SI Vault
William Nack
August 20, 1990
Don Mattingly had just left the on-deck circle, swinging the bat over his head, when the night began crackling, and the last stragglers from the rest rooms hurried toward their seats along the first base line at Comiskey Park. Glancing over their shoulders, some stopped in the aisles and sat down on the concrete stairs to watch Mattingly begin the final act of the drama.
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August 20, 1990

Hey, Hey, Hey Good Bye!

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Veeck somehow kept the plans a secret. "They must have dressed in a closet somewhere," says Hemond. "Before the game they came marching out of the dugout, Richards with the white wig, Schaffer with the drum and Bill with the flute and the blood-stained band around his head. There he was. Bill Veeck returning to baseball. People were touched. It was a great moment for Comiskey."

And for the ghost of old Charles himself. Between Veeck's tours as head of the team, the yard's name had been changed to White Sox Park. "It's Comiskey Park," Veeck had told Hemond. "The Old Roman had the courage to build it back in 1910, and he deserves to have his name on it."

To many veteran fans, Veeck's daily, solicitous presence among them remains as vivid a memory as the feats of the players who graced the field. He was everywhere. At 2 a.m. on the day that tickets went on sale for Game 1 of the '59 World Series, Harry Heisler was in line with hundreds of other fans outside the leftfield wall when Veeck suddenly appeared. It was windy and overcast. "I don't want any of you to worry about rain," he said. "If it rains, I've authorized the guards to open the doors and let you in."

"It doesn't feel like home here, Bill," one man told him. Veeck asked why, recalls Heisler, and the man reminded Veeck that he had put flowerpots on the light poles along 35th and Shields but not along 33rd Street, where they were waiting. "Will it make you happy if I got a pot and had it put on your post?" asked Veeck. The sun hadn't yet risen when a worker bearing a large pot of flowers clamped the arrangement to the pole.

"That was Veeck," says Heisler. "He used to walk around here all the time, asking people about their seats. 'Why do you sit here?' Or, 'Is there anything you need?' "

Walk among the same seats now, and the old fans sitting there need only a moment to remember. "One night I sat over there in the upper deck, with the Yankees in town," says Pope. "Bases loaded. Ninth inning. Game on the line. Juan Pizarro was pitching for the Sox. He struck out Mantle to win the game. I was 10 years old. The place was pandemonium, one long, awesome scream."

Norb Kudele needs only to sit in the bleachers in center to remember how his father, home from World War II, brought him out to see the White Sox play the Red Sox. "My alltime favorite memory is of Ted Williams," says Kudele. "One day he took two strikes. Then he started fidgeting in the box, kