Comiskey Park, circa 1986

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In 1986, sports fans in Chicago were more excited about their football team and a young long-shorts-wearing basketball phenom than they were the White Sox.

In January, the Bears capped a dominating season by winning Super Bowl XX over the Patriots, 46-10. At the same time, 23-year old Michael Jordan was establishing himself as a superstar in the NBA for the Bulls. That spring, he scored 63 points in a playoff game against the Celtics.

The photo above shows a father and son heading into Comiskey Park. By this time, the old stadium had been in use for more than 75 years. Located on West 35th Street in the Southside of the city, Comiskey was not a beloved ballpark, but it was part of Chicago’s rugged working man charm. While fans of the the other MLB team in the city could call their club “The Cubbies,” the White Sox faithful was never prone to such cuteness. White Sox fans were more rooted in the city, less likely to be romantic about the game, and more likely to scream at their favorite players when they misplayed a ball or struck out. Being a Cubs fan was a privilege. Being a White Sox fan was a responsibility.

In 1986, when this photo was likely taken, the White Sox drew 1.4 million fans to old Comiskey, a wood and steel structure with dark green seats, a double-decked outfield, and a tremendous monstrosity of a scoreboard in center field that lit up and exploded when a Chicago batter hit a home run.

The ’86 Sox were a team in turmoil: they went through three managers. First they fired Tony Larussa in mid-June with the team in sixth place. They finally settled on Jim Fregosi, who rallied the team to play fairly well over the last half of the season. The stars on the 1098 ChiSox were Harold Baines, catcher Carlton Fisk, and second-year shortstop Ozzie Guillen.

In 1991, the Sox moved into a brand new stadium across the street from Comiskey. Using every bit of creative energy they could muster, they called it “New” Comiskey. In the first game in the new Comiskey, the White Sox were pummeled by Detroit, 16-0. The losing pitcher was Black Jack McDowell. Just two years later McDowell and his White Sox teammates were in the playoffs.

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Dan Holmes

Dan Holmes

Dan Holmes is the author of three books about baseball, including Ty Cobb: A Biography. He previously worked for the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and Major League Baseball Advanced Media. He lives in Michigan where he writes, runs, and enjoys a good orange soda now and again.
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