Charles Comiskey

Charles Comiskey
Inducted to the Hall of Fame in: 1939
Primary team: Chicago White Sox
Primary position: Executive

One cannot discuss baseball’s history in Chicago without mentioning Charles Comiskey, a successful player, manager and owner who left an indelible mark throughout his five-plus decades in the game.

Comiskey’s baseball career began as a talented pitcher for amateur ball clubs in Chicago. Despite his father’s objections, Comiskey jumped to a team in Dubuque, Iowa, where arm troubles forced him to switch to first base. Some historians maintain that Comiskey was one of the original first baseman who did not “hug the line” and played closer to second base to cut off grounders hit toward right field.

In 1882, Comiskey was offered a contract by the St. Louis Browns in the new American Association. By the following year, Comiskey was managing the team at age 24 and guided the Browns to four straight pennants. In 1886, Comiskey’s Browns defeated Cap Anson’s Chicago White Stockings of the National League in a six-game series.

In 1892, Comiskey became manager of the National League’s Cincinnati Reds. While there, Comiskey convinced sportswriter Ban Johnson to form the Western League, an organization that would eventually challenge the powerful NL.

Comiskey remained in Cincinnati for three years before purchasing the Western League’s Minnesota franchise and moving it to St. Paul. In 1900, Comiskey received permission from the National League to move his club to Chicago, so long as he didn’t use the city in the team’s name. Happy to oblige, Comiskey cleverly named his team the White Sox, in reference to the NL team he beat in 1886.

Together, Johnson and Comiskey positioned the Western League, now called the American League, as a direct competitor to the senior National League. Meanwhile, Comiskey was building his Chicago club into a powerhouse. The White Sox captured American League pennants in 1901 and then again in 1906, when they went on to defeat the crosstown Cubs in the World Series. By the end of the century’s first decade, the White Sox had generated a league-high $700,000 profit.

As the White Sox flourished at the gate, Comiskey could be counted on to be passionately involved in his team’s play from the stands.

"Sitting next to him at a game, one is likely to be nudged in the ribs, or have his toes stepped on as Comiskey ‘pulls’ on a close play," wrote Baseball Magazine.

In 1910, Comiskey paid roughly $750,000 to build his most tangible legacy: Comiskey Park. An impressive steel and concrete structure that would favor the White Sox’s pitching and defense, Comiskey Park would become an enduring symbol of the team for the next 80 years.

Comiskey was also building his reputation as a compassionate owner who loved his team’s fans. He handed out nearly 75,000 tickets to school boys each season and let fans move to the high-priced sheltered seats in the ballpark when it rained.

“Those bleacherites made this big new plant possible,” said Comiskey. “The fellow who can pay only twenty-five cents to see a ball game always will be just as welcome at Comiskey Park as the box seat holder.”

Though his purse strings were tighter with his players, Comiskey spent enough to build a formidable squad in the 1910s. Featuring players like Eddie Collins, Shoeless Joe Jackson and Eddie Ciccote, the White Sox captured Comiskey’s second World Series championship in 1917.

Comiskey continued as owner of the White Sox until his death in 1931. Eight years later, Comiskey’s legacy was preserved forever with his election to the Hall of Fame.

"I do not care if war will never cease. My lot is just as sweet, as any man's. You never hear me hollering for peace - I've got the fans. "
Charles Comiskey, 1915

Career stats

ESSENTIAL STATS
Year Inducted: 1939
Primary Team: Chicago White Sox
Position Played: Executive
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Birth place: Chicago, Illinois
Birth year: 1859
Died: 1931, Eagle River, Wisconsin
Played for:
St. Louis Brown Stockings (1882-1889)
Chicago Pirates (1890)
St. Louis Brown Stockings (1891)
Cincinnati Reds (1892-1894)
Managed:
St. Louis Brown Stockings (1882-1889)
Chicago Pirates (1890)
St. Louis Brown Stockings (1891)
Cincinnati Reds (1892-1894)