Community  

 
 Message Boards  

 WSI Photo Gallery  

Post of the Week  

 Chat  

 

 

  2013 White Sox  

 Season Schedule  

 

2005 Championship

 

WSI Extras  

 WSI Interviews

  Audio Memories

  2002 Disaster!

2001 Season Fun!

2000 Champions!

Fun & Games

History & Glory

Sox Greats
Sox Quotables
Sox Fight Songs
Old Comiskey Park

     

   
Save our Sox!
June, 1988

by WSI editor George Bova

Previous Brushes With Disaster

The Chicago White Sox have nearly left Chicago on at least three occasions.  The first was 1969 when Sox owner Arthur Allyn considered overtures from Bud Selig and other Milwaukee interests to move the club to County Stadium.  Instead, he sold to his brother, John.  Six years later John Allyn was broke and  placed under enormous pressure from fellow owners to sell his club to Seattle interests and undercut a lawsuit which Seattle had against them.  This was a mess of their own creation since the Seattle lawsuit was directly related to the A.L. owners' approval of moving the Seattle Pilots franchise to Milwaukee.  Yes, Selig finally succeeded at getting his ball club but only at the expense of legal liability for all the other A.L. owners.  The A.L. owners also planned to appease Charlie Finley by making Chicago available to his A's.  Charlie wanted out of Oakland and had years earlier tried to buy the Sox.  Everyone was lined up against John Allyn and Chicago's Sox fans.

As fall turned to winter in 1975, Bill Veeck emerged as leader of the sole investment group intent on saving the club for Chicago and its Sox fans.  The A.L. owners reluctantly agreed to his offer and later voted to expand the league to include an expansion franchise in -- surprise! -- Seattle, Washington.

In 1979 and 1980, Veeck made overtures to Denver interests but later made an agreement to sell to Ed DeBartolo who pledged to keep the club in Chicago.  His offer was turned down by the owners. (Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn referred to DeBartolo as "not R.P."  -- "right people" as quoted in John Helyar's book "Lords of the Realm").  Veeck was forced to sell to a different investment group headed by Jerry Reinsdorf and Eddie Einhorn in 1981.

Within five years Jerry and Eddie were clamoring for a new ballpark and had plans drawn for a new stadium to be built on a site they owned at Lake and Swift in Addison, Illinois.  The voters in Addison narrowly turned down a non binding referendum approving construction in their community and the Sox began serious discussions with interests in St. Petersburg to make the Sox the first major league franchise in the booming state of Florida.

This time there was no brother of the owner to buy out the Sox, nor was there a white knight to ride in and save the Sox.  Nobody was waiting in the wings to bring their franchise to Chicago's south side either. The Sox never came closer to leaving Chicago a one team town than June of 1988.  The politicians would have to give in to the blackmail of franchise relocation -- the price being a new publicly financed stadium for Jerry and Eddie's White Sox.

Make no mistake -- it was blackmail, meant to enrich those who extorted it.  Old Comiskey Park certainly required many expensive repairs to remain a safe and comfortable place to watch a ballgame.  But Jerry Reinsdorf himself admitted, "You could have waved a magic wand over old Comiskey Park and made it brand new and in mint condition, and it still wouldn't have worked."  Old Comiskey was torn down because it didn't have enough luxury suites -- and not much else.

The Months and Days Leading to June, 1988

The leading politician was Illinois Governor Jim Thompson.  The tragic death of Chicago Mayor Harold Washington prevented any real leadership on the issue from the city.  They had agreed to the creation of of a public sports stadium authority (jointly controlled) with the requirement that the park be built next to Old Comiskey Park to save on the costs of infrastructure improvements and preserve the history of the team at that south side location.  Suburban politicians had no real interests in the project though many of them had parochial interests in getting the grandstand at Arlington Park racetrack rebuilt.  The downstate politicians were openly hostile to any suggestion of new public spending in Chicago.  Many of them were fans of the Cubs and Saint Louis Cardinals.  Nothing could be built without approval by the Illinois State Legislature -- and there simply weren't the votes to pass it.  The odds did not look good for Chicago, Sox fans, or the governor.

The deadline for passing the funding bill was the stroke of midnight on June 30, 1988.  By state law, any legislation passed beyond that date would require a three-fifths majority.  It would be difficult to muster even a simple majority for the stadium bill.  As the deadline drew closer the drumbeat in Florida got louder.  New incentives were approved for Florida's proposal.  The Suncoast Dome construction was speeded up for a 1989 opening day completion.  Fans in Florida began purchasing "Florida White Sox" novelty t-shirts.

