Tuesday, May 08, 2012

"Baseball Palace of the World"

On July 1, 1910 thousands of enthusiastic baseball fans entered the "Baseball Palace of the World," White Sox Park, for the very first time. Located at 35th Street and Shields Avenue, the team's new home would soon be known as Comiskey Park, after White Sox owner, Charles "The Old Roman" Comiskey (1859-1931)and was a far cry better than the South Side Grounds where the team had played the previous nine years.

The new ball field, designed by architect Zachary Taylor Davis, was the "greatest ball park in the land" said 1919 Comiskey biographer, Gustaf W. Axelson: (See The Chicago History Online Library for a link to the book)

Grand stand and bleacher were of concrete and steel and were arranged to seat 28,500. Later these were enlarged to take care of 32,000, which was the capacity at the world's series games in 1917. Surrounding the entire field is an ornamental brick wall. Only one field in the country exceeds it in size, the Boston National League park, which is deeper. The Polo Grounds in New York has the depth but lacks the distance in right and left fields.

The cost of the park measured Comiskey's wealth at the time, which was well over the half million mark. To-day the plant could not be duplicated for less than $1,000,000. Time and again when it was suggested that improvements at the old grounds would be appreciated Comiskey would always reply that as soon as he could pay cash for land and stands he would build a park which would be a monument to the game. He made good his word when the new park was thrown open on July 1.

The Chicago Tribune, in their own distinctive style, recounted the festivities on July 2:
“Charles A. Comiskey’s big housewarming party went off without a hitch yesterday, unless the subsidiary fact that the St. Louis Browns were ungracious enough to beat our boys, 2 to 0, in the first game at their splendid new home was construed into disappointment by some of the throng which gathered from all parts of the baseball world to do honor to the occasion.

"Success crowned the tremendous efforts which have been put forth in the last few weeks to get the mammoth plant ready for its christening and it passed through its baptisms as if to the manor born, while tens of thousands of the Old Roman’s friends cheered at every possible opportunity to show their appreciation of the gift he had prepared to them.

"Twenty-four thousand and nine hundred fans paid their way to the party, according to the official announcement...the great stands smilingly held out their bunting clad arms and gathered them all into their capacious laps without crowding anywhere.

"Unfinished as the plant was in spots, its decorations of bright tri-colored bunting and potted plants and ferns distracted attention from everything except the giant proportions of the structures themselves. In fact the size of the new palace was what most forcibly struck all visitors who were making their first call. As each emerged from the sloping inclines which led to the rear of the main stand he or she stopped for a moment in silent awe, gazing at the broad, sweeping lines of the stands and at the seemingly endless rows of seats.”


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