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Right on Q: The frozen grass of U.S. Cellular Field

Preparing a White Sox ballpark after a long winter is a tough but familiar job


Roger Bossard says he has a problem. The relentless winter of our discontent did a number on the turf at US Cellular Field.

Bossard comes from a long line of baseball groundskeepers. His father tended the sod at Comiskey Park. Despite the decades of institutional knowledge, the Sodfather says getting US Cellular's field into playing shape is a tall order.

According to ESPN:

"I've been in this for over 45 years and I have seen a lot of snow and certainly that is not hard to handle," Bossard said. "This weekend I had my whole crew in and they took off 400 tons (of snow). "My problem is the permafrost. I have actually never run into 30 inches of permafrost."

With the ground frozen, Bossard's crew can't install new sod. He hopes the spring "thaw," tarps, and industrial heaters will melt enough of the topsoil to get the field into playing shape.

The situation was so dire, Bossard told his tale of woe to anyone who would listen.

There's no doubt in my mind that he's telling the truth. There's also no doubt in my mind that the White Sox marketing department is behind Bossard's sod sob story.

Less than two weeks to go until Opening Day! Will the Sodfather fix The Cell in time? Find out on March 31st! Good seats are still available....

The answer, of course, will be "yes." On March 31, the grass will be as green as ever, and Bossard will be a Miracle Worker ... just like Montgomery Scott:

The winter of 2013-2014 has been one for the record books. But, the White Sox have been there before.

The winter of 1981-1982 was brutal. It was the latest in six-year stretch of lousy winters. The cold temperatures settled over Chicago in late November of 1981 and didn't leave until late April 1982. Comiskey Park was scheduled to undergo a major facelift during that time.

Thousands of wooden seats were going to be replaced by plastic chairs. The retaining walls in foul territory were going to be rebuilt. Bill Veeck's monster scoreboard was torn down and replaced by the Diamond Vision scoreboard that lasted through the park's demolition in 1991.

The winter threw a wrench into the timetable. The offseason renovation work was supposed to be completed by March 15, 1982. Instead, crews were rushing to finish everything by the Crosstown Classic on April 5.

That meant the scoreboard was going to be a work in progress for the first month of the season.

"Most of the scoreboard will be in operation by Opening Day, but not Diamond Vision and some of the animation features," park operations director David Schaffer told the Tribune.

In fact, he said the scoreboard wouldn't be fully functional until May.

The picture that accompanied the article showed a worker repairing seats that were buried under a thick layer of snow.

On an old episode of "The Sportswriters on TV," the late Bill Gleason told a story about watching a Comiskey Park grounds crew using flame throwers to thaw the field after a particularly harsh winter. The Yankees were in town and Lou Comiskey didn't want to give up the box office revenue.

This winter has taxed everything: salt supplies, school snow days, our patience, and even the grass at 35th and Shields. But something tells me the field will be ready to go.

It will be a late-winter miracle.