Well, the Chicago White Sox are on the brink of Chicago’s first World Series victory since 1917, which is certainly historic. They are also doing it with typical gritty grubby work and everyday players rather than superstars, and they are managing to make it compelling drama as well. It seems like every game is being one by a home run off the bat of someone who never hit a home run before. It’s like a kid’s backyard fantasy come true.
What does historic preservation have to do with this? Well, the Sox play at a new stadium built in 1988-90. I was involved in the effort to save the old Comiskey Park in the late 1980s. It was the oldest park in baseball at that time, dating to 1910, two years older than Fenway and four years older than Wrigley. We failed of course, because the owners were holding the city and state hostage as they always do, looking for a handout which they got in the form of a publically financed stadium.
We all learned our lesson then. The public has not spent hundreds of millions on a stadium for a private sports team since. Except for the United Center. And Soldier Field.
Interestingly, the Sox last World Series victory was in an even newer stadium – Comiskey was only 7 in 1917, whereas the Cell (I always preferred the Joan after US Cellular’s top pitchperson) is already 15 and has even undergone a major rehab to relieve the nasal congestion of the upper deck nosebleed seats. I went to a game there this summer with the kids and it was good, even if it faces the wrong direction (why do you think they were called southpaws?) and has that shopping-mall-in-an-airport feel that most modern stadiums have.
I miss the old Stadium and old Comiskey and even old Soldier Field. They didn’t have gourmet nachos and dessert carts. They smelled like urine, and there was a gritty reality that is lacking in the upper middle class stadiums of today. The White Sox represent the old blue collar tradition of Chicago, even if their average fan is a 45-year old white guy who makes 80 grand. I like their scrappy play – it is enough to make you forget the sanitized stadiums of today.