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Charles Comiskey: South Side Scrooge or Epitome of a Self-Made Man?

By
Mary OMalley

Thesis Project
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the
Requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts in Liberal Studies
August 2016
Dr. Bill Savage, First Reader
Dr. Kate Baldwin, Second Reader
Having lived 34 years as a Chicagoan, I understood that there were a few universal

truths about Chicago baseball. South Siders cheer for the White Sox, North Siders were born

Cubs fans, a goat cursed the Cubs, and, perhaps most important, Charles Comiskey (1859-

1931) was a notorious tightwad whose actions caused his players to throw the 1919 World

Series. The characterization of White Sox founder and owner Charles A. Comiskey as a

ruthless man whose tightfistedness contributed to the 1919 players scandal has been

regarded as gospel by journalists and filmmakers alike1,2,3. Only after I dug deeper and

investigated a different side of the 1919 World Series scandal did I start to question the

legacy Charles Comiskey should have. Some baseball historians had claimed that he was a

villain, a corrupt businessman who wanted to make money at all costs. And I believed it.

This South Sider needs to eat her Cubs hat. Comiskeys legacy is powerful -- he was truly a

man of Chicago who did everything in his power to bring his love, baseball, to the city he

loved and provide the fans the best experience possible.

An innovative first baseman, Comiskey was one of only two men who managed ten

or more years in the majors with a career winning percentage of over .6004. For the past sixty

years, beginning with Eliot Asinof, journalists have created the image of Comiskey as an evil

but shrewd businessman who valued the revenue to be generated from baseball over the

people involved in it. In this narrative, the Black Sox threw the World Series of 1919 as

retaliation for poor working conditions and low wages. But why, if the old Roman was

such a despicable owner, did thousands attend his funeral in 1931 and almost 300 prominent

1
Eliot Asinof, Eight Men Out: The Black Sox and the World Series, New York: Henry Holt and
Company, 1963.
2
Eight Men Out. By Eliot Asinof. Dir. John Sayles. Orion Pictures Company. 1988
3
Ken Buns, Baseball: A Film, PBS, 2000
4
Sports Reference, LLC., Charles Comiskey,< http://www.baseball-
reference.com/players/c/comisch01.shtml>, (18 July 2016).

4
men serve as honorary pallbearers? This thesis is an attempt to understand Charles

Comiskey by examining the city in which he grew up and which he chose as the site of his

modern baseball park in 1910. Comiskeys legacy is more than the 1919 Black Sox scandal.

Born in Crosserlough, County Cavan, Ireland in 1826, John Comiskey, Charles father,

immigrated to the United States in 18485. Initially settling in New Haven, Connecticut, he

worked in the lumberyards. Not much is known about John Comiskey until he relocated to

Chicago in 1853 to serve as Director of Incoming Freights on the Rock Island Railroad.

Thanks to the railroad industry, Chicago was expanding quickly6. While the 1848 Illinois &

Michigan Canal had connected Chicago to the Mississippi River and St. Louis, by the 1860s7,

Chicago had become a transportation hub.8 While some scholars9 have argued that the John

Comiskey was working-class, his job with the Rock Island, as with others he held, indicate

otherwise10. Johns position with the railroad gave the family financial stability, a goal of

most immigrants.

In 1853, Chicago was a town of 50,000 people, and Illinois was the fourth most

populous state in the union11. Early Chicago directories list John and his wife, Mary, living

5
M.L Ahern, The Political History of Chicago. (Chicago: Donohue and Hennenberry, 1886), 145.
6
H. Roger Grant. Transportation. 2004. 1 May 2016.
<http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/1269.html>
7
Benjamin W. Dreyfus, The City Transformed: Railroads and Their Influence on the Growth of
Chicago in the 1850's. 1995. http://www.hcs.harvard.edu/~dreyfus/history.html. Dreyfus also
states that, Chicago's transformation into a railroad capital was aided by the national trend
of the time, in which the general direction of trade had shifted from north-south to east-
west.
8
Benjamin W. Dreyfus, The City Transformed: Railroads and Their Influence on the Growth of
Chicago in the 1850's. 1995. <http://www.hcs.harvard.edu/~dreyfus/history.html>
9
Tim Hornbaker, Turning the Black Sox White: The Misunderstood Legacy of Charles A. Comiskey,
(New York: Sports Publishing, 2014), 5
10
M.L Ahern, The Political History of Chicago. (Chicago: Donohue and Hennenberry, 1886),
145.
11
Janice A. Petterchak, Timeline of Illinois History.
<https://www.illinois.gov/ihpa/Research/Pages/Timeline.aspx>.

5
on Union Street between Liberty and Mitchell Streets. They later built a house at 142 S. Lytle

Street12 (1111 S. Lytle after 1909), on the West Side of the city where they raised their seven

children. The neighborhood, home to many Irish immigrants, was on the edge of the

growing city and the prairie. In quick succession, Patrick Henry Comiskey was born in 1856,

followed by John J., (1857), Charles A. (1859), Edmund Edward (1861), Mary (1862), James

Damen (1868) and Ignatius (1873)13

As his family was expanding, and the city was growing, John continued his ascent in the

business and political worlds. Records indicate that John Comiskey worked closely with

Reverend Arnold Damen, S.J., a Jesuit priest, when he was erecting Holy Family Church, a

massive Gothic edifice on Twelfth Street (later Roosevelt Road) between 1857 and 1860.

Comiskey knocked on doors to raise money for stained glass windows and paid for one that

still bears the family name14. As a young child, Charles spent countless hours inside the vast

cathedral on the prairie, the largest structure of its kind in Chicago. Oddly, no baseball

historians have explored the possible connection between this experience and his later

construction of the White Sox Park. Dedicated in 1860, Holy Family Church continued to

be the focal point of the large Irish community on the near West Side for thousands of

newly arrived immigrants. In the 1890s, the parish claimed a membership of 25,000 men15,

12
Chicago Daily Tribune, "Comiskey Sells Old Home in Lytle Street District", Chicago Daily
Tribune, 25 March 1911.
13
Ancestry.com. John Comiskey. n.d. 2016. <http://tinyurl.com/h775a4y
14
Holy Family Parish, Comiskey Family's Deep Roots at Chicagos Holy Family Parish To Be Marked
During Special Mass, Sunday December 28, 18 December 2008. (1 May 2016).
<http://www.holyfamilychicago.org/newsroom/81204comiskeyrelease.htm>

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women and children and supported a school system that ranged from elementary schools to

a college16.

In 1859, the year Charles was born, John was elected to serve as alderman for

Chicagos 10th ward, beginning his tenure in city politics. In 1861, he was elected to represent

the 7th ward. In 1863, after ten years with the Rock Island Railroad, he left to join group of

distillers, Shufeldt and Croskey17, and was simultaneously re-elected as alderman in the 7th

ward. In 1866, he was elected to represent the eighth ward and became a Superintendent

with the Fort Wayne Cattle Yards. In 1870, the last year of his term in the Council, he was

elected President, the first time the office was created18.

In 1871, tragedy struck Chicago when the Great Chicago Fire started blocks from

the Comiskeys frame home and Holy Family Church19. While the wind shifted and both

were spared, much of Chicago was reduced to ashes. Always a businessman and politician,

John viewed the fire as a positive thing for his family: he could apprentice his young sons

into building trades to provide financial stability and ensure their futures20. Irish family

structure, and Catholicism, prescribes that children are raised to be dutiful to their elders and

obey authority, so it can be assumed that John Comiskey had no to reason to believe that his

sons would behave otherwise.

16
Tom McElligott, The Miracle on Roosevelt Road, (Chicago: Thomas McElligott and
Lindaanne Donohoe, 2009).
17
According to an 1870 Chicago directory, A.F. Croskey owned the Artesian Well Ice
Company and Henry H. Shufeldt and Company were rectifying distillers.
18
M.L Ahern, The Political History of Chicago. (Chicago: Donohue and Hennenberry, 1886),
145.
19
Holy Family Parish, History, n.d. http://www.holyfamilychicago.org/history.htm (1 May
2016).
20
George S. Robbins, First Story of Life Told By Comiskey, Chicago Daily News, 15 April
1916.

7
During Charles childhood, his father John was widely regarded as an active

supporter of the revolutionary Fenian Brotherhood aimed at freeing Ireland from English

oppression. According to John Jentz and Richard Schneirov, as president of the Sons of

Erin in 1864, Comiskey included Fenians in the St. Patricks Day Parade, over Bishop

[James] Duggans opposition21. Throughout the 1880s22 Holy Family parishioners

continued to support the cause of Irish freedom with membership in the Irish Land

League23. While Charles no doubt witnessed the passions of his father and neighbors for

Irelands freedom, his own education was distinctively American.

Charles attended the parish school of Holy Family on Morgan Street and was one of

the first students to enroll in the new St. Ignatius College which opened on Sept. 5, 187024.

But it wasnt long after the Great Chicago Fire that Charles Comiskey discovered baseball.

He began spending as much time as he could on the Garden City grounds, which was then

just prairie, on the West Side of Chicago25. In a series of profiles by the Chicago Daily News

in 1916, that were subsequently reprinted in The Sporting News, Charles said, I just grew up

in baseball. The sandlots of Chicago were my school. It was there that I learned the

rudiments of the game and it was there the fascination of the sport gripped me for life.26

21
John Jentz and Richard Schneirov, Chicago in the Age of Capitalism: Class, Politics, and
Democracy during the Civil War and Reconstruction, (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2012),
73.
22
Chicago Daily Tribune, The Land-Leaguers, Chicago Daily Tribune (9 February 1881).
23
Chicago Daily Tribune, The Land-Leaguers, Chicago Daily Tribune (28 March, 1881).
24
Ellen Skerrett, Born in Chicago: A History of Chicagos Jesuit University (Loyola Press, 2008: 30
25
George S. Robbins, First Story of Life Told By Comiskey, Chicago Daily News, 15 April
1916.
26
George S. Robbins, First Story of Life Told By Comiskey, Chicago Daily News, 15 April
1916. See also, Comiskeys Own Story of A Lifetime Spent in Baseball, The Sporting News,
December 28, 1916.

8
Even as early as age 13, Charles had a stubborn streak his passion was baseball and

it was all he thought about. Expecting his son to focus on his studies and finding a trade,

Charles love of baseball caused great strife between father and son. Charles recalls,

My father frowned on baseball as a sport for town boys and loafers. The game
hadnt appealed to him as a worth profession for any of his sons My father didnt
figure on [baseball] becoming the nations greatest pastime, involving the
expenditure of millions of dollars and appealing to millions of people as their
principal form of entertainment. I disobeyed my father on the subject of baseball and
never regretted it27.

