I miss Comiskey Park.
Not "The Baseball Palace of the World."
I'm talking about the place across the street. I'm talking about the giant concrete UFO with blue seats that opened in April of 1991.
The place that was immediately rendered obsolete by Camden Yards.
The place that continues to get less respect than Rodney Dangerfield.
Baseball writers were seemingly hell-bent on torching the New Comiskey Park before it opened its doors. Growing up, I had a guidebook to ballparks that ripped New Comiskey for not having any "history." That was a difficult bar to clear, especially since the book was published one year after New Comiskey opened.
Of course it doesn't have any history, it had hosted just 81 games at that point.
22 years later, New Comiskey/US Cellular has plenty of history. Baseball history happened there: playoff games, World Series, no-hitters, perfect games. But I have a lot of personal history wrapped up in the place as well.
I was 11 years old when New Comiskey Park opened. Science has proven that everything was better when you were 12...ballparks included.
Permit me to demonstrate. 1991:
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There are plenty of White Sox highlights on YouTube. It's neat to see Harry Caray at Old Comiskey, for example. But the ‘lites take on a different flavor if you can remember where you were and what you were doing when they happened.
The early 90's Sox highlights bring back all sorts of pleasant memories of being a kid. I grew up in Beverly, and going to Comiskey Park was an event. Once Dad got the tickets, I would look forward to the date for weeks. You got to see parts of town that you normally didn't see. Maybe there would be fireworks. Hopefully the Sox would win.
For example, my Dad and I went to Game 6 of the 1993 ALCS. That was game where the Sox were knocked out of the playoffs by the eventual World Series Champion Blue Jays. The ballgame itself wasn't a ton of fun. But the thrill of going downtown on a school night, parking at a garage and taking the L to the ballpark was pretty cool. It's a story I'll tell my own daughter when we start going to games together.
Critics of the new place ripped it for being a giant monument to skyboxes. It wasn't built for the fans, they said, it was built for the fatcats who would be watching the game from luxury suites. The building didn't have a soul.
Did the critics have kids of their own? In 1992, a 12 year old with a mitt and an oversized White Sox cap might disagree.
One of the worst trends in ballpark design over the past 20 years is fake nostalgia. Comiskey Park was dinged for not having a soul, but parks that were built after 1991 tried to create history that didn't exist.
At least Comiskey was honest about its limitations. It was new, give it time.
That came to pass. A generation has grown up with New Comiskey Park/US Cellular Field. Blue seats and skyboxes may have been offensive to the Old Salts who grew up worshipping Little Looie and Nellie Fox. But to me, the blue seats (filled by fans wearing teal) remind me of the excitement of going to a baseball game.
Turns out the old ballpark does have a soul after all.