U.S. Cellular Field, Chicago
Baseball history in Chicago doesn’t begin and end at Wrigley Field on the North Side. Located less than 10 miles away on the South Side of town is U.S. Cellular Field (née new Comiskey Park), home of the American League’s Chicago White Sox since 1991 and where the Sox celebrated the first two victories of their four-game sweep of the Houston Astros in the 2005 World Series. That ended an 88-year championship drought for the Sox and put the onus back on the crosstown-rival Cubs.
“The Cell,” as locals like to call it, was built across the street from where the original Comiskey Park opened to the public in 1910. (Home plate from the old park is now in a marble plaque on the sidewalk next to the new park, and the old ballpark’s foul lines are painted in the parking lot. Nice touch.)
The new Comiskey Park opened to mixed reviews in 1991, but over the years numerous improvements and upgrades have been made to appease the fans: Upper-deck seats have been removed, sight lines improved, blue seats painted green, statues of Sox stars erected, fan-friendly areas and restaurants added. Fortunately, the concept of former owner Bill Veeck’s “exploding scoreboard,” which sets off fireworks after every Sox homer, came over from the old Comiskey too.
Because of some political and community opposition, the Bridgeport neighborhood adjacent to the ballpark has not become the entertainment district some had envisioned (i.e., a South Side Wrigleyville). But, with one notable exception, Sox fans can still congregate at bars and restaurants their parents and grandparents patronized. Longtime Sox fans prefer Schaller’s Pump, a neighborhood bar that has been in operation since the 1880s and that is run by the original owner’s grandson. Also popular is Shinnick’s Pub, a classic Chicago tavern (all booze, no food) dating to the late 1800s. One of my college buddies insists a Cubs fan wouldn’t dare to show up here. But, sadly, gone forever is the legendary McCuddy’s, a bar directly across 35th Street from the old Comiskey that was razed to make room for the new park. It was here that Babe Ruth used to go after games (and, according to legend, sometimes between innings) to have a cold one or two. His autographed bat used to adorn the wall behind the bar.