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Old Comiskey Park

     

   
First Comiskey Trip:

1956 

by Hal Vickery

When I wrote a description of this web site for the Windy City Sox Fans home page, I described White Sox Interactive as a web site "with an attitude." I'll leave the attitude to others this week, though. I'm still waxing nostalgic. I think when you turn fifty, that's the point where your long term memories are more vivid than your short term ones. This memory is about as long-term as you can get, my first memories of Comiskey Park.

I went to my first White Sox game in 1956. I couldn't tell you the date. I wasn't even in first grade yet. But I remember a few things about it. I remember we played the Detroit Tigers. Bob Keegan was on the mound for the White Sox. I couldn't tell you who was on the mound for the Tigers. 

I only remember a few things about that game. The first thing I remember was driving past the Stock Yards. Well, I really don't exactly remember that. What I remember is the odor. It left an impression that lasts until this day. I remember seeing the ballpark for the first time. This was before it was painted white. It looked so much bigger than on TV. 

I remember standing in line by one of the ticket booths on the corner of 35th and Shields. My dad asking what they had in a reserved grandstand seat behind the Sox dugout. They had something and that's where we sat. For those of you too young to remember, those were the seats behind the aisle. In later years they became box seats, and those in front of the aisle became "Golden Boxes." 

All of the concession stands underneath the stands were a revelation to me. I'd never seen anything like that before. I had no idea that ballparks had an "inside," let alone all those places to get food. We passed those up though and went to our seats. 

When we came outdoors again, I saw what was the most beautiful sight in the world. It is still one of my most vivid memories. The green of the grass, the brown of the infield dirt, the green walls, the huge scoreboard. I think I had a sensory overload. I can see it to this day. It's still the most beautiful sight in the world.

My dad let me buy a scorebook, which has long since disappeared. I remember it was red, had lots of ads ("Tony Piet Sez..."), and a place to keep score. My dad taught me a rudimentary method of scorekeeping. I was only six and really didn't grasp the concept of each player getting a number until a couple of years later. I remember I knew the names of all of our players and I dutifully printed them. My dad helped me with the names of the Detroit players. The only one I remember was the one I hated most, Al Kaline. (I always hated the other team's good players.)

My dad pointed out how I'd know if the Sox got a base hit. The Chesterfield pack on the big scoreboard had "It's a Hit" written by it and would light up. I looked around and saw the auxilliary scoreboard in right field. That was the same one they showed at the end of every half inning on channel 9. My dad pointed out the booth where Jack Brickhouse sat. I yelled, "HEY! BRICKHOUSE!" I don't think he heard me. The fans around us did. I think my mom wanted to crawl into a hole.

Naturally I'd brought my glove, but I have yet fourty-four years later to snag a foul ball. I remember eating a hot dog, drinking a coke. The best hot dogs are at the ballpark. They taste better with surroundings.

I remember both teams taking batting practice. "When does the game start?" I knew better. It was only about noon or so when I asked that. Games started at 1:30. I'd been watching them for over a year. And I'd learned a lot. I learned to check whether there was actually a game scheduled by looking in the TV Guide before I threw a fit when my mom wanted to take me to the barber shop at 1:30. I cried all the way there only to discover the Sox were idle. But that was when I was FIVE. I was SIX now and knew better. 

I remember those arches. I used to think there was a building on the other side. I think maybe it was because the ballpark was outdoors and there was a wall and windows. Surely there was a building on the other side of the wall. But I was five when I thought that. I was six now and much wiser. 

I yelled at the top of my lungs whenever the Sox were up. "C'MON WALT!" I don't remember what Dropo did, but he probably struck out. It seemed like he always did whenever we needed him to get us a hit. To this day, my aunt, who became a Cubs fan just so she could argue with my grandpa about baseball, reminds me of my frustrating saying, "That Walt Dropo!"

I remember the fans around us turning and looking at me. I didn't care. Apparently they didn't care enough to tell the Andy Frain ushers to shut me up. 

I remember seeing the other guys, too. Nellie Fox with the chaw of tobacco, the rookie phenom shortstop, Luis Aparicio. The crowds were chanting, "Go! Go! Go!" when he got on base even then. Jungle Jim Rivera in right field, and Minnie Minoso in left. Those are the players I remember most vividly from that day. I remember manager Marty Marion. My dad mentioned something about him being a really great shortstop when he played, probably three or four centuries ago, I guessed. "Aparicio will really be something if he has the kind of career Marion did."

As to what happened during the game, I couldn't tell you. Those memories seem to be gone forever, lost in a mist of hundreds of games, thousands if you include the ones on TV. The only thing I remember is the score. Keegan shut out the Tigers 1-0. 


Editor's Note: Hal Vickery has been a White Sox fan since 1955 when he was five years old. For much of that time he also had a secondary rooting interest in the Cubs, which he has shown the good sense to abandon. When not cheering for or writing about the Sox, Hal teachers chemistry and physics at North Boone High School, in Poplar Grove, IL. Hal commutes there daily from Joliet, where he lives with his wife Lee, and their dog, Buster T. Beagle. Hal's opinions are not necessarily those of North Boone High School, his wife, or Buster T. Beagle. You can write Hal at hvickery@svs.com.

More features from Hal Vickery here!
 

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First Comiskey Trip:  1956?
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