In leaving Ireland for America, John and Mary bought into the American Dream, America as

a place to find success, which was often defined as financial stability. Challenged by his third

son and his love of baseball, John was unable to understand why he would want to pass up

economic security to pursue a mere game. Much has been written about the feud between

Charles and John; however, it is interesting to note that Charles rise to business success is

eerily similar to his fathers.

In 1873, Mary died suddenly28. With John alone running the household and bringing

in an income, he sent his older sons to boarding school. John believed that the structure and

academic rigor of St. Johns College in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, would help focus the

boys on their academics. Charles said,

My father was determined to give his children a thorough schooling and probably
thought he would put me out of baseball by sending me away to college. As events
proved, that move only serve to bind me closer to the game29.

However, Comiskeys time in Prairie du Chen was limited, as John still believed his focus on

academics was not strong enough. At St. Johns, Charles met John English, captain of the

27
George S. Robbins, First Story of Life Told By Comiskey, Chicago Daily News, 15 April
1916.
28
Ancestry.com. John Comiskey. n.d. 2016. <http://tinyurl.com/h775a4y>
29
Comiskeys Own Story of A Lifetime Spent in Baseball, The Sporting News, December 28,
1916.

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college baseball team. English, known for being a good judge of baseball talent, immediately

noticed Comiskey and his skills. English said of Comiskey,

At [St. Johns] college, he at once developed the qualifications of being a leader and
an organizer. He was resourceful, industrious, and an enthusiast. He was a good
student, strong in math and commercial law. As an athlete, he excelled all. He was a
likeable character, affable, jolly and an all-around good fellow, yet he was a stickler
for discipline and compliance with the rules30.

After a year, he decided to send Charles even further away, to St. Marys College in Kansas,

where his older brother John attended hoping that move this would refocus him.

When he enrolled at St. Marys, Charles was introduced to Ted Sullivan, a senior who

became a lifelong friend and mentor. Sullivan remembers Comiskey as

an awkward looking youth with a lot of determination, much speed and seemed all
wrapped up in baseball. The kids, as the freshmen were called, organized a ball club
early that year and Charley Comiskey was the promoter, manager, and captain 31

If his fathers goal was to have Charles refocus and get away from baseball, his transfer to St.

Marys did the opposite. His friendship with Sullivan was fast and founded on the basis that

Sullivan was already thinking about baseball as a career perhaps as much as Charles or even

more. Charles recalls, the dreams of my youth to enter the bigger world of baseball were

not to be realized at St. Marys and talks with Ted, Jim, and others only spurred me on

toward the professional field.32 But something was stopping him from attempting to go

professional when he finished his education perhaps he knew what that would do to his

relationship with his father. Upon returning to Chicago from St. Marys, Charles honored his

fathers wishes by agreeing to study as a plumbers apprentice.

30
Original source: Bellingham Herald, January 23, 1910. Quoted from Tim Hornbacker,
Turning the Black Sox White.
31
George S. Robbins, "Comiskey Tells of School Day Games",Chicago Daily News 17 April
1916.
32
George S. Robbins, "Comiskey Tells of School Day Games",Chicago Daily News 17 April
1916.

10
A plumbing apprenticeship in a post-Chicago Fire economy would have set Charles

up financially for life. The city was growing at an exuberant pace with buildings being built

and plumbing work would have been plentiful. But this wasnt the life Charles had

envisioned for himself. Charless decision to leave his plumbers apprenticeship secured by

John -- was a significant blow to his fathers ego. Charles rebellious decision to leave to

pursue professional baseball was rare in the neighborhood where the family lived, worked,

and worshipped. It was likely to have been a much discussed and judged decision by others

in the parish who also did not understand how a child could so boldly go against the wishes

of his father. In 1876, Charles left to play third base with Sullivan on an independent team in

Milwaukee and ties were cut between father and son. Much to his fathers chagrin, Charles

was paid $60 dollars a month to play baseball33.

At the end of the season with Milwaukee, Charles moved to a team based out of

Elgin, Illinois where he could pitch as well as play in the field. Biographer Irv Goldfarb has

described Charles as a right-handed thrower and hitter who stood approximately 6 feet tall

. . . [whose repertoire included] a solid fastball and an assortment of curves. 34 From Elgin,

Charles moved to the Dubuque Red Stockings. The move to Dubuque is significant for two

reasons: Charles was reunited with Sullivan and he was introduced to his future wife, Nan

Kelly, whom he married on Sept. 29, 1882. To his credit, Sullivan was a thoughtful manager

who worried about his players. He employed Comiskey as a representative of his successful

news agency, where Charlies 20 per cent commission dwarfed his baseball salary.35 To

33
George S. Robbins, Comiskey Got $60 A Month on Slab Chicago Daily News April 18
1916.
34
Irv Goldfarb, Charles Comiskey, n.d. SABR.org.
<http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/efbc6b31>
35
Irv Goldfarb, Charles Comiskey, n.d. SABR.org.
<http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/efbc6b31>

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Charles, it didnt matter. One of the many things he learned from Sullivan was how to live

frugally during the season and work as hard as possible in the off-season to make ends meet.

In the four years Charles was in Dubuque, Sullivans club won the Northwest League

pennant in 187936.

Until this point, Dubuque was the city Charles had lived longest since leaving

Chicago, and outside of Chicago, it was the city that shaped him the most. Comiskey recalls

that,

it was in Dubuque that I got my real start in the game. It was there I met that grand
character who helped me make baseballTom Loftus. It was there I developed
friendships which have grown with the light of the seasons and it was there that I
found Rowland, who gives promise of developing into one of the games greatest
leaders37.

Charles loved all facets of baseball. Starting as a pitcher, he soon developed arm trouble,

which forced him to move to the infield. As a first baseman, Charles was the first to play off

first base, moving the position to the right38. Modern day ball players still play the position

this way. He saw the game differently than other players and, after his arm injuries, he was

able to transition to the role of a manager in addition to his playing career. These are just

two examples of what is typical of Charles: whenever he saw a challenge, he accepted the

opportunity to adapt and change. In baseball, both as a player, manager and owner, he was

creative and inventive, but always within a set of rules.

In 1881, the Dubuque Rabbits, lead by Comiskey and Sullivan, played an exhibition

game in St. Louis where Comiskey was noticed by Chris Von der Ahe, the owner of the St.

36
Encyclopedia Dubuque, Baseball,
<http://www.encyclopediadubuque.org/index.php?title=BASEBALL>, (1 July 2016).
37
George S. Robbins, "Comiskey Explains Big Baseball Deals, Chicago Daily News 25 April
1916.
38
National Baseball Hall of Fame, Charles Comiskey, <http://baseballhall.org/hof/comiskey-
charles>, (19 July 2016)

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Louis Brown Stockings. Seeing a chance to rise in the game, Comiskey joined the Brown

Stockings in 1882. Much like his father, Charles always seemed to be asking whats next

and looking to advance up the ladder. To Charles, St. Louis was a move up the baseball

hierarchy, into the Major Leagues39.

Serving part-time as a manager and as a player, Charles spent five years in St. Louis

from 1882-1889 before taking over as manager full time in 1885. During his tenure in St.

Louis, his led the Browns to four consecutive American Association championships and a

second place finish40. Comiskey was notorious for his competitive nature and his

stubbornness but was also lauded for this ability to see the game from every position. Al

Spink, the journalist who founded The Sporting News and who observed Comiskey as manager

of the St. Louis Browns for a year, recalled that,

The teams success was due chiefly to the wonderful energy, skill, and intelligence of
its commander (Charles A. Comiskey). Comiskey above any other baseball general
had the knack of winning games down to a science. At a glance he could see the
weak spot of the opposition and at a word his men were ready to scale that spot and
run over it. He taught his men always to play for the game and not for individual
batting or fielding records. He could forgive one of his men quickly for missing an
opportunity but not the fielder who shirked or failed to sacrifice when a sacrifice was
needed Comiskey taught his men how to play for the batsmen and at his signal the
fielders played close or in deep field as they were ordered. No game is lost until the
last man is out41.

In growing his career, whether he knew it or not, Charles paralleled his father, always

looking for the next step in advancement. It was not uncommon to have players and

39
Irv Goldfarb, Charles Comiskey, n.d. SABR.org.
<http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/efbc6b31>
40
Sports Reference, LLC, St. Louis Cardinals: Team History and Encyclopedia,
http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/STL/ (1 May 2016).
41
George S. Robbins, Baseball War Puts Comiskey in Chicago", Chicago Daily News, 21 April
1916.

13
managers move from one club to another, and Charles did so learning what he could from a

team and their management, before moving on. And it paid off.

The 1894 season was Charles last as a player after his doctors advised him at 34

years old that he was threatened with tuberculosis42,43. Charles headed for the warmer

climate of the South to recuperate during the off-season. Sources say it was on this trip that

Charles thought of creating a new Major league from the Western states. When he returned

to Cincinnati, Charles asked Ban Johnson, a journalist, if he would be interested in helping to

lead this new venture. Johnson took control of the league as its President in November.

After a shaky start financially, he had his work cut out for him.

In order to boost league attendance, Johnson crusaded against rowdiness in the


league, supporting his umpires with better pay and backing up their rulings on the
field with stiff penalties for bad behavior. Under Johnson's able stewardship, the
league became more profitable over the rest of the 19th century44.

During this time of transition, Charles spent the 1894 season with Cincinnati as their

manager45,46. After the season, Charles purchased the Sioux City Cornhuskers fulfilling his

dream to create a league for the western states. He quickly moved the team to St. Paul,

Minnesota. It was in St. Paul that he built his first ballpark but perhaps more important, it

was in St. Paul where Charles reconciled with his father. What prompted the reunion

42
Irv Goldfarb, Charles Comiskey, n.d. SABR.org.
<http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/efbc6b31>
43
Goldfarb cites Hugh C. Weir, The Real Comiskey, Baseball Magazine, accessed at
<http://library.la84.org/SportsLibrary/BBM/1914/bbm4f.pdf>, (1 August 2016) and
Pomrenke, editor, Scandal on the South Side: The 1919 White Sox, (Phoenix, Arizona: Society for
Baseball Research, Inc).
44
Irv Goldfarb, Charles Comiskey, n.d. SABR.org.
<http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/efbc6b31>
45
Sports Reference, LLC, The 1894 Cincinnati Reds, < http://www.baseball-
reference.com/teams/CIN/1894.shtml> (1 May 2016).
46
Sports Reference, LLC, Charles Comiskey, http://www.baseball-
reference.com/players/c/comisch01.shtml

14
between father and son is not known, and speculation could take many different turns.

Perhaps, John Comiskey realized he was wrong after Charles was able to achieve success in

baseball. Perhaps, however, Charles realized his fathers business expertise could be

beneficial as he built up his baseball club.

In 1899, after five seasons in St. Paul as both owner and manager, Charles was

granted permission by the National League to relocate his franchise to Chicago. Perhaps

recalling his finest moments as a player, Comiskey decided on White Sox, a play on the old

Cubs nickname, White Stockings, the team his Browns had beaten for the 1886

championship47.

