Twenty five years ago today my father took me to my first baseball game. By the time I first set foot inside Old Comiskey Park I was already a baseball junkie. The great finish by the 1983 White Sox helped get me started. Seeing the team at the winter caravan which came to my town that off season really started me loving this team. I even won one of the door prizes which was an autographed ball by Minnie Minoso, Mike Squires, Ron Kittle, The Hawk, and Ribbie and Rubarb. 1984 was the first year that I started collecting baseball cards as well. Of course all of the cards that I really wanted had White Sox players on them. My summer was spent watching the White Sox on a small black and white TV that got WFLD in good enough to watch. This was in the days of rabbit ears and dials helping you fine tune a station. If you would have asked my nine year old self what the term HD I would have told you heavy duty. Just a couple of days before I turned nine though my father took me to see Comiskey Park which was in its 75th year. I normally will not post pictures that are not my own, but since I did not have a camera that day I had to make due with other peoples. Things will be back to normal tomorrow though.
I still remember the huge white building as we walked up to it. It was enormous! Under the painted green letters that said Comiskey Park was the 75th anniversary logo. I still get a similar feeling whenever I go to a game. Once I see the stadium I get way too excited to get inside. That day was no different. As we walked inside the gates and had our tickets ripped (way before scanning was even thought of) I was handed a white cloth backpack that had the White Sox batters logo on it. Whatever I was going to use to take my things to school just became irrelevant. I was starting at a new school the next day, and my awesome new White Sox backpack was going with me.
Once inside the stadium a couple of events occurred that changed how I looked at sports forever. As you can see in the picture to the left as you walk the concourse their is a door leading to the White Sox batting cages. I remember my father talking about the White Sox catcher who was in a slump. While we were standing by the door Rich Dotson walked by and signed my newly purchased yearbook. Then shortly after that Carlton Fisk walked out of the door. I was so panic stricken to meet a star that I froze. He walked out of the door, and down the concourse away from me. After he got a few steps away he turned to me and asked me if I want an autograph or not? I took him my yearbook and he signed next to his name. A picture of that page is shown below. I love how it appeared on page 27. The other three players on Fisk’s page were Tom Seaver, Greg Walker, and Harold Baines. Not too bad of company. I now had a favorite player. My father at the time didn’t seem too thrilled with the idea since Fisk was getting older. He might have been at the end of his career. A younger Harold Baines was probably a better choice at the time. Fisk ended up playing until the Sox let him go in 1993 so I had a few years to watch him play.
If you have never been to the old Comiskey you really missed something. I love how that old park looked. The picture above really does not do the park justice, but it gives you an idea of the beauty that I saw when I walked into the stadium itself for the first time. We had seats in section 135 with a limited view. What that limited view meant was that a large pole was right in front of us and the action. If I remember right my father took the worst seat so that I had a better view. A look at a post thirty sections over can be seen to the left. Those posts really got in the way. The game started simple enough. Floyd Bannister was on the mound for the White Sox. I would see Floyd pitch the first three White Sox games that I attended (two of those for the Sox, and one for the Royals). Bannister struck out the first two batters in the first before getting Cecil Fielder to ground out to third. The White Sox came to bat, and ruined me forever. Reid Nichols and Scott Fletcher both got on base for Harold Baines. Baines drilled a home run to put the Sox up 3-0 very quickly. I now expect this every time I go to a game. My new favorite player Carlton Fisk then came to the plate. Maybe he could hit a home run too. It was not to be though. He grounded out to third. The White Sox would get one more run that inning to take a 4-0 lead into the second inning. How great is that? The Sox bat around the very first time that I see them in person! Sadly twenty five years later, and over 70 Sox games later I have seen that very few times since.
The rest of the game was played at a much slower pace. The Sox would get one more run when current manager Ozzie Guillen singled in current batting coach Greg Walker. George Bell hit a roof shot in the sixth inning that provided the Blue Jays with all three of their runs. Floyd Bannister was pulled shortly after that roof shot, but came away with the win. Jerry Don Gleaton pitched a scoreless inning before Bob James pitched 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief to get the save. My new favorite player Carlton Fisk went 0-3 with a walk. One other oddity that I saw that day was Scotty Fletcher playing second, short, and third in the same game. He started the game at third, moved to second in the seventh, and then moved to short in the sixth to replace Ozzie Guillen. The game lasted just under three hours, but has always held a special place in my memory.
What has come of the players since that day? Fisk was elected into the Hall of Fame in 2000. Harold Baines has had his number retired by two different franchises. Ozzie Guillen went on to win the rookie of the year in 1985, and came back in 2004 to manage the Sox. He won the World Series with them in 2005. Guillen, Walker, and Baines are all on the current coaching staff of the Sox with Ron Kittle and Fisk serving as team ambassadors. Richard Dotson who signed my yearbook for me is now the pitching coach for the Sox triple A team the Charlotte Knights. I met him last summer, and he signed a ball for me. I met him again this season, but just talked to him. Floyd Bannister would go on to sire a child that would pitch for the Royals. I have seen Brian pitch a couple of times in person this season which I think is really cool. Cecil Fielder would leave the Blue Jays for Japan before coming back to the states fatter, but with more power. George Bell on the other hand went on to play for the Cubs. When the Sox needed a power bat for the 1992 season he was acquired for future slugger Sammy Sosa. Sosa was picked up by the Sox from the Rangers as part of the Harold Baines deal. Six degrees I guess. I still have way too many Fisk cards and memorabilia. To let you in on how much that day got into my head I am bummed out that I could not get to one more Sox game before today. If I had it would be the 72nd Sox game that I attended. I guess number 72 will have to wait until my birthday on Saturday. I am sure I will have more on this game tomorrow along with a few pictures. One other where are they now. The backpack that I was so proud to take to school broke on the second day that I used it spilling all of my books onto a busy street in my town. Apparently the free giveaway needed a few more stitches in it.
Tonight I am going to the Sox game against the Orioles to celebrate twenty five years of baseball with my father. I always enjoy going to games with him, and we have decent seats behind the Sox dugout to watch the game. Maybe the new crop of Sox players will bat around early to help relive old memories. My guy Mark Buehrle is on the bump for the Sox so the night will already be starting off great.