Some of my greatest memories as a child were spent at Comiskey Park and the Chicago Stadium. In their place US Cellular Field and the United Center have given Chicago two modern stadiums with all the amenities expected.
As a young child my family had season tickets to the Bulls, Blackhawks and Bears as a kid. I became a White Sox fan on my own in 1976. The South Side Hit Men a year later cemented my fandom for the White Sox for life. This was despite growing up on the North Shore. I also had my picture taken with the Cubs Bobby Mercer on the field at Wrigley and got to sit in the pressbox with Jack Brickhouse at about eight years old. My parents won a WTTW (Channel 11) auction for us to be able to do this.
My memories at Comiskey Park are many. Some are from watching the games on TV, hearing them on the news or watching the games in person. My earliest general memory of Comiskey Park are watching and listening to Harry Caray and Jimmy Piersal announce the games. No announcing team ever had a greater repore with their audience. When the team was playing poorly, no one criticized their team more than they did.
I was at overnight camp in Estes Park, Colorado in 1979 when disco demolition occurred. We were on a field trip to the local radio station shortly after it happened. The announcer asked me if I knew what happened. I was in disbelief when he told me.
The many memories and great times I had at Comiskey were numerous. Bill Veeck and the White Sox during that era were innovators. No owner never ever took more chances. He was outrageous early in his career, but more practical with the White Sox.
A 2004 Business Week article by Mike Brewster detailed Veeck's innovations.
Veeck introduced ballpark crowd-pleasers like fan-appreciation night, player names on uniforms, fireworks displays, electronic scoreboards, and culinary alternatives to peanuts and Cracker Jacks. More than anything else, Veeck made going to the ballpark a family outing.
It is the food that had the biggest lasting impression on me. Long before it became a standard in ballparks nationally, the White Sox had specialties and ethnic food. A Mexican Restaurant, my introduction to Churros, Corn on the Cob and the best Steak Sandwich I have had to this day are some of my greatest memories at Comiskey.
I was fortunate to attend some memorable games there. I missed Jack Morris' no-hitter by one day in 1984, saw Harold Baines hit three home runs when I went to the game with my grandparents in 1982, spent seven hours at a double header against Texas in 1990 and attended the last game at the Grand Old Ballpark on my 23rd Birthday.
For the last game at Comiskey Park I flew home from school after convincing my mom I wanted to come home for Yom Kippur. The holiest day of the Jewish Year was the day before.
The doubleheader is one of my most memorable times at Comiskey. I missed the beginning of game one and the end of game two, yet still managed to spend seven hours there. The doubleheader was noted for game one when Ozzie Guillen and Craig Grebeck hit back to back homeruns off of Nolan Ryan. Amazingly it was the only homerun of the season for each of them.
Baseball wasn't the only sport played at Comiskey. The NFL's cardinals played there before moving to St. Louis. Rock Concerts, Wrestling and Soccer were among the other sports staged there.
Long before MLS, the Sting of the North American Soccer League played home games between Comiskey and Wrigley after moving from Soldier Field. In one of my greatest Comiskey Park memories, the Sting Frantz Mathieu's scored in the shootout after the game went scoreless in two overtimes. Mathieu's goal in front of 39,623 sent the Sting to its first soccer bowl. They would go on to defeat the New York Cosmos in another shootout to give Chicago it's first title since 1963.
Like Comiskey Park, Chicago Stadium also so many amazing memories for me. My dad had Bulls season tickets through the 1983 season. Unfortunately that was a year before Michael Jordan was drafted.
Like Comiskey, the Stadium was used for events way beyond just basketball and hockey. The first playoff game in NFL history in 1933 was staged there when according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame website:
A blizzard with deep snow and sub-zero wind chill blew into Chicago and made it impossible to play the game at Wrigley Field. So, the game was moved indoors to Chicago Stadium and played on a modified field -- only 80 yards long and 30 feet narrower. The end zones were not regulation size and the sidelines butted up against the stands.
The original MadHouse on Madison Hosted five national political conventions, concerts, rodeos, indoor soccer and college basketball. The arena opened with a boxing match in 1929 and was the largest indoor arena at the time.
I was fortunate to attend some of the most memorable events there. I saw the Jackson 5 and Neil Diamond in concert there, got to see the Sting play as well as DePaul. Like most people, it the Bulls and Blackhawk games that bring my greatest memories.
In the 1980's and early 1990's, the Blackhawks were the king of the Norris Division. Getting past the Smythe Division champion (usually Edmonton) was elusive. In 1985, the Blackhawks and Oilers had an epic series.
After getting outscored 18-5 in the first two games of the series, the Blackhawks returned home. I was fortunate enough to attend a 5-2 game three victory in standing room only. They followed that up with a 8-6 victory in game four to even the series.
I remember describing what it was like to attend a game at the Chicago Stadium during the national anthem and then hearing the horn sound during a goal to a fraternity brother. The only apt description was that it was a religious experience.
With our country at War in 1991 in the Persian Gulf, the Blackhawks hosted the All-Star game. It was a few years after the drowned out Anthems became legendary at the Madhouse. Pat Foley narrated and then former PA Announcer Harvey Whittenberg introduced Wayne Messmer and Organist Frank Pelico.
The demise of the Chicago Stadium can almost be directly attributed to the success of the Bulls in the 1990's. The United Center is referred to as the house the Michael built. His arrival in Chicago changed the face of the NBA. I was fortunate enough to attend his first ever home playoff game and win in 1985. I wish I knew where that ticket stub was.
It seems like symmetry that I was at Michael Jordan's home playoff game and his ever playoff win and one of the Bulls last ever home playoff wins at the Chicago stadium. One of their most famous games without Jordan at the Chicago Stadium was a 104-102 victory over the Knicks in the 1994 Eastern Conference semifinals.
At the time I was working at the East Bank Club. I was fortunate enough to be able to buy tickets from a member. It had almost everything you can imagine in a game. The Bulls blew a 20 point lead, numerous ejections after a fight between the Bulls JoJo English and the Knicks Derek Harper, Scottie Pippen refusing to play the last 1.8 seconds and a Toni Kukoc buzzer beater to give the Bulls the win.
I remember after the game my friend and I being too emotionally exhausted to even go out. It was a memorable way to begin to bid the original Madhouse on Madison goodbye.
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