Choosing Chicago as the new home of his team was an easy decision for Charles.

Aside from the fact that many members of his family lived there, Chicago was where Charles

first fell in love with the game and it was important for him to honor that.

I chose Chicago, the city of my birth, where I had learned the rudiments of the game
on the sand lots, as the ideal spot for my franchise That is the reason I chose the
south side in preference to the west. It was a lucky thing that I was so restricted. It
proved the making of baseball in Chicago48

To understand Charles Comiskey, one must understand Chicago as both he and the city

were growing as a result of challenges they faced. When Charles first began to play baseball,

he had been playing on the prairies on the edge of a much smaller town. By 1900, Chicago

47
Irv Goldfarb, Charles Comiskey, n.d. SABR.org.
<http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/efbc6b31>
48
George S. Robbins, Control of the Sox Gained By Comiskey", Chicago Daily News, 24
April 1916.

15
had become the second largest city in the United States49. Over the twenty years that

Comiskey was away from Chicago, the city experienced explosive growth and not just in

infrastructure. Immigrants were settling in the city by the thousands, providing much-needed

labor on the railroads and in the stockyards and steel mills. While baseball was traditionally

viewed as a throwback to more pastoral times, the fact that Charles team played in an

industrialized city showed the growth of the sport and the nation. Baseball and Chicago were

growing up together.

Soon after Charles left Chicago, in May 1886, an incident occurred that brought the

focus of the nation on the city. Now known as the Haymarket Riot, a peaceful rally in

support of an eight-hour workday on May 4, 1886 ended with a bomb thrown at police. The

blast and ensuing gunfire resulted in the deaths of seven police officers and at least four

civilians. In the sensational trial that followed eight protesters were found guilty50. Against

this backdrop of workers unrest, on September 18, 1889, Jane Addams and Ellen Gates

Starr opened the doors of the Hull-House Settlement at Halsted and Polk streets, just a short

distance from Comiskeys boyhood home51. While Hull-House provided educational and

cultural opportunities, especially art and music classes for immigrants on the West Side of

the city, what is often overlooked is that there were already five Catholic parishes in the

neighborhood, especially Holy Family, that were also meeting the needs of the poor.

49
United States Census, Table 13: Population of the 100 Largest Places Urban Places,
https://www.census.gov/population/www/documentation/twps0027/tab13.txt 1 May
2016
50
Christopher Thale, Haymarket and May Day,
http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/571.html
51
The Jane Addams Papers Project, Chronology,
<http://janeaddams.ramapo.edu/aboutproject/> 18 July 2016.

16
By 1890, [Chicago] was earning the ambivalent reputation that all great cities had at
that timeawesome in its bulk and wealth, yet condemned for its fleshpots, diseases,
and poverty. It did not fit into a still-rural America: it was frighteningly large, and its
hundreds of thousands of foreign-born residents aroused nativist as well as antiurban
suspicions. And it kept on growing52.

In 1893, Chicago welcomed the world to the Worlds Columbian Exposition to celebrate the

400th anniversary of Columbus discovering the New World. According to historian Robert

Rydell, the celebration covered more than 600 acres, with nearly 200 new

buildings, canals and lagoons, and people and cultures representing 46 countries. More than

27 million people attended the exposition over the course of six months53.

As the city grew and matured, so did Charles and the business of baseball. Upon

returning to Chicago, and establishing a small park at 39th and Princeton Avenue in 190054,

Charles was able to make decisions regarding the club as he saw fit. When I came to

Chicago, I took many of my St. Paul players with me, but I soon gathered the nucleus of a

pennant contending team from various sources.55 Charles started to buy talented players

who would immediately impact the plays on the field. Among the greatest plays of my life

in baseball, that of the signing Eddie Collins, the best outfielder in the world stands in a class

by itself. It required a barrel of money to land this wonderful player, but I wanted him and

52
Walter Nugent, Demography: Chicago as a Modern World City,
<http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/962.html>, 18 July 2016
53
Robert Rydell, Worlds Columbian Exposition (May 1-October 31, 1893),
<http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/1386.html>, 18 July 2016.
54
WhiteSox.com, Ballpark History,
<http://chicago.whitesox.mlb.com/cws/ballpark/cws_ballpark_history.jsp>, (1 August
2016)
55
George S. Robbins, Control of the Sox Gained By Comiskey", Chicago Daily News, 24
April 1916.

17
didnt count the cost.56 With the signing of Collins, Charles quest to make Chicago the best

was on.

Between 1906 and 1908, just six years into Charles tenure as owner of the Sox,

Chicago ruled baseball. The initial successes of the White Sox culminated with winning the

World Series in 1906 against their west side rivals, the Chicago Cubs. The Hitless

Wonders, as the 1906 White Sox were known, beat the Cubs in six games. However, the

two clubs went back and forth in dominance over the next few years. Besides their regular

season records, the two teams played post-season exhibition series. Charles said,

Chances men won the National league flag in 1907, 1908, 1910. Then [what]
followed [was] several years of [White Sox] triumph over the west side club [in the
city series]. We defeated the Cubs five consecutive years in 1911, 1912, 1913, 1914,
and 191557.

In creating the City Series, Charles was extending the season past the World Series.

Extending the season was beneficial for everyone for when games are played, money is made

by owners and players and fans get more baseball58.

The rivalry between the Sox and the Cubs was immediate not only because they

played the game with the same high intensity and level of skill. Further, for residents new to

Chicago, cheering for a team helped establish an identity beyond their neighborhoods that

made them feel a part of the larger city. The White Sox were an early fan favorite, not just

56
George S. Robbins, Comiskey Explains Big Baseball Deals", Chicago Daily News, 25 April
1916.
57
George S. Robbins, Comiskey Explains Big Baseball Deals", Chicago Daily News, 25 April
1916.
58
Bill Savage, correspondence with author, 27 August 2016

18
because of their successes on the field, but because of the effort Charles put forth to

showcase the game he so loved to the people of Chicago. In his own words,

I decided I owed it to the fans to go out and spent a part of that money to build up
my ball club. The loyal support of the Chicago fans through all the lean years since
we won the worlds flag in 1906 was appreciated by me. The purchase of Collins,
signing of Joe Jackson, Eddie Murphy, and others and my attempts to get Frank
Baker resulted from my desire to give the fans a winning ball team59

On Jan 30, 1910, Comiskey announced the beginning of construction on a state of the art

ballpark at 35th and Shields to be completed by July 1. Charles described the park as as a

monument to the devotion of the fans to my ball club and their loyalty to me in the fifteen

years I have been a club owner in Chicago60. In building this park, Comiskey was following

in his fathers footsteps once again. John Comiskey was a founding member of Holy Family

Parish and active in its building. It would be hard not to think that Charles was inspired by

Holy Family Church, just four miles north, when he was constructing White Sox Park.

The cornerstone, a green brick, size 2 x 4 x 8, was put in place by architect

Zachary Taylor Davis in a ceremony that received widespread news coverage. Honoring

both his own familys heritage the day of the dedication is also notable because March 17 is

the day set aside by Irish Americans in honor of St. Patrick.61 The businessman in Charles

very much knew what he was doing by choosing a green brick and scheduling the ceremony

on St. Patricks Day the neighborhoods surrounding the park were home to one of

Chicagos largest populations of Irish immigrants.

59
George S. Robbins, Comiskey Explains Big Baseball Deals", Chicago Daily News 25 April
1916.
60
George S. Robbins, Comiskey Explains Big Baseball Deals", Chicago Daily News 25 April
1916.
61
Chicago Daily Tribune, "Celebrate at New Sox Park; Fans Gather to see First Brick, a
Green one, Laid". Chicago Daily Tribune, 18 March 1910.

19
The park plans called for a wide outfield, 362 feet down each line and 420 feet to

straight away center. Because of the large lot upon which Comiskey purchased to build on,

Robin Bachin notes, White Sox Park was to be the first symmetrical ballpark in the majors62.

The costs of the White Sox Park were estimated to be $500,000, to be covered by Charles

Comiskey himself. He purchased the land for $100,000, construction costs estimated to be

around $350,000 and he spent more than a $100,000 for grading, furniture, and fixtures63. In

covering the cornerstone ceremony, the Chicago Daily Tribune noted that American League

President Ban Johnson was surprised by the speed with which the park is being built and

believes it surely will be ready by July 1.64 When Charles committed to something, he

committed completely and to do everything at the highest level possible.

On Friday, July 1, 1910, Charles opened the ballpark with thirty thousand fans on

hand before a game against St. Louis. For the opening day celebration, thousands flocked to

the park on street cars, on motorcycles, on foot, and by every conceivable means of travel,

according to the Chicago Daily News, to celebrate and honor President Comiskey and his

fearless enterprise in giving the city a baseball palace worthy of it65 The Chicago Daily News

notes that

Chicagoans, justly proud of the new baseball plant, turned out in force to see it
christened with all the ceremony and splendor befitting such an epoch-making event

62
Robin Bachin, Building the South Side: Urban Space and Civic Culture in Chicago, 1890-1919.
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004).
63
With inflation, the building of White Sox Park would have cost $23,750,000 in 2016
(http://www.davemanuel.com/inflation-calculator.php).
64
Chicago Daily Tribune, Old Roman will celebrate: St. Patricks Day is Reason, Chicago
Daily Tribune, 18 March 1910.
65
Chicago Daily News, "Chicago White Sox New Baseball Home Opens Today", Chicago
Daily News, 1 July 1910.

20
in the history of the sport defeat by the Browns, two to zero, is only thing that
detracts from the gayety of the occasion66.

Significantly, another article notes that,

Comiskeys success has been founded largely on his ability to secure good ball
players who compete to win at all times and that is true of the team which wears the
colors of the club at the present time. At any rate those south side fans have a sort of
intuition to this effect and they have reason to think so67.

Comiskeys desire to share his love of the game with fans permeated every decision he made.

The opening of the park was in line with that method of thinking and doing business

White Sox Park not only altered the scale of professional baseball in Chicago, but the culture

of spectating as well. [is this a quote from Bachin? attribution here????]

In Baseball America: The Heroes of the Game and the Times of Their Glory, historian Donald

Honig describes Charles as the epitome of the self-made man, having made all the

waystation stops, a survivor and an achiever in a chancy, rugged environment68.

Construction of the park fulfilled John Comiskeys American Dream for his son. Where he

originally believed that baseball was not a sport fit for any of his sons, with the purchase of

the team and building of the park, Charles had achieved more than John could have

imagined. But Charles wasnt one to rest on his laurels.

