I saw my first World Series game in 1917, when my team, the White Sox, played the New York Giants, managed by Muggsy McGraw. My Uncle Tom, who was on the road selling, sent me a money order for five dollars so that my older brother Earl and I could see a couple of the games. The opening game was on Saturday, October 6th. I had read newspaper stories of how lines of fans waited all night to buy bleacher seats. I was thirteen that year, and I wanted to wait in line all night, too. But Earl and I slept at my grandmother's the night before, and we got up at about four in the morning.
It was dark outside. There had been some rain the night before and I was worried about the weather. We were very quiet in the kitchen, which was off my grandmother's bedroom in the flat on South Park Avenue where we lived. She had made sandwiches for us to take along to the game, but we got our own breakfast. Coffee and sweet rolls never tasted better than they did on that October morning of 1917.
And there, against the radiator, was my shaggy Airedale, Gerry. I loved her. My uncle had found her on a street in Boston and had shipped her home to us. With her black, wet tip of a nose looking so pathetic, she stared at us in a mute plea for food. We gave her breakfast. We tried to get her to drink coffee, but she wouldn't touch it.
Finally, well before five o'clock, we were off in the chilly predawn, leaving by the back door, going down the back stairs and along the alley to 58th Street. We took the elevated train to 35th Street, and the 35th Street trolley to Wentworth Avenue. We found the lines of men waiting before the bleacher ticket office. It was still dark when we took our places. There were about 300 men ahead of us in one of the waiting lines. I had been afraid there might be thousands waiting when I got there.
The weather was raw, and here and there men had built fires. Vendors were out with hot coffee and we drank a lot of it. About every hour, we ate. I felt important and I was very happy. The only care I had on my mind was impatience.
There was much baseball talk in the line. I spoke up with the authority of an old-time fan. Earl and I talked of the many games we'd seen together—of Babe Ruth and Smokey Joe Wood pitching, Tris Speaker, Ed Walsh's no-hit game in 1911, Rabbit Maranville and his singular way of suddenly jerking out his hands at the level of his belt line to catch pop-ups.
The dawn came, gray and still chilly. My excitement grew. This long wait was an adventure. These strange men standing in line, sitting on boxes, squatting by a fire, playing cards, chatting intermittently about baseball, showing the same concern as I did about the weather, shivering a bit as I did now and then—they and I were bound together by a common passion.
AFTER THE LONG VIGIL, THE GATES OPEN
The hours passed. Behind us, the line grew rapidly until it stretched out of sight, and I was told that it was over two blocks long. A cold sun was coming up. Twice men approached us and offered us money for our places. The men about us told us to let them in and for us to stay in line. We made about a dollar that way, but the third time we were asked the men behind us said that was enough.
At ten o'clock, the line began to move. The gates were open. We got inside and took seats high up in the right center field bleachers. Fans poured in after us and the gates were quickly closed. The big bleachers at Comiskey Park were jammed.