The Final Days

There were several rallies in Chicago's Loop to Save the Sox.  A grass roots organization by that name was comprised of fans trying to save the old ballpark.  Another group, Sox Fans On Deck, lobbied to get the new stadium bill passed, willing to sacrifice the old ballpark so as to save the team for Chicago.  Compared to similar groups formed to prevent night baseball games at Wrigley Field, S.O.S. and S.F.O.D. were small, underfunded, and largely ignored by the politicians. Still they had sponsors and made headlines, if not progress, towards achieving their goals.  The only real hope for saving the club remained with the politicians, notably Jim Thompson.  On June 29, after securing additional rent concessions, Sox ownership signed the lease to play at the new park be built at 35th and Shields.  Armed with this agreement, Big Jim really went to work.  With approval by Chicago's city council a forgone conclusion, it was Jim Thompson who would bat clean up and either deliver a home run victory or strike out in defeat.  Busloads of Sox fans came to Springfield those last days of June but only Big Jim stood between the White Sox and Florida.

Final Maneuvering

Thompson gained leverage with several suburban politicians by tying his support for public infrastructure improvements needed to build a new grandstand at Arlington Park to the Sox stadium bill.  (The grandstand had burned down in 1985 and no definite plans for replacing it had been approved).  To get the required votes, Thompson would need plenty more support.  He led a public rally amongst busloads of fans who traveled to Springfield from Chicago.  More importantly, he would go behind closed doors and call every state legislator who ever owed him a favor -- and start turning the screws.  After twelve years as governor, more than a few of them were in his debt.

The 12:03 Miracle

Late afternoon caucuses amongst House and Senate leadership yielded faint hope that the bill could be passed before midnight.  That afternoon of June 30, the governor's limousine pulled up to the steps of the State House.  He secured the support of Senate Republican leader Jim "Pate" Philip -- the same politician who likely killed the club's earlier chances of moving to Addison.  A few key votes changed sides in the last hour including State Senator Dawn Clark Netsch who finally realized school funding would always be an issue but the Sox bill was a one-chance occurrence only.  Assurances for minority contractor set asides also garnered new votes.

The bill past the Senate at 11:35 pm with the bare minimum required votes.  Everyone bolted across the building to carry the fight to the House.  Jim Thompson literally rolled up his sleeves and began working the floor.  It was the downstate legislators who needed there arms twisted and Big Jim was the only politician who could apply the pressure.  Horse trading?  Nobody ever admitted to much but certainly a few private attempts were made.  Thompson had a lot of chits in downstate Illinois and negotiated from power with many would-be holdouts.

It was 11:59 and the last few required votes had not been lined up.  Politics is always about math and House Speaker Michael Madigan knew he was a few noses short.  He consulted with the keeper of the gavel and made it clear the session would not end until he wanted it to.  Officially at 11:59 pm the vote was taken and the bill passed.  Everyone's watch read 12:03 except the one that counted -- that of the keeper of the gavel.  No judge in the state of Illinois would ever have stuck their nose into the affairs of the state legislature.  Bye bye Florida!  Don't let the door hit you on the way out!  HaHaHaHa!

Where Are They Now

To meet the aggressive 1991 target opening date, the state sports authority had little time to clear buildings and construct the new ballpark.  The usual public review of plans to build such a large project were mostly skipped.  A clever proposal to build a new park on the site of Armour Park (the Chicago Park District park north of Old Comiskey) was turned down for the laughable excuse that the park house was a historic structure.  Sure -- like historic buildings aren't torn down in Chicago all the time.  Such a modest structure could easily have been rebuilt on the site of Old Comiskey which would have been converted to a park -- rather than a parking lot.  Certainly the Chicago Park District, controlled by the mayor, would have approved any obvious improvement like this, and the state legislature, having already approved the funding, could hardly be expected to turn down simple design revisions.  Nope, there was no time for any of this.  Residents were paid off and relocated, city blocks leveled, and street grids revised -- but the original plan remained untouched.  Opening day was less than three years away and the park would open as scheduled.

After sixteen years as Illinois' governor, Jim Thompson left public service in 1993.  A new mayor was elected in Chicago in 1989.  Richard M. Daley, the son of the city's "boss" mayor of twenty years, is now the foremost fan and political sponsor of the White Sox and their Chicago interests.  Michael Madigan continues as State House Speaker.  Pate Philip still wields power in the Senate and his home base in suburban Dupage County.  The Sox still play at 35th and Shields and fans still complain but now over very different problems.  After years of denial, the Sox front office has finally admitted to some issues with the new park, and preliminary plans are being discussed for correcting them.

Not too much has changed really.  Most of all, they are still our Chicago White Sox

For a more complete history of events leading to the creation of New Comiskey Park, please read Richard Lindberg's book, "Stealing First in a Two Team Town" (1994, Sagamore Publishing).


Do you have a thought about
Save Our Sox?
You Can Put it on the Board -- Yes!

Back to
Sox History & Glory

News Categories

Totally biased Sox news from White Sox Interactive!

EXCLUSIVE Sox features from WSI.

Full Sox coverage featuring the unique WSI slant!

The Totally Biased Game Recap, another WSI EXCLUSIVE!

YOUR chance to be featured at White Sox Interactive!

The funniest and most-noteworthy posts from the Sox Clubhouse message board.

The internet's largest FREE Sox news database, sorted by month.

The internet's largest FREE Sox news database, sorted by day.