While building the park might have achieved the American Dream, Charles used the

park to help others achieve their dreams, even marginalized populations like African

Americans. In 1912, White Sox Park was home to the citys Fourth of July celebration after

the city banned the use of fireworks. Fire Chief McWeeny told a Chicago Daily News reporter:

66
Chicago Daily Tribune, "Scenes at New White Sox Park Which Comiskey Opened to
28,000 Fans Yesterday," Chicago Daily Tribune, 2 July 1910.
67
Chicago Daily News, Fans Crowd Sox Park; Thirty Thousand Help South Side Baseball
Club Dedicate New Grounds", Chicago Daily News, 2 July 1910.
68
Donald Honig, Baseball America: The Heroes of the Game and the Times of Their Glory (New
York: Galahad Books, 1993), 103.

21
It has been said that firecrackers not exceeding a certain length two inches and

otherwise restricted as to size may be used by the children but this is not so. The police have

orders to see that the law is obeyed and as a result we do not expect much trouble

tomorrow69. Wanting to help provide a safe place to celebrate, Comiskey spared no expense

in 1912 hosting this event,

lovers of fireworks barred by city ordinances from blowing up their own fingers and
maiming others still have an opportunity to observe a pyrotechnical display
tomorrow night at the White Sox ball park. President Taft and Governor Wilson will
beam down from the sky in showers of red, white and blue sparks, amid the soaring
of rockets, the bursting of bombs, and the precipitation of golden rain70

The 1912 celebration was so successful that in 1913, he expanded it spending $5,000 on

fireworks alone. It was advertised in the Chicago Examiner complete with a coupon so that

fans could get the fifty-cent ticket for ten cents by presenting the paper at exchange stations.

Exchange stations were located all across the city, including two locations on the north side,

Currys at 1133 Wilson Avenue and Carrolls at 1555 N. Clark Street, and one on the west

side, Ross News Store at 211 N. Western71. These locations reinforced the fact that the event

was open to all Chicagoans, not just South Siders or White Sox fans.

The Fourth of July might be politically mainstream but Charles also was willing to

support radical causes like womens suffrage. In 1914, after a parade was cancelled in Grant

Park in support of the Womens Suffrage movement, Charles quickly telegrammed a leader

of the parade saying Pleased to allow you to use Comiskey Park in May. A supporter of

the cause who was not named said to the Chicago Daily News, It is too bad our south park

69
Chicago Daily News, "Doom Firecrackers; Big But Quiet Fourth", Chicago Daily News, 3 July
1912.
70
Chicago Daily News, "Doom Firecrackers; Big But Quiet Fourth", Chicago Daily News, 3 July
1912.
71
Fourth of July Fire Works Show. Advertisement. Chicago Examiner, 3 July 1913.

22
commissioners are not as broadminded as our baseball leaders. This telegram [from

Comiskey] may show why our baseball parks are more frequented than Grant Park.72

In June 1911, less than a year after opening, Comiskey was praised in the Chicago

Defender, a weekly paper for African American readers, for opening the park for the Eighth

Regiment Field Day celebration. The Eighth Regiment, whose armory was located just east

of White Sox Park at 3533 S. Giles Avenue, was known as the Fighting 8th.

Up to Sunday it was conceded that the White Sox and the gallant Eight were the
South Siders two best drawing Cards. Now both the Sox and the Eighth must take a
back seat and all honor be given to the owner of the famous team who so generously
gave the unreserved use of the grounds to the eighth. Sunday, both in and out of the
regiment, his name vied with that of the Eighth, and he may be assured that
whenever the boys are at home the people that the Chicago Defender represents
will be out in large numbers and give that variety of Color to the assemblage that has
ever made all large gathering in the country the talk of the world73.

The importance of this deed should not be lost. Historians have often pointed out the long

standing antagonism between the Irish and African Americans in Chicago dating back to the

Civil War and continuing through the Great Migration of World War I74. Charles welcomed

the Eighth Regiment and acts like these became regular occurrences at White Sox Park75. In

August 1911, Comiskey hosted Provident Hospitals 4th Annual Ball game featuring the

American Giants vs. Gunthers. These teams regularly played their games in the Chicago

Negro Leagues park at 39th and Princeton Avenue, which Charles had built in 190176.

72
Chicago Daily Tribune, Women Decide on Great Parade, Chicago Daily Tribune, 26 March
1914.
73
The Chicago Defender (Big Weekend Edition) (1905-1966); Jul 29, 1911; pg. 3
74
Robin Bachin, Building the South Side: Urban Space and Civic Culture in Chicago, 1890-1919.
75
Robin Bachin, Building the South Side: Urban Space and Civic Culture in Chicago, 1890-1919.
76
WhiteSox.com, Ballpark History,
<http://chicago.whitesox.mlb.com/cws/ballpark/cws_ballpark_history.jsp>, (1 August
2016)

23
Nearby was Provident Hospital at 36th and Dearborn, the citys only African American

hospital.

By the time of Charles death in 1931, Chicago had become home to 40,000 African

Americans as a result of the Great Migration77. Southern Blacks who moved north in search

of better living and working conditions faced discrimination. Yet The Chicago Herald and

Examiner wrote,

there were some 50 Race men in the employ of Mr. Comiskey at the time of his
death, which constitutes a record around major league ball parks Comiskey
believed in giving work to an appreciative and deserving people and to him we
ranked highly in that classification78.

Charles recognized that as owner of White Sox Park, he had a civic responsibility to all the

citizens of Chicago. In 1933, two years after his death, his legacy continued. The Chicago

Defender, praised the White Sox organization, Certainly there is no sign of Jim Crow around

the White Sox ball park and the credit must be given to the Comiskey family, since the idea

was first started by Charles.79 Charles provided spectacle, as well as work, for many

Chicagoans.

These events proved that Charles desired to serve the residents of the entire city, not

just South Side residents or baseball fans. Noting this is important because it contradicts the

image history has put on him of a businessman who acted solely for financial gain. Could he

have been simply doing this for good press? Sure. However, the groups he attempted to

serve in the early years of the park would indicate otherwise as suffragettes and African

77
James Grossman, Great Migration, 2005,
<http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/545.html>,
78
Chicago Herald and Examiner, "Simple Rites Mark Funeral of Comiskey; 2,000 Present"."
Chicago Herald and Examiner (30 October 1931.)
79
The Chicago Defender, Comiskey Says Color on Diamond is Sox Problem, The Chicago
Defender, 4 March 1933.

24
Americans were often thought of as second class citizens. One of the defining characteristics

of Charles Comiskey was his sheer enthusiasm for the game of baseball which led to an

atmosphere of excitement and civic engagement for everyone. Tim Hornbaker notes that

Comiskey was renowned for creating the special atmosphere at his stadium, and the warm

decorations, loud rooters, and band combined to make a memorable experience that kept

people coming back day after day.80 Charles had spent his life working and saving towards

this point in his career -- he was proud of his team and the fan base and wanted desperately

to reward them with a pennant. His quest to give back to the people of Chicago by donating

his field was noble. Daniel Nathan characterized Comiskey best in Saying Its So: A Cultural

History of the Black Sox Scandal, By his example and message, Comiskey was a powerful role

model for working- and middle-class American boys and men.81

But he was first and foremost a baseball franchise owner. With his ballpark built,

Comiskey went after some of the best players in the league. By 1915, Comiskey had the

nucleus of his dynasty assembled: pitcher, Eddie Cicotte; second baseman, Eddie Collins;

first baseman, Tom Daly; pitcher, Red Farber; outfielder, Happy Felsch; outfielder,

Shoeless Joe Jackson; outfielder, Eddie Murphy; outfielder, Finners Quinlan; pitcher, Ed

Walsh; and shortstop, Buck Weaver82. The popularity of the team was magnetic. Attendance

at home was an estimated 539,461 people83 for the season, which easily led the league.

80
Tim Hornbaker, Turning the Black Sox White: The Misunderstood Legacy of Charles A. Comiskey,
(New York: Sports Publishing, 2014), 212
81
Nathan, Daniel A. Saying It's So: A Cultural History of the Black Sox Scandal, (Urbana:
University of Illinois Press, 2003), Kindle locations 1121-1123.
82
Baseball-Almanac, Inc., 1915 Chicago White Sox Roster, <http://www.baseball-
almanac.com/teamstats/roster.php?y=1915&t=CHA>, (18 July 2016).
83
Baseball-Almanac, Inc., Chicago White Sox Attendance Data: 1900-2015,
<http://www.baseball-almanac.com/teams/wsoxatte.shtml>, (18 July 2016)

25
In 1915, the Sox finished in third place with a record of 93-6184. Wishing and

spending generously to acquire new players simply didnt get the results Charles wanted in

1916; the Sox slumped finishing the season 89-6585. During the off-season, the White Sox

acquired several new players who seemingly reenergized the lineup, most notably first

baseman, Chick Gandil, and shortstop, Swede Risberg86.

The White Sox were on fire when the 1917 season began. Arguably the best team in

the league, by the end of the season the team had amassed a record of 100-54 beating

Boston for the American League pennant and advancing to the World Series to face the

New York Giants87. When the series began at Comiskey Park on October 6, attendance was

estimated to be 32,000 fans88. In game one, Eddie Cicotte pitched a complete game and

Happy Felsch homered in the fourth inning for a 2-1 win89. Game two, played in Chicago on

October 7, saw Red Faber pitch a complete game for a White Sox victory 7-290. Traveling to

New York for games three and four, the White Sox lost the next two games without the

84
The Official Site of the Chicago White Sox, Year-By-Year Results,
<http://mlb.mlb.com/cws/history/year_by_year_results.jsp>, (18 July 2016)
85
The Official Site of the Chicago White Sox, Year-By-Year Results,
<http://mlb.mlb.com/cws/history/year_by_year_results.jsp>, (18 July 2016)
86
Baseball-Almanac, Inc., 1917 Chicago White Sox Roster, <http://www.baseball-
almanac.com/teamstats/roster.php?y=1917&t=CHA>, (18 July 2016).
87
The Official Site of the Chicago White Sox, Year-By-Year Results,
<http://mlb.mlb.com/cws/history/year_by_year_results.jsp>, (18 July 2016)
88
Sports Reference, LLC, 1917 World Series (4-2): Chicago White Sox (100-54) over New York
Giants (98-56), < http://www.baseball-reference.com/postseason/1917_WS.shtml> (18 July
2016).
89
Sports Reference, LLC, 1917 World Series (4-2): Chicago White Sox (100-54) over New York
Giants (98-56), < http://www.baseball-reference.com/postseason/1917_WS.shtml> (18 July
2016).
90
Sports Reference, LLC, 1917 World Series (4-2): Chicago White Sox (100-54) over New York
Giants (98-56), < http://www.baseball-reference.com/postseason/1917_WS.shtml> (18 July
2016).

26
support of their fans91. Returning to Chicago for game five, Farber pitched a complete game,

his third of the season92.

