labor back in 1910 than it does about the quality of construction.  In their first game, the White Sox lost to the St. Louis Browns (now the Baltimore Orioles), 2-0.

     In the winter of 1926-27, the wooden bleachers were replaced with concrete and steel and double-decked, and the pavilions from left around home plate to right were double-decked. The scoreboard was moved from center-field to two locations on the left field and right field walls and uncovered single-deck bleachers were added in center field.  In 1947 the center-field bleachers were eliminated to improve batters’ visibility and in 1950, the bullpens were moved from foul territory down the lines to behind the center-field fence.  Bill Veeck installed the first exploding scoreboard in the majors, high above the bleachers in center for the 1960 season.  In 1982, when the DiamondVision board replaced the original, the pinwheels were retained.  During Comiskey's eighty years of existence, 72,801,381 fans paid to see games there.  Before old Comiskey Park was demolished in 1991, the infield dirt was moved to new Comiskey Park.

     In it's original configuration, the park consisted of a covered double-decked grandstand that curved around home plate and extended along the foul lines about thirty feet.  Two roofed single-decked pavilions continued down the foul lines, detached from the grandstand. Wooden bleachers surrounded the outfield, except for center field, where the scoreboard was.

 

Groundskeeping games: The park was the scene of many masterful groundskeeping tricks by Roger, Gene, and Emil Bossard.  For instance, in 1967, manager Eddie Stanky had the grass in front of shortstop cut long because his shortstop had limited range; but at second base the grass was cut short because the Sox second baseman had very good range.  Fans referred to the area in front of home plate as "Camp Swampy" that year because it was dug up and soaked with water when White Sox sinkerball pitchers were on the mound - guys like Gary Peters, Joe Horlen, Hoyt Wilhelm and Tommy John.  However, the dirt was mixed with clay and gasoline and burned to provide hard soil if a sinkerballer was pitching for the visiting team.

     Opposing team bullpen mounds were lowered or raised from the standard 10-inch height to upset visiting pitchers’ rhythm.  When the Sox had a lousy defensive outfield, the grass was cut long to turn triples into doubles.  When the Sox had speedy line drive hitters, the outfield grass was cut short to turn singles into doubles.  When the Sox had good bunters, more paint was added to the foul line in order to tilt the ball back fair.

 

 

Analysis

 

     The White Sox have boasted a great many pitchers who were standouts.  Hall of Famers  Ted Lyons, Ed Walsh and Red Faber pitched their whole careers here, and Tommy John and Hoyt Wilhelm both spent significant portions of their careers with the White Sox.  Walsh (1907 and 1910), Eddie Cicotte (1917), Lyons (1942), Faber (1921 and 1922), Thornton Lee (1941), Billy Pierce (1955), Frank Baumann (1960), Joe Horlen (1967) and Gary Peters (1963 and 1966) won ERA titles while with the White Sox, and Early Wynn and LaMarr Hoyt both won Cy Young awards as members of this franchise.  Before the 1919 scandal, the team boasted a terrific pitching staff, including Eddie Cicotte and Red Faber  And pitchers like Monty Stratton, Juan Pizarro, Eddie Fisher, Wilbur Wood, Doc White, and Eddie Smith have repeatedly finished among the league ERA leaders.

     In great part, this culture is the result of the ballpark.  Home runs didn't come easy here.  The outfield posts stood an imposing 347 feet away from home plate, the power alleys were a fairly deep 382 feet away, and the center field wall was a goodly 409 feet distant.  To the left and right of straightaway center field, the wall was actually even further away, by about 6-8 feet.

     This dramatically changes a pitcher's strategy.  First of all, pitchers can go after hitters with confidence, firing heat through the strike zone instead of picking away at the corners.  This reduces walks, increases strikeouts and allows a pitcher to lower his typical pitch count in a game.  Pitchers have a psychological edge because they can get away with mistakes, and fewer base runners means pitching out of the stretch less often.  The White Sox repeatedly boasted talented defensive players to give their pitchers an even greater edge.  Over the years, men like Luis Aparicio, Eddie Collins, Robin Ventura, Minnie Minoso and Luke Appling graced the infield, and Jim Landis won five Gold Gloves in the outfield.

     The relative lack of White Sox sluggers over the years is also a result of the ballpark.  Carlton Fisk, Luke Appling, Eddie Collins, Fox, Minoso, Aparicio - the greatest of the White Sox were all players in key defensive roles.  No White Sox player except for Fisk and Harold Baines managed to hit than 154 career HR while playing in this ballpark.

 

 

 

Gold Glovers in the 1950s for the Go-Go Sox:

Minnie Minoso, Jim Landis, Luis Aparicio, and Nellie Fox

 

 

Park Factors

 

 

Runs

Home Runs

1986: 101 76
1987: 118 81
1988: 96 78
1989: 87 66
1990: 103 82

 

 

 

Location

 

South Side, Chicago, Illinois: Left field (N), West 34th; third base (W), Portland Avenue, later called South Shield’s Avenue; first base (S), 324 West 35th Street; right field (E), South Wentworth Avenue, later Dan Ryan Expressway/I-94.


Seating Chart

 

 

 

Dimensions - History

 

Foul lines: 363 ft (1910), 362 (1911), 365 (1927), 362 (1930), 342 (1934), 353 (1935), 340 (1936), 352 (1937), 332 (April 22, 1949), 352 (May 5, 1949), 335 (1969), 352 (marked, 1971), 349 (actual, 1971), 341 (1983), 347 (1986)

 

Power alleys: 382 (1910), 375 (1927), 370 (1934), 382 (1942), 362 (April 22, 1949), 375 (May 5, 1949), 382 (1954), 365 (1955), 375 (1956), 365 (1959), 375 (1968), 370 (1969), 375 (marked, 1971), 382 (actual, 1971), 374 (1983), 382 (1986)

 

Center field: 420 (1910), 450 (1926), 455 (1927), 450 (1930), 436 (1934), 422 (1936), 440 (1937), 420 (April 22, 1949), 415 (May 5, 1949), 410 (1951), 415 (1952), 400 (1969), 440 (1976), 445 (1977), 402 (marked, 1981), 409 (actual, 1981), 401 (1983), 409 (1986)

 

Backstop: 98 (1910), 71 (1933), 85 (1934), 86 (1955)

 

Foul territory: Large.

 

 

Fences - History

 

Foul lines and power alleys: 12 ft (concrete, 1955), 9.83 ft (concrete, 1959), 5 ft (wire, 1969), 9.83 ft (concrete, 1971)

 

Center field: 15 ft (1927), 30 ft (1948), 17 ft (1976), 18 ft (1980)

 

Left-center to right-center inner fences: 5 (canvas, 1949), 6.5 (24-foot section in front of bullpens, 1969), 9 (1974), 7 (canvas, 1981), 7.5 (1982), 11 (1984), 7.5 (1986).

 

 

Fun Facts

  • Chicago Cubs played their 1918 World Series home games here to take advantage of its large capacity.

  • The foul lines were old water hoses, painted white and pressed flat.

  • A section of the grandstand collapsed on May 17, 1913.

  • Special elevator for Lou Comiskey, in use from 1931 to 1982, had an inlaid tile floor.

  • A clock stood on tje wall in center to left of flagpole.

  • Picnic areas, including bullring in left and bullpens in right and right-center.

  • Bavarian and Mexican restaurants and beer halls under the stands behind home plate.

  • Showers in the bleachers in center.

  • Foul poles bend back slightly to join the top of the roof.

  • Organist Nancy Faust played "Na-na-na-na, Na-na-na-na, Hey-hey, Good-bye."

  • The tradition of playing the Star-Spangled Banner at baseball games started here in 1918. League officials had considered cancelling the World Series due to World War I, until they learned that American soldiers in France were looking forward to knowing the results of the Series. During the seventh-inning stretch of the first game, the band suddenly started playing the song as a patriotic gesture. Players and spectators stood, took off their hats, and sang.

     

 

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