I remember being nine-years old, with my friends at old Comiskey Park...Home of the "hitless wonders"...The Chicago White Sox. Comiskey was a grand, old edifice. It had style and character, even though the view of the playing field was obstructed by huge, iron pillars in the cheap seats. I remember that some men still wore straw hats, and suits to the games. McCuddy's bar, across the street, did a good business. This was the Bridgeport neighborhood...Chicago's South Side. Mostly Irish, but the neighborhood also had Blacks, Italians, Germans, Lithuanians, Polish, you name it. A melting pot culture of working class families, who believed in God, country and baseball.
I remember the smell of hotdogs, factory smoke, and the stockyards. We took the trolley bus down Kedzie avenue, north to 35th street...then we transferred to another bus that took us to 35th and Shields, Ave., where the great ball park stood in all of its glory. I stood in the street with my dilapadated mitt, begging for pocket change or a ticket to see the game. Sometimes, kindly, old ushers let us sneak in after the fifth inning. We promised them we would sit in the bleachers, but snuck into the empty box seats when we could get away with it. I watched my favorite Sox players of the day: Nellie Fox, Louis Aparicio, Billy Pierce, "Jungle Jim" Landis, and Minnie Minoso. All this majesty could be had for pennies, if a kid played his cards right!
I usually made it home in time for dinner. If not, I had to pull weeds, or do something hellish for my punishment. If I made it in time, I wolfed down my dinner, and ran like hell to the baseball diamonds in Marquette Park, a couple of blocks from my house. I had to be home before the street lights came on. Sometimes my mom and dad rewarded me with twelve-cents for a double popsicle from the Good Humor ice cream truck. I chased the sound of the bell down the street with a hoard of other children, for my prize. Then, it was off to bed by ten-o'-clock. I had plans to play baseball the next morning.
Now, I think of US Cellular Field. What an antiseptic name for a ball park. It just rubs me the wrong way. Kids can't afford the White Sox games anymore. All the seats are for businessmen or corporate concerns. Families can't afford the games, either. It sucks. People talk and text during the games. All the so-called "fans" seem distracted. McCuddy's tavern, where the great Babe Ruth used to get a shot and a beer, or maybe a hotdog between innings, has been torn down. So has Comiskey Park. It was my baseball palace...a part of history...a part of my sweet dreams...it's all gone forever. It was torn asunder by politics and corporate greed.
Now, fat kids play baseball on their tv sets. Gameboy is the new sport. The stockyards and the factories are gone. So is the work. Oh, how I miss sliding into 3rd base with the sting of that pungent city of Chicago air in my lungs! I still hit a baseball at the batting cages every now-and-then. My sixty-two year old body protests the next day...but I swear, I'll never, ever have a Gameboy in my house. I love the old days, and the old ways too much.