In game six, Eddie Collins scored when Giants third baseman Heinie Zimmerman

attempted to chase Collins toward home with what ended up being the winning run. Catcher

Bill Rariden ran up the third base line to start a rundown, expecting a teammate to cover the

plate but no one did93. This error forced Zimmerman to chase Collins and Collins scored.

The White Sox were World Series Champions once again. The residents of the City

of Chicago were elated after winning the Series. White Sox players who were well known to

their fans became instant celebrities across the city and several demanded higher salaries.

According to Jacob Pomrenke, Director of Editorial Content at the Society of Baseball

Research, no comprehensive list of player salaries exist for 1917. However, scholarship from

contract cards housed at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown indicates that the

highest paid player in Major League baseball was Detroits Ty Cobb who received $20,000

for the season. In contrast, Eddie Collins, the White Sox second baseman, was paid

$15,00094. Collins was the highest paid player on the team with Joe Jackson (LF, $6,000),

Eddie Cicotte (P, $5,000), Chick Gandil and Buck Weaver (1B, 3B, $4,000), Happy Felsch

(CF, $3,750), Lefty Williams (P, $3,300), Fred McMullin (IF, $2,750), and Swede Risberg (SS,

91
Sports Reference, LLC, 1917 World Series (4-2): Chicago White Sox (100-54) over New York
Giants (98-56), < http://www.baseball-reference.com/postseason/1917_WS.shtml> (18 July
2016).
92
Sports Reference, LLC, 1917 World Series (4-2): Chicago White Sox (100-54) over New York
Giants (98-56), < http://www.baseball-reference.com/postseason/1917_WS.shtml> (18 July
2016).
93
This Great Game, LLC, The 1917 Clean Sox, <http://www.thisgreatgame.com/1917-
baseball-history.html>, (18 July 2016)
94
Jacob Pomrenke, email correspondence to the author, 28 June 2016.

27
$2,200)95. Not all these salaries were necessarily high in the league but after the winning

season, players salary demands were sky high after the success of the season.

Ultimately, Charles was a business owner, first; and a fan of baseball, second. In

order to continue to build up his organization, and his own financial livelihood, he had to

think like a business owner when it came to players and salaries. One can only imagine how

hard this was for him, and interestingly enough, historically this is the moment where

Charles legacy begins to turn into one of a villain and a tightwad. In this era of baseball,

ticket sales and food and drink were how money was made. As an owner, when your team

was winning, people came to the game spending money on tickets and concessions. It was in

his best interest to invest in his players. But when it came time to negotiate contracts,

following the World Series, it was important for Charles to act like a business owner, not a

former player. As Tim Hornbaker has convincingly argued,

the days of playing when a love of the game superseded any desire to become
wealthy on the diamond were long gone. Baseball was a business, and at contract
time, he was faced with the challenges of any other owner96.

Being an astute businessman does not mean you cant be genuine in your actions. The image

of Charles as a tightwad was first seen publically in 1916, when Ring Lardner, a Chicago

based journalist who covered both the White Sox and the Cubs, published You Know Me, Al.

This series of stories featured letters from a fictional professional baseball player, Jack Keefe,

to his childhood best friend who remains in their hometown of Bedford, Indiana. Jack is

called up to play for the White Sox in the major league but proves to be a disaster and is

moved back to the minor league. Jacks immaturity leads to multiple situations where he is

95
Jacob Pomrenke, email message to author, 27 June 2016.
96
Tim Hornbaker, Turning the Black Sox White: The Misunderstood Legacy of Charles A. Comiskey,
(New York: Sports Publishing, 2014), 223.

28
manipulated or cheated by a fictional Charles Comiskey who repeatedly cheats Jack but

convinces him hes gotten a good contract97.

The line between fiction and reality has been blurred in thinking about Charles

Comiskey and his legacy. Nelson Algren (1909-1981) was a huge White Sox fan growing up

on the South Side of the city at 72nd and Prairie Avenue, just a block from St. Columbanus

Irish Catholic Church. In 1917, when he was eight, his family moved to the northwest side

of the city where, in City on the Make, he writes that he was mercilessly teased for being a

White Sox fan after the 1919 World Series. Algren never switched ball club loyalties but was

heartbroken. In Ballet for Opening Day, Nelson Algren writes Charles liked being called

the Grand Old Man of Baseball. He liked it so much that he hired a little man to see that

messages unbefitting his grandeur never reached him98. Algren continues, he loaded press

tables with liquor and food. And he had affection for children, too. So much that he would

often present an autographed baseball, without charge, to the son of a public official;

providing that a photographer was also on hand.99 In 2009, on the 100th anniversary of

Algrens birth, Jeff McMahorn, claimed that

the Black Sox lured young Algren in, then let him down deeper than where he
started, establishing the pattern of hope and heartbreak that echoed through his life,
with wives and girlfriends, with literary fortune, with the city of Chicago. For the
whole town, he wrote, is a rigged ball game100.

97
Ring Lardner, You Know Me Al (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1916), accessed online
at <http://www.eldritchpress.org/rl/unomeal.htm>
98
Nelson Algren, Ballet for Opening Day, in The Last Carousel, (New York: Putnam Books,
1973), 268.
99
Nelson Algren, Ballet for Opening Day, in The Last Carousel, (New York: Putnam Books,
1973), 269.
100
Jeff McMahon, The Ninth Man Out: As baseball begins again, Nelson Algren turns
100, < http://www.newcity.com/2009/03/28/the-ninth-man-out-as-baseball-begins-again-
nelson-algren-turns-100>, (24 July 2016).

29
Perhaps, it was for easier for Algren to vilify Comiskey rather than his Sox player idols. But

this image of Charles is wrong and history has failed to challenge these fictional portrayals

until now.

While five years older than Algren, James T. Farrell (1904-1979) was just as

heartbroken after the 1919 Series. In My Baseball Diary, Farrell writes, I had grown up on

the feats of the 1906 Chicago White Sox, known as the Hitless Wonders the names of

White Sox players of that year had acquired an almost legendary significance.101 Farrell

recalls going to Sox games as early as 1911 when his grandmother, an Irish immigrant, would

take him to Ladies Day. In 1919, as a freshman in high school at Mt. Carmel (then known as

St. Cyril), Farrell was assigned to defend the Chicago Cubs in an English class debate. In My

Baseball Diary, he states that,

I was a White Sox fan. I was not fanatically so; rather I was a pious fan. There is
much to be written about the psychology of baseball, both from the standpoint of
fans and that of players. In that complex psychology of and about the game, there is
a pronounced element of fantasy and a heavy dosage of sentimentality. I had both of
these in my own attitude about baseball. And it all centered, of course, in the White
Sox.102.

Farrells writing begins to right the course of Charles legacy. If Farrell, like Algen, was so

heartbroken, why did he take such a different approach never vilifying Comiskey, in fact

rarely mentioning him? Could it be that Charles was not at the center of the fix as Asinof

and other baseball historians have believed?103 The fact that Farrell doesnt vilify Comiskey

states that at the time, Charles was not believed to be the center of the Fix.

101
James T. Farrell, My Baseball Diary (New York: A.S. Barnes and Company, 1957), 58
102
James T. Farrell, My Baseball Diary (New York: A.S. Barnes and Company, 1957), 94.
103
Eliot Asinof Papers, including an interview with James T. Farrell, are part of a collection
at the Chicago History Museum.

30
In the middle of the 1917 season, baseball legend says that Charles and pitcher Eddie

Cicotte, had apparently entered into a deal that if Cicotte won 30 games, Charles would pay

an additional bonus of $10,000104 (in 2016, with inflation, this would be $188,679105). What

legend doesnt confirm is whether or not Charles told White Sox Manager, Pants Rowland,

to pull back on Eddie Cicotte as he approached the thirty game threshold so that he

wouldnt have to pay. As history has vilified Charles, this version of the story seems to hold

the most weight. However, what some have overlooked is that Cicotte started two of the last

six games in 1917 and won them both106.

Myths have power to reshape history; however, its important to set the record

straight. In drawing up contracts, Comiskey sought out the help of the clubs secretary,

Henry Grabiner, to assess each player. Together, they would discuss the individual players

contributions for the previous season and to a lesser degree, it took into consideration

ones potential in the future, hopes, and promises, but most importantly, it was how they

performed day in and day out in the thick of the recent pennant chase107. However, it is

important to note that some information is missing as it relates to player salaries. Baseball

historian Jacob Pomrenke cautions salary information for this era of baseball has always

been very difficult to find The business side of the game was rarely covered by the media

until the late 1960s.108 An article in February 1, 1917s Sporting News, notes the following:

104
This Great Game, LLC, 1919 Say It Aint So, <http://www.thisgreatgame.com/1919-
baseball-history.html>, (18 July 2016).
105
http://www.davemanuel.com/inflation-calculator.php
106
Sports Reference, LLC, 1917 Chicago White Sox Schedule and Results, <
http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/CHW/1917-schedule-scores.shtml>, (18 July
2016).
107
Tim Hornbaker, Turning the Black Sox White: The Misunderstood Legacy of Charles A. Comiskey,
(New York: Sports Publishing, 2014), 223.
108
Jacob Pomrenke, correspondence to author, 28 June 2016.

31
It is entirely feasible that Comiskey considered extenuating circumstances and factors
when making his evaluations prior to sending out contracts. That includes but is not
limited to, previous injuries, personality conflicts, and whether or not the player was
respectfully handling his contract negotiations or playing hardball. Comiskey was
easily offended at times and would not succumb to being bullied109.

With this focus on a players proven value, a slumping player had time to break out of his

funk, but a man out of shape and collecting a sizeable paycheck for doing very little110

would be treated as such. Whether or not this process happened might be up for debate, but

primary sources suggest its truth.

In reality, the White Sox were incredibly well off compared to their peer clubs.

Rumors that Charles kept their salaries low, deducted World Series bonuses from their

paychecks, and even required them to launder their own uniforms are exaggerated by Eliot

Asinof in Eight Men Out and, unfortunately, are now universally accepted as truth. Baseball

scholar Pomrenke challenges Asinofs misinterpretation of Charles as a tightwad

Low salaries and poor treatment by management are now widely considered to be
the driving forces behind the White Sox players decision to fix the 1919 World
Series. But the actual salary numbers tell a very different story. The White Sox were
not among the worst-paid teams in baseball; in fact, they were one of the highest
paid111.

The White Sox payroll on Opening Day 1919 was $88,460, just under the Yankees and the

defending champion Red Sox as the highest among all major league clubs. The Cincinnati

109
Sporting News,
110
Tim Hornbaker, Turning the Black Sox White: The Misunderstood Legacy of Charles A. Comiskey,
(New York: Sports Publishing, 2014), 223.
111
Jacob Pomrenke, 1919 American League Salaries, <https://jacobpomrenke.com/black-
sox/1919-american-league-salaries/>, (18 July 2016).

