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Old Comiskey Park

     

   
Park Life.
The summer of 1977
at Comiskey Park

Photographs from the book by Peter Elliott.  Essay by Tom O'Gorman


When there is no room for individualism in ball parks, then there will be no room for individualism.
  -Bill Veeck


Baseball was a unifying force.  Nothing made children more American than their passion for the game.  On this emotional ground Comiskey set out to build his baseball "palace" dedicated to the equality and inclusion of the fans.


The life and energy were in the fans, the most enduring, long-suffering and committed in the game.  They have always been "eternal rooters."  Comiskey himself had seen it in their hearts.


The summer of 1977 marks an electrifying moment in the story of White Sox baseball.  Today, it stands as part of the ethos of Chicago life, the events and drama that cut the belt notches in the city's tough, leathery character.

A Glory Season--1977--Baseball is Fun Again

In 1977 Veeck was back.  He had sold the Sox, only to buy them back again.  Like most Sox fans that year, Veeck smelled another pennant, despite the naysayers who at the start of the season predicted an undistinguished finish for the South Siders.  Chicago Tribune sportswriter Bill Jauss, for example, called Comiskey Park "the ancient South Side palace of standing ovations."

That season was one that displayed the unique relationship between the ball club and its fans.  The Chicago Tribune's Bob Verdi poignantly characterized the ups and downs of the season when he wrote, "A whirlwind summer romance between the White Sox and their millions was temporarily interrupted Sunday by winter."  Losing to the Seattle Mariners 3 to 2 put the cap on an "unbelievable year," the sox finishing in third place.  But they juiced up the city and gave the fans a season they will never forget.

The comeback player of the year, Eric Soderholm, summed up the hysteria and stamina of the summer when he said, "We had a long run in first place, and the bubble burst, but almost doesn't matter in the overall view of the season.  What matters is that we became respectable, and that baseball became fun again."

It was a show-stopping summer, with 1,657,135 fans coming out to Comiskey Park.  Charlie Comiskey would have recognized them with a soft familiarity as the "loyal rooters" he had discovered long ago.  Bill Veeck noted that the club had been only one sunny day away from breaking Chicago's all-time attendance record, set by the Cubs in 1969.  But in 1977 the Sox did break their own attendance record of 1,644,460, set back in 1960.  their loyal fans had endured not only the roller coaster ride of a heartbreaking season, they had turned out in near-record numbers, even though almost every game of the last two months was played in rain.  

Sox manager Bob Lemon was equally philosophical about the summer of 1977 in Chicago.  "I played for the Indians when we drew two million people in Cleveland one year.  And it was nothing like this.  Never seen a summer like this.  Between the Cubs and us, if you weren't talking baseball, you weren't talking."  Critics immediately turned the talks to the need for improvement.  But the moment and the season were too exciting to let go.  When Lemon said, "All I know is that I've had a lot of fun," he could have been speaking for every fan had come out to a game.   

The summer of 1977 marks an electrifying moment in the story of White Sox baseball.  Today, it stands as part of the ethos of Chicago life, the events and season is still debated, relived, critiqued, and enjoyed.  It continues to punctuate and flavor the grandeur of the past.

 

The joy and heartbreak of being a White Sox fan brilliantly comes to life in this heartfelt tribute to the Southside faithful. Park Life is a book that should be on every Sox fan's bookshelf.

-- Art Berke, V.P., Sports Illustrated

 


Editor's Note

Peter Elliott is a Chicago-based commercial photographer.  As a young man he spent the summer of 1977 with his fellow Sox Fans at Comiskey Park.  He took his camera with him and recorded these memorable photographs, but not of the ballplayers or the action on the field.  Those feats are recorded for posterity by countless sports photographers of that time. 

No, what Peter recorded was something very different and quite special, too.  Peter captured the essence of the ballpark and the fans of Chicago's South Side.  Here are pictures from a world that is too familiar to those of us old enough to have lived it, and just as obviously no longer with us.  These fans and this ballpark are gone.  For fans too young to remember, here is what you missed.  Peter's photography speaks to us as no voice from the past ever could, for truly his pictures are worth one-thousand words. 
 

-- George Bova

 

Hey Sox Fans!

You can own a copy of Peter Elliott's book Park Life and help support White Sox Interactive, too. 

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