Whenever I had privilege of going to the Old Comiskey Park it felt like we were going on a road trip. Traffic in the 80's was not as bad as it is today but sitting in a car for over an hour and being under the age of 12 made it seem like it took forever. I distinctly remember the strange industrial stench that would invade the car on the way to game. The best I can describe it is sulfurous roasted peanuts and I haven't really smelled anything like it in quite some time (probably because I haven't yet visited Cleveland). My father somehow came up with a special way to get to the park that afforded us the luxury of not sitting in traffic on the Dan Ryan. We would come in on the Stevenson and instead of continue down 90 toward Indiana we would go straight and turn off on Canal St. For anyone who has taken this route, you know that there is a strange little jog in the road for which two lanes have to turn 90 degrees twice into one lane at stoplight. It is a 20 foot rat race. On Sunday games we would have to turn off Canal to go around the Maxwell St. Market to get back on Canal, where you could buy telephone cords from a man who would open up his overcoat to reveal 40 telephone cords hanging from the inside of his coat. In the 80's the Canal St. route offered you views of seemingly fresh dilapidation. Lining the street was abandoned factories, barges, trains, bridges rusting and crumbling before your very eyes and the ever present sulfurous peanut smell. Now-a-days that area is cleaned up a bit with Northern Trust, Big Box stores. When you finally make it to the end of Canal St. and reach, what I used to call the "aquarium house" because of the large circular window in a brick house, you could finally see the lights of the park and begin to feel the rush of expectations realized.
We would always park in this strange chain-link fenced area between the train tracks and an apartment building that is now just north of Lot C. Walking up to the park as an 8 year old was a bit intimidating. You could feel the ghosts of people who had passed through there over the decades, the concourse was underneath the stands, it was dark, there were pipes leaking, it smelled like piss, popcorn, churros, peanuts and beer but most of all it smelled like cigarette smoke. I remember sitting next to grizzled, old drunk crack rascals chain smoking throughout the whole game. The churros stand at New Comiskey is in the exact same spot as it was at the old park, just down the left field line. If you wanted to walk around the concourse at Old Comiskey Park it simply meant you weren't really going to have a good look of what was going on, there were sections like the Picnic Area that offered a limited view through a chain-link fence but it was nothing as open and airy as the concourse we have today. The concourse was fucking dirty, this place was a dump. Its upkeep had been neglected somewhere along the way and someone had evidently decided it was too far gone to reverse.
We were fortunate enough to usually sit in box seats. They were literally box seats because there were yellow bars sectioning off each area. You felt like you were in your own little section. I believe I remember the popcorn being contained in brown paper bags with patches of grease shining through. The chocolate malt cups had wooden spoons. The scoreboard fucking exploded for christsake…the fireworks actual came out of the wirlydings on top of the scoreboard as opposed to now where they set them off behind the stadium. It was amazingly ridiculous and seemingly dangerous some how. There was Andy the Clown roaming the stands distracting the children with his gentle antics and tragically sad light-up clown nose. Ribbie and Roobarb (Southpaw's parents) were cartoon characters ripped from television and allowed to roam freely around the park causing trouble.
Unfortunately most of the memories that survived the onslaught of my late teens and early 20's are of horrible baseball in that old park. I remember being excited to see the new first baseman from the minors, Russ Mormon. My sister loved pint-sized John Cangelosi just as youngsters these days inexplicably loved Brent Lillibridge. My sister still swears to this day that she saw Cangelosi walking through the stands in street clothes during a game. Sitting 10 rows behind the dugout for those years I couldn't help but love Ozzie Guillen because he was always poking his out of the dugout and making goofy faces at us kids, even though I know now his main objective was probably scoping out tail. The only memory I have of the 1983 season was the All-Star game we had on VHS tape, I probably watched that 1000 times and actually still have it. I remember my brother and father hating Juan Agosto because of the 1983 ALCS. My most vivid memories consist of seeing Billy Ripken getting plunked in the head, witnessing Wade Boggs foul off like 15 pitches before gapping a double and Baines' unmistakable leg kick.
It was a great old park but when it went, it was time for it to go. I can't imagine a rehab job helping out that stadium too much, there was just too much dilapidation and decay but as my memories decay the same way that ballpark did, I can't help but look back on it fondly. I can't thank my father enough for all the time he spent tooling my siblings and I to the southside. Back then I cared little whether the team won or lost it was just about being with family throughout the rigmarole of getting to the park, experiencing the game and getting back home. These days I probably care a little too much about wins and losses but there were simpler times when I hated the A's and the Orioles more than the Twins and I will try to never forget them.
I am sure people can add to this out of the blue memorandum to Comiskey Park and I invite you to do so. The younger fans on this site would probably appreciate it very much. I know there have been stories and anecdotes shared in comment sections scattered throughout the archives but maybe we can put them all here for posterity's sake.