32
Reds, who would later win the 1919 World Series against the White Sox, came in at

$76,870112.

In short, the image that Charles alienated many players with his tightfisted, petty

behavior113 is absurd. Charles was a businessman who was measured by how many games

his players won. Without a winning team, ticket and concession revenue decreases, fan

support wanes, vendors and park workers cannot be paid, and the team becomes

laughable114. It was not only in Charles personal best interest to play his players well to win,

but it was in the best interest of the greater business. Important to note because history

often forgets Charles was a completely self-made man, and he didnt fall into baseball club

ownership accidentally. He worked hard to make it happen. In Turning the Black Sox White, a

loosely researched biography of Comiskey, Hornbaker writes,

[he] wasnt the recipient of any grand family fortune and made every nickel and dime
himself. When he was starting out back in the late 1870s and early 80s, guys like
Ted Sullivan mentored him in the discipline of living cheap through a baseball
season and spending thriftily to save the bulk of his income. In doing what he loved
for a living, Comiskey also developed a fear as a young man that baseball was going
to lose its luster in the publics eye and no longer provide the earning capabilities to
sustain a family. If that internal anxiety were to ever become fact, he needed to be
prepared and sock away as much money as possible. Perhaps this phobia was
spawned by his fathers constant reminder that a trade was more valuable to a man
than playing first base115

The start of the 1918 season was rough for the White Sox due to key injuries to Collins,

Schalk, and Gandil. In May 1918, Joe Jackson abandoned his contract with the White Sox to

join a shipbuilding company in Delaware. Lefty Williams and Byrd Lynn followed suit a

112
Jacob Pomrenke, editor, Scandal on the South Side: The 1919 White Sox, (Phoenix, Arizona:
Society for Baseball Research, Inc), 5.
113
Oshinsky, Chicago White Sox, Encyclopedia of Chicago,
<http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/276.html>, (20 July 2016).
114
Bill Savage, correspondence with author.
115
Tim Hornbaker, Turning the Black Sox White: The Misunderstood Legacy of Charles A. Comiskey,
(New York: Sports Publishing, 2014), 176.

33
month later. Charles said, I would be willing to give up every ball player on my squad if

they wanted to do their duty by their country, but cant bear to see any of my men going to

the ship yard, where they do little work and draw a lot of money.116 Fully committed to the

war effort, Charles supported his players who left to serve. Several, however, did not. While

working in the shipyard, Joe Jackson was able to continue to play ball and get paid for his

labor and his play in the Bethlehem Steel League117.

In September 1918, the War Department issued a new work or fight rule that be

universally applied ballplayers were no exception and all men who were of age had to be

employed or enlisted118. With the country at war, the season was shortened from 154 games

to 140 and, since players were only paid while the season was going on, they lost at least one

cycle of paychecks119. But it was not just players who took a cut during the war. It is often

forgotten that Comiskey reduced his own salary in support of the war efforts and donated

10% of the revenue from tickets, totaling over $20,000, to the American Red Cross (in 2016,

with inflation, this amount would be $317,460120). The 1918 season ended with a record of

57-67121. The Boston Red Sox beat the Chicago Cubs four games to two, with White Sox

Park serving as host for the first three games as it had a greater seating capacity than

Weeghman Park, now known as Wrigley Field.

116
Tim Hornbaker, Turning the Black Sox White: The Misunderstood Legacy of Charles A. Comiskey,
(New York: Sports Publishing, 2014), 242.
117
David Fleitz, Joe Jackson, SABR.org, < http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/7afaa6b2>, (18
July 2016)
118
This Great Game, LLC, 1918 Work or Flight and No Pay,
<http://www.thisgreatgame.com/1918-baseball-history.html>, (1 Aug 2016)
119
Jacob Pomrenke, email correspondence to author 28 June 2016.
120
http://www.davemanuel.com/inflation-calculator.php
121
Sports Reference, LLC, The 1918 Chicago White Sox, < http://www.baseball-
reference.com/teams/CHW/1918.shtml, (18 July 2016).

34
The 1919 season brought a lot to look forward to, the year looked promising for

White Sox. Some billed the Sox as the greatest team in baseball history, with an offense lead

by Shoeless Joe Jackson and a pitching staff formed around ace Eddie Cicotte122. The team

was exciting to watch play together on the field, but cliquish off the field. One side of the

locker room was led by Eddie Collins, a graduate of Columbia University in the City of New

York and the highest paid player on the team. The two infielders playing behind Collins on

the field, first baseman Chick Gandil and short stop Swede Risberg led the second clique,

reportedly hating Collins so much that they wouldnt even throw him the ball during

practice. Joe Jackson and Lefty Williams sat on a third side of the clubhouse both

introverted personalities and both raised in the South. Collins guys were educated,

sophisticated, and able to play the game of baseball as a business; Pomrenke assumes their

salaries averaged $15,000 per year123 (In 2016, with inflation, this amount would equal

$208,333124). Gandil and Reisbergs group were less polished, earned on average $6,000

(approximately, $83,000 in 2016 with inflation125) per year and bitterly resented the power

that Collins and his crew wielded126. Despite all of this, the team pulled their act together

while on the field, winning 88 games and losing 52 in the shortened season to advance to the

World Series against the Cincinnati Reds127.

The night before the World Series opened, Hugh S. Fullerton, one of the most

respected journalists covering baseball wired an article to all of the forty papers in which he

122
Dominic Pacyga, Chicago: A Biography, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009), 208.
123
Jacob Pomrenke, email correspondence to author, 28 June 2016.
124
http://www.davemanuel.com/inflation-calculator.php
125
http://www.davemanuel.com/inflation-calculator.php
126
Jacob Pomrenke notes the business side of the game wasnt covered until the 1960s.
Correspondence to author, 28 June 2016.
127
Sports Reference, LLC, The 1919 White Sox Schedule and Results, <http://www.baseball-
reference.com/teams/CHW/1919.shtml>, (18 July 2016).

35
was syndicated. The headline read, in all capital letters: ADVISE ALL NOT TO BET ON

THIS SERIES. UGLY RUMORS AFLOAT. He wrote that the rumors flying around were

that eight players on the White Sox were approached by gamblers and had agreed to throw

the World Series for cash. It is common knowledge that gambling was prevalent in baseball

long before the 1919 World Series. At the time, gambling on baseball was rife and there

were many stories about fixed games during the regular season, which were typically ignored

by team owners and administrators128.

When the Series started, the White Sox were the clear 3-1 favorites. In game one, on

October 1, 1919, Cicotte pitched a strike to open the game, while the wildly famous second

pitch hit the batter in the back. The Sox lost in front of 30,511 fans at Cincinnatis Redland

Field, nine to one129. Game two on October 2, 1919, ended with Cincinnati winning four to

two130. In game three on October 3, 1919, and in front of a home crowd of 29,126, Dicky

Kerr pitched a shutout in game three and the Sox won three to zero131. The next day, game

four at Comiskey Park, with Cicotte returning to the mound, the Sox lost by two to give

Cincinnati an advantage in the series, three to one132.

The next four games would go back and forth between the Reds and the White Sox.

Lefty Williams was the losing pitcher in game five on October 6 with Cincinnati winning five

128
Sports Reference, LLC, The Black Sox Scandal, <http://www.baseball-
reference.com/bullpen/Black_Sox_Scandal>, (23 July 2016).
129
Sports Reference, LLC., 1919 World Series, < http://www.baseball-
reference.com/postseason/1919_WS.shtml>, (18 July 2016).
130
Sports Reference, LLC., 1919 World Series, < http://www.baseball-
reference.com/postseason/1919_WS.shtml>, (18 July 2016).
131
Sports Reference, LLC., 1919 World Series, < http://www.baseball-
reference.com/postseason/1919_WS.shtml>, (18 July 2016).
132
Sports Reference, LLC., 1919 World Series, < http://www.baseball-
reference.com/postseason/1919_WS.shtml>, (18 July 2016).

36
to nothing in front of 34,379 fans at Comiskey Park133. Game six on October 7 forced the

teams back to Cincinnati where the White Sox were able to pull out a victory, one to zero134.

The next day, game seven brought another White Sox victory in Cincinnati with the Sox

winning four to zero135. On October 9, 1919, the Series ended with a game eight victory by

the Reds, winning ten to five136.

The following day, October 10, 1919, in the Chicago Tribune, Harvey Woodruff

lamented that Chicago fans now know how the fans of Mudville felt when the immortal

Casey struck out137. Woodruff then quotes Comiskey who said, Cincinnati had the better

ball team this week. I still think I had the greatest team which ever went to a World Series. I

was disappointed in its playing. But that does not detract anything from the work of the

Reds. They played better ball and won.138 White Sox fans, whose loyalty is a tradition,

certainly vindicated their reputation139At no point did they give up on the hope that could

possibly win. As an owner, the overarching fan support should have signaled to Comiskey

that he had done everything right in building his club he had the right players in place, he

had cultivated the right fan experience, but 1919 just wasnt the year for the White Sox.

Similarly, the city of Chicago was also having a rough go of it in 1919. In Chicago: A

Biography, Dominic Pacyga notes,

133
Sports Reference, LLC., 1919 World Series, < http://www.baseball-
reference.com/postseason/1919_WS.shtml>, (18 July 2016).
134
ports Reference, LLC., 1919 World Series, < http://www.baseball-
reference.com/postseason/1919_WS.shtml>, (18 July 2016).
135
Sports Reference, LLC., 1919 World Series, < http://www.baseball-
reference.com/postseason/1919_WS.shtml>, (18 July 2016).
136
Sports Reference, LLC., 1919 World Series, < http://www.baseball-
reference.com/postseason/1919_WS.shtml>, (18 July 2016).
137
Chicago Daily Tribune, Friday, October 10, 1919, Page 19
138
Chicago Daily Tribune, Friday, October 10, 1919, Page 19
139
Chicago Daily Tribune, Friday, October 10, 1919, Page 19

37
The year 1919 marked the end of the great labor-organizing drives of the World War
I years. Two years later the meatpackers would destroy the Amalgamated Meat
Cutters in another strike that erased the gains made by Foster and Fitzpatrick with
the Stock Yard Labor Council. As the steelworkers went on strike, the Chicago
White Sox won the 1919 American League pennant and looked to be favorites in the
World Series against the Cincinnati Reds When the Sox lost the best-of-nine-game
series to the Reds, rumors spread that they had lost deliberately, that gamblers had
influenced the outcome. Baseball always had a dark side connected to gambling, but
nothing as serious as a World Series had ever been at stake. Nineteen hundred and
nineteen proved to be a very bad year indeed140.

In December 1919, Hugh Fullerton published Big League Baseball Being Run For Gamblers, With

Ballplayers in the Deal in The New York World as a follow up to his article before the World

Series started. In 1906, Fullerton had correctly predicted that the White Sox would win the

World Series that year based on player versus player statistics. A lifelong baseball fan, and

someone who made his career following the game, Fullerton was appalled at the gambling

culture and insisted that

baseball has reached a crisis. The Major Leagues, both owners and players, are on
trial. Charges of crookedness amongst owners, accusations of cheating, of tampering
with each other teams, of attempting to syndicate and control baseball are bandied
about openly. Charges that baseball players are bribed and games are sold out are
made without attempts at refutations by men who have made fortunes in baseball.

Charges against the players are far more injurious to baseball than the charges against
the magnates make against each other. The public, for years, has little faith or respect
for the owners of major league clubs. But never before have players been so freely
charged with cheating. The fault here lies with the owners whose commercialism
blocks any action. This, too, infect the players, who do no protesting about the
sellouts among them.

I have no proof that the players accused in these stories are guilty. But one thing is
certain: gamblers have stated that they put over this thing, and that they solicited
capital from others on the grounds that they could control the players. This took
place even during the season, and that the Chicago White Sox were not the only
team involved141

140
Dominic Pacyga, Chicago: A Biography, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009), 213.
141
Hugh Fullerton, Big League Baseball Being Run For Gamblers, With Ballplayers in the
Deal, The New York World, December 5, 1919.

38
Fullerton demanded that the sport confront the accusations. On behalf of his franchise,

Charles released a statement following the accusations with a $10,000 reward if anyone was

to volunteer information regarding a possible fix, situating himself as a reformer of the

game142.

Immediately upon the conclusion of the 1919 Series, I took all the facts that I had
concerning the series to my attorney, Mr. Alfred Austrian, placed all the matter
before him and advised him to spare nothing to uncover any wrong doing that
occurred during the series. In addition to placing and calling the matter to the
attention of Pres. Heydler, a member of the national commission, under whose
direction and authority the series was played, as soon as any information came to me
and my suspicions aroused, I offered a reward of $10,000 for any information that
would convict any of my players of wrong doing.

I also instructed Manager Gleason after the first game of the series, that if he, in his
judgment, saw anything wrong on the ball field in which either the White Sox or the
opposing club were not doing their best to win, that he immediately withdraw his
team from the field. I even went so far as wanting to keep the gates of Comiskey
Park closed for the season of 1920 or until the chaotic condition in baseball was
cleaned up and suspend the players about whom I had heard rumors of disloyalty,
but I was advised by my attorney, that I had nothing whatsoever on which to base
my action and until something concrete was secured, that I would be working a great
injustice to the players in question. I made no plans for the 1920 season and delayed
up to the vary last of signing up the men for the 1920 season and after acting upon
the advice of my attorney had to take the only dates remained for the spring training
trip as well as an inferior training camp due to the lateness of making the
arrangements.

Immediately after the series were concluded I started an investigation into this matter
and continually kept at it and the final outcome after a great expenditure of money
was the confession of Cicotte, Williams, and Jackson. Without these confessions
which were secured by my attorney, nothing whatever in the way of eliminating the
evil that had crept into our national game would have been accomplished143.

The tone of the statement issued by the White Sox is all business. By removing emotion

from the statement, Charles was ultimately doing what needed to be done to find in order to

142
Bill Savage, correspondence with author.
143
Charles A. Comiskey, on behalf of the White Sox Organization, Statement to the Media
regarding possible World Series Fix, 1920.

39
find out what truly happened. However, it opens him up to other criticism and speculation.

The myth that he encouraged and supported the fix because in the end, more games equaled

more profits, cannot be confirmed. Charles was heartbroken that the team he spent his life

building would turn against him. And he never recovered.

While there has been much written about the series of events surrounding the fix,

what we know for certain is that Eddie Cicotte was approached by gamblers, met with his

teammates in a hotel room to discuss the possibility of throwing the series, and confirmed

the fix to be on in game one when his second pitch hit the batter. The facts of both the

timeline and the fix are certainly murky, especially since Asinofs retelling of the events has

become baseball gospel. In addition to Cicotte, the men involved included Oscar Happy

Felsch, Chick Gandil, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Fred McMillian, Claude Swede Risberg,

Claude Lefty Williams, and possibly George Buck Weaver.

Initially, in 1920, Charles A. Comiskey was depicted as a betrayed and martyred

patriarch144 while the implicated players were simultaneously cast as wayward boys (i.e.,

failed men) and as avaricious ingrates145 Joe Nathan continues,

The accused players were frequently described as boys, which was almost always
intended as a derisive appellation they were not quite men or appropriately
manly. They were often lauded as great athletes who exemplified middle-class
virtues like the work ethic and meritocracy. Many Americans thought of them as
self-reliant, rugged heroes.146

With this image of the players portrayed in the media boys, not yet men, who were unable

to think through the implications of what the fix could mean -- they were also celebrities to

144
Daniel A. Nathan, Saying It's So: A Cultural History of the Black Sox Scandal, (Urbana:
University of Illinois Press), 2003, Kindle Edition, Location 892
145
Daniel A. Nathan, Saying It's So: A Cultural History of the Black Sox Scandal, (Urbana:
University of Illinois Press), 2003, Kindle Edition, Location 933.
146
Daniel A. Nathan, Saying It's So: A Cultural History of the Black Sox Scandal, (Urbana:
University of Illinois Press), 2003, Kindle Edition, Location 929.

40
the many young players who looked up to them. The eight men came from marginalized

populations, whether from rural communities or the immigrant cities, poorly educated, and

unrefined by most middle-class standards147 and were thereby instantaneously relatable to

the population of young men who played street ball in Chicago148. It was easy to put yourself

in their shoes and imagine that you too could follow in their trajectory toward baseball fame.

Contrast this image with the idea of Charles not just as owner of the franchise but also Old

Roman, a nickname given to him for his noble standing in baseball. Charles was not akin

to the public, whereas he should be understood as a self-made success. Charles rejected a

safe life as a plumber in order to follow his dream to play baseball and thereby isolated

himself from his father. History has chosen to ignore that Charles rebelled against his

fathers wishes so that he could play ball, that he made himself, his team, and the American

League.

In the months following the scandal, Charles, on the advice of his attorney hired

Hunter Secret Service, to travel the country talking to members of the team about what

happened. Not surprisingly, each player had a different version of the story. Cicotte, the

leader of the fix, later regretted his participation, but in 1922 described in depth how it

started,

we were going east on the train. The ball players were talking about somebody
trying to fix the national league ball players or something like that in the Worlds
Series of 1918. Well anyway there was some talk about them offering $10,000 or
something to the Cubs in the Boston series. There was talk that somebody offered
this player $10,000 or anyway the bunch of players were offered $10,000 to throw
this series. This was on the train going over. Somebody made a crack about getting
money, if we got into the series, to throw the series. The boys on the Club got a
talking over there in New York about the fellows getting too much money and such

147
Daniel A. Nathan, Saying It's So: A Cultural History of the Black Sox Scandal, (Urbana:
University of Illinois Press), 2003, Kindle Edition, Location 960
148
Bill Savage, correspondence with author.

41
stuff as that and said that they would go ahead and go through with it if they got this
money.

We never held any secret meeting but we would meet one or two at a time and we all
agreed that for a piece of money we would throw the World Series. I was supposed
to get $10,000. Some man came to the Warner [Hotel] and left this money in my
room. $10,000. That was supposed to be mine. There was no agreement with
anybody but just simply an agreement like anyone else would make. I never knew if
others got the money. The men who were in the deal were McMullin, Gandil,
Weaver, Williams, Jackson, Felsch, Risberg and myself.

I always felt the embarrassment of people attending any games we played; that they
felt in their heart we were bribed to throw the game at one time and that we were
liable to do it again, so the feeling that accompanied me in the position I held was
the team was such that regardless of any money I made, I was always looking for an
opportunity to get away from baseball, and right now I am absolutely resolved that I
will never play in another game of any kind while I live149

Fred McMillan, who only joined the fix after overhearing conversations about it,

spoke with Hunter Secret Service and said,

If there was any frame-up to throw the game to Cincinnati, I know nothing about it,
and I am satisfied that there was other players beside myself who were in ignorance
of any arrangement of that kind. If you analyze the situation from a scientific
standpoint, you will readily see that there are only two men who could actually throw
the game, and they are the pitcher and the catcher. There are others, of course, who
can contribute toward that end but they could not make it absolute While I do not
want to accuse anyone, I am perfectly frank to say there were two men particularly,
one man whose playing was an absolute disappointment, - they are Cicotte &
Williams, -- the former especially so150.

Chick Gandil took a different approach, first denying his involvement, before eventually

confessing. He told Hunter Secret Service,

I tell you frankly that this whole story originated from those gamblers who bet on
our team to win each game or at least three-fourths of them, and when we made
such a poor showing as to lose the first two, they began to squeal, and this started
rumors of bribery, for which there was absolutely no foundation. I feel certain that
no man on that team got a dollar to lend himself to any crooked deal. . I had got

149
Hunter Secret Service. Letter to Alfred Austrian. 22 June 1922. Chicago History Museum
150
Hunter Secret Service. Letter to Alfred Austrian. 4 December 1919. Chicago History
Museum

42
so provoked at the stories circulated that I wrote Mr. Comiskey that I did not want
to continue in the game, and ask that he release me. I intend to remain on the coast
and play on one of the local teams151.

On September 28, 1920, before the grand jury testimony was to begin, Comiskey

issued a suspension notice to the eight players suspected of throwing games in the World

Series: Charles Swede Risberg, Fred McMullin, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Oscar Felsch,

George Buck Weaver, Charles Williams, and Eddie Cicotte.

You are hereby notified of your indefinite suspension as a member of the Chicago
American League Base-Ball Club (The White Sox).

Your suspension is brought about by the statements made in the public press of this
date, in which you are directly charged by one Graham (alias Maharg) with being
directly involved in the base-ball scandal (now being investigated by the present
Grand Jury of Cook County) resulting from the Worlds Series of 1919.

If you are innocent of the charges referred to you will be reinstated; if you are guilty
you will be retired from organized base-ball for the rest of your life, if I can
accomplish it.

Until there is a finality to this investigation it is due to the public that I take this
action even though it costs Chicago the pennant152.

Charless suspensions of the players was due diligence. If he had run a bar outside of

White Sox Park, and his employees were stealing liquor, he would have terminated them

quickly and without question. He took Fullertons charge seriously he wanted gambling out

of baseball and would do whatever it took to make sure it was a clean game going forward.

He almost forfeited the 1920 season, suspending the players when in striking distance of the

pennant. Comiskey devoted his entire life to working to his club to this point a contender

151
Hunter Secret Service. Letter to Alfred Austrian. 13 December 1919. Chicago History
Museum
152
Charles A. Comiskey, on behalf of the White Sox Organization, Suspension Notice,
Chicago History Museum, 1920.

43
for the pennant and World Series each year. He was devastated. After his death, the Chicago

Daily News said it best,

Commy caused a sensation when, in 1920 he wrecked the greatest ball club of all
time on finding that his members had thrown the 1919 series to the Cincinnati club.
At that time, he suspended eight of his star players whose aggregate contracts were
valued at more than $1,000,000. This sum was lost when Comiskey decided that the
suspended men, despite a verdict of not guilty returned by a Cook county jury were
to remain on the ineligible list153

In the ten years that followed the Scandal, the White Sox finished no higher than

fifth which they did five times (1922, 1925, 1926, 1927, 1928)154. Charles stepped away from

day to day operations, choosing to spend his time at his home in Northern Wisconsin. After

their banishment by the league, the players scattered across the country. According to the

Society of American Baseball Research Bio project, the eight banished players continued to

play baseball on barnstorming teams, often with each other, in traveling shows. Jim Sandoval

writes that Eddie Cicotte ran a strawberry farm near Farmington, Michigan155. Jim Nitz

tracked Happy Felsch to a pub in Milwaukee156. Chick Gandil, who retired after the World

Series before being banned, moved to California where he worked as a plumber157 according

to Daniel Ginsberg. Much has been written about Joe Jackson and his involvement but

David Fleitz notes that he sued the White Sox for back pay in 1924 before opening a liquor

153
Chicago Daily News, "Charles A. Comiskey Dead", Chicago Daily News (26 October 1931).
154
Sports Reference, LLC., The Chicago White Sox Team History and Encyclopedia,
<http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/CHW/>, (18 July 2016).
155
Jim Sandoval, Eddie Cicotte, SABR.org., < http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/1f272b1a>,
(18 July 2016).
156
Jim Nitz, Happy Felsch, SABR.org, < http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/cd61b579>, (18
July 2016).
157
Daniel Ginsberg, Chick Gandil, SABR.org, < http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/945ce343>,
(18 July 2016).

44
store in his hometown in Greenville, South Carolina158. Fred McMullin, according to Jacob

Pomrenke, lived in the greater Los Angeles area where he worked as a deputy court

martial159. Like Felsch, Swede Risberg operated a tavern on the west coast160 writes Kelly

Boyer Sagart and Rod Nelson. Lefty Williams, Jacob Pomrenke notes, operated a nursery in

Laguna Beach, California161. Only Buck Weaver remained in Chicago where he worked as a

union painter and owned a chain of pharmacies. While the others all admitted to the fix,

Weaver maintained his innocence until he died162,163.

Comiskey died on October 26, 1931 at his home in Wisconsin of kidney and heart

failure. Immediately upon learning of his death, tributes poured in from across the world. In

the Chicago Daily News, President Herbert Hoover said in a letter written to J. Louis

Comiskey, Charles son,

Everyone one interested in clean and honest sportsmanship will grieve with you in
the death of your father, Charles A. Comiskey. His career coincided with the
evolution of baseball into your national sport. His rugged character was reflected in
the ideals and standards which he valiantly championed in his responsible connection
wit the sport ... To recount the list of those who dispatched their sympathies would
amount to a roll call of all the high officials in baseball, politics, and every other
profession and business and also a liberal representation from that faithful army of
just baseball fans164

158
David Fleitz, Joe Jackson, SABR.org, < http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/7afaa6b2>, (18
July 2016)
159
Jacob Pomrenke, Fred McMullin, SABR.org,
<http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/7d8be958>, (18 July 2016).
160
Kelly Boyer Sagart and Rod Nelson, Swede Risberg, SABR.org,
<http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/fde3d63f>, (18 July 2016).
161
Jacob Pomrenke, Lefty Williams, SABR.org,
<http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/0998b35f>, (1 August 2016).
162
James T. Farrell, Buck Weavers Last Interview, My Baseball Diary (New York: A.S.
Barnes and Company, 1957).
163
John Owens, Buck Weavers Family Pushes for Reinstatement, Chicago Tribune, (3 July
2015).
164
Chicago Daily News, Many Call to Pay Respects to Comiskey, Chicago Daily News, (28
October 1931).

45
Charles was not only the last survivor of American league club owners who had developed

the American league into a major baseball organization and fought through the trying days

of the baseball war with the National League, but also the only man in the history of

baseball to rise from player to owner165. The Chicago Defender eulogizes him by saying

Charles A. Comiskey was an interesting character. A stranger who reached our hearts.166

Comiskeys body was brought to his home in Hyde Park where it laid in state until

his funeral, which was one of the largest Chicago had ever seen. 200 people lined the 5500

block of South Everett Avenue to pay tribute to Charles as a hearse carried his casket to St.

Thomas the Apostle Church at 55th and Kimbark Avenue. The Chicago Daily News notes that

there were more than 2,000 people grouped in silence in front of St. Thomas church as the

body was carried into the packed edifice through a lane of Andy Frains uniformed ushers

from the Old Romans self-built monument Comiskey Park, home of his White Sox.167 St.

Thomas the Apostle Church was able to accommodate 1,400 people and an estimated 600

waited outside. The Reverend Father James Leddy168, who like Comiskey was a graduate of

St. Ignatius College, presided. He was assisted by Reverend E. P. Rice and Right Reverend

Msgr. Thomas Vincent Shannon.

Among the official pallbearers were Judge Henry Horner, the 28th Governor of

Illinois; John B. Harding; Urban Red Faber, a classmate of Comiskeys at St. Johns and a

member of the White Sox for his entire career but who was injured during the 1919 World

Series and did not play; Joseph Barry; Patrick Nash, Mayor of Chicago; William Leahy, who

165
Chicago Daily Tribune, Charles A. Comiskey Dead"." Chicago Daily Tribune, (26 October
1931)
166
Al Monroe, "Comiskey is Dead"." Chicago Defender (31 October 1931).
167
Chicago Daily News, Friends Mourn as Comiskey is Laid to Rest"." Chicago Daily News
(29 October 1931).
168
At St. Ignatius Colleges 1898 Commencement, James Leddy was the valedictorian.

46
worked with Comiskey during his time selling concessions on the train and, as of 1908, was

an executive on the Rock Island train line; Edward Fleming, and Jesse Mattison. Most

notable is the fact that almost 300 men served as honorary pallbearers. This list read as a

whos who of Chicago and of baseball. The list was lavish, including but not limited to Major

League Baseball Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis, who banned eight White Sox

for life; Harry M. Grabiner, Comiskeys long trusted right hand man and Secretary of the

White Sox; Connie Mack, the longest serving manager in Major League Baseball history;

William Wrigley, Jr, owner of the Chicago Cubs and of Chicago-based the candy company;

William L. Veeck, a former sportswriter and President of the Chicago Cubs (whose son later

became owner of the Chicago White Sox); and two journalists who covered the White Sox,

Jacob Cruisnberry and Irving Vaughn169.

While obituaries and tributes following death are typically positive, Father James

Leddy captured the essence of Charles and the heartbreak he felt by saying,

There are two roads in life. One is the great smooth highway that lures many by its
easy travel. Those who travel it find material gain and profit and live for the day. But
the other finds difficulty and suffering. Its course involves self-surrender, works of
love and charity. The end of that road is also the grave. But those who travel it find
their good deeds and work are piled up in the storehouse of God, where no rust can
harm them or thieves break in and steel them.

[Comiskeys was] a life of hardships, trials and constant perseverance as he worked to


achieve and accomplish. In spite of all of these difficulties his march was always
onward and upward. He was essentially inclined to love those he thought was
honest. He was so decent men loved and respected him. In his dealings with fellow
men as he looked upon himself and know that they were trying to do what was
right?170

169
Chicago Herald and Examiner. City's Largest Funeral Last Tribute to Comiskey"."
Chicago Herald and Examiner, (29 October 1931).
170
Chicago Daily News, Friends Mourn as Comiskey Is Laid to Rest, Chicago Daily News,
(29 October 1931).

47
Without a will, Charless beloved White Sox fell to the ownership of his son, J. Louis

Comiskey. Upon Louis death in 1939, the team shifted to the ownership to his wife, Grace,

and then to their daughter, Dorothy. In 1959, the team was sold to William Veeck who

controlled the team until selling in 1981 to Jerry Reinsdorf. In 1990, Comiskey Park was torn

down and US Cellular Field was erected across the street.

When Charles Comiskeys legacy is reconsidered, he should be thought of as the

Inventor of Modern Baseball. From player to manager to owner, Charles revolutionized the

game at every turn from redefining first base to managing winning teams to being the

catalyst for the western league. If you go to a modern day baseball game, thank Charles.

His baseball cathedral was built not just to watch baseball games but instead serve as a

venue for the people of Chicago to celebrate important milestones. To Charles, this meant

often waiving fees to give organizations access should they want to use the park for events.

Suffragettes, the Eighth Infantry, and African Americans served by Provident Hospital all

felt at home in the park when they did not in other areas of the city and would not for

years to come. His love of the game was evident when he opened the doors of the park to

the 1918 World Series as there was more seating available than at Weeghman Field.

In every good literary tale, there is a villain and a hero. Eliot Asinof cast Charles

Comiskey wrongly as the villain in his version of the story because in order to draw empathy

for the Eight Men Out, including Buck Weaver, and to sell books, he had to portray

Comiskey in this way. However, it isnt just Charles story that he gets wrong. He gets parts

of Weavers story wrong too. If you look at their stories through the lens of history, there is

a young Charles A. Comiskey in Buck. Like Charles, Buck played baseball because he loved

the game. He came up through the ranks of the sport and arguably would have had a career

as a manager and possibly an owner had he not been banned in 1920. In Buck Weavers Last

48
Interview, Farrell writes The code by which he grew up cast scorn and opprobrium on a

squealer171. To Buck,

baseball was a way of life to him as well as a profession. He talked of baseball


enthusiastically and with a sharp and clear baseball intelligence. Baseball was a way of
life to him as well as a profession. He lived the game and thought of it on and off the
field. And because of his feeling for the game, the mark against him hurt172.

Bucks problem was not that he was a bad guy but he was a good one, same as Comiskey.

The scandal left them both heartbroken.

Between 1906 and 1908, Chicago ruled baseball. A hundred years later, there is no

better time to reframe not only Comiskeys legacy, but also to save Bucks, than on the

shoulders of the White Sox and the Cubs. There is an excitement in Chicago around both

teams that is energizing. For a man who believed that baseball was best when two Chicago

teams were competing at high levels against each other, there could be no more fitting

tribute than to tell his story accurately and thus return Chicago to a baseball capital.

171
James T. Farrell, My Baseball Diary (New York: A.S. Barnes and Company, 1957), 176.
172
James T. Farrell, My Baseball Diary (New York: A.S. Barnes and Company, 1957), 179.

49
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