Sportsnet Road Trip: Hitting Comiskey Park before the wrecking crews

Comiskey Park. (Frank Polich/AP Photo)

THERE’S A FREEDOM that comes with turning 20. I found it in a low-paying entry-level job that replaced school and in a well-worn Honda Prelude that ended the need for public transit. I had cash, I had a car and I had destinations, namely, major-league ballparks across America.

In 1990, I shared a Toronto apartment with my friend Chris Froio. Fastened to our refrigerator was a list of every big-league stadium with a checkbox beside each one. We made a plan. Gradually, we would visit all the ballparks in the major leagues, and keep track as the years rolled on.

That summer, we flew to California for a week. Dodger Stadium: check. Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego: check. Candlestick Park: check. But one ballpark we’d never seen stood out simply because it was due to be replaced the following season: Comiskey Park in Chicago.


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So, on a sunny Saturday in September, we drove to Detroit and checked in to a Super 8 motel near the airport. Northwest had a return fare to Chicago for 60 dollars if you did the whole trip in one day. The next morning, we jumped a plane and found ourselves at the park’s ticket window by noon.

Across the street, construction of the new stadium (now known as U.S. Cellular Field) was almost complete. Comiskey sat in its shadow, and the doomed structure—once host to the infamous 1919 World Series—showed its years. I brought a camera and took photos from the right-field bleachers. The wooden seats, with swaths of green paint chipped away, looked as though they hadn’t been replaced in 80 years. I snapped a shot of Boston’s Larry Andersen signing autographs down below us, having just joined the team from the Houston Astros for a kid we’d never heard of named Jeff Bagwell.

The White Sox had Frank Thomas at first base, trumpeted as a future star, and a young player named Sammy Sosa, who’d eventually find fame on the other side of town.

In the late innings, we were able to secure front-row seats along the third-base line, and I captured a shot of Wade Boggs staring directly into my lens. Bobby Thigpen came out of the bullpen for Chicago and saved his 51st game that season. The White Sox won, and the game took less than two hours to play—perfect for a pair of Canadians with a flight to catch.

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Outside, cabs were hard to find, so we wandered into a neighbourhood just east of the stadium and soon discovered they were even harder to flag. A local policeman pulled up and suggested we change our direction quickly. So we turned back toward the stadium, found a taxi, flew to Detroit and drove home.

The next morning, one of us approached the fridge with a pen. Comiskey Park: check.

This story originally appeared in the June 2016 issue of Sportsnet magazine.

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