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Chicago’s Comiskey Park Faces Wrecking Ball

April 4, 1991 GMT

CHICAGO (AP) _ ″The Hardest Hitters of All Time″ bragged a large banner that was stretched Wednesday over the main entrance of Comiskey Park.

It wasn’t referring to baseball sluggers. It was talking about the Speedway Wrecking Co.

Demolition crews began knocking down the oldest stadium in major-league baseball to provide parking space for the newest park, also named Comiskey, on the city’s South Side.

Boos resounded from scores of fans who showed up at 10 a.m. for the first swing of the wrecking ball against the outer right-field wall of the 81-year- old stadium.

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Then, the crowd broke out in the familiar Comiskey ditty, ″Na-na-na-na, Na-na-na-na, hey, hey, hey, goodbye,″ from the song by the band Steam.

The old stadium, named after former White Sox owner Charles Comiskey who built the ballpark in 1910, is a treasury of memories - the first exploding scoreboard, the majors’ first All-Star Game and Babe Ruth homers.

It was home to Shoeless Joe Jackson and controversial owner Bill Veeck, who dreamed up the scoreboard exploding with fireworks. Joe Louis fought there for the heavyweight title in 1937. The Beatles banged out tunes in 1965.

″I’m saddened. My grandfather brought my dad here, my dad brought me here and I brought my kid here,″ said Ray Janisch, 35, a Chicago plumber.

Accountant Ted Kramer, 54, said he and the old stadium have been through a lot together.

″I’ve been coming here since the 1940s,″ he said. ″We’ve both suffered through all these years.″

Some souvenir-hunting fans tried to help the demolition along by using sledgehammers and poles to loosen bricks on the top of a back wall that wasn’t being watched by security people.

They were chased away by an angry Speedway official.

The demolition began on the same day two-sport superstar Bo Jackson signed a contract in Sarasota, Fla., to play for the White Sox if he is able to come back from a serious hip injury he suffered playing football.

As the destruction of the team’s old home park began, reporters got a tour of Comiskey II, a $150-million, state-of-the-art facility receiving the final touches before the April 18 home opener against the Detroit Tigers.

Since March 1, Speedway has been tearing down the inside of the old park, leaving little more than the walls. The seats are long gone, selling for $250 apiece with the proceeds going to charity.

Even the grass is gone, sent to start a new life at a city park.

And the infield dirt is across the street at the new park.

Some community groups tried in vain to save the original Comiskey from the wreckers, and efforts are under way to salvage a part of it for a small memorial plaza and park on the site.

But players were not choked up about moving to a new park.

″The old Comiskey was old,″ said White Sox star Carlton Fisk. ″It just didn’t provide things players and fans want and that progress has allowed. This new park has the proper facilities for the baseball team and the fan who comes.″

The demolition will take until October, said Larry Kolko, a Speedway official.

″By the time we’re through with this demolition, maybe we’ll be playing a World Series across the street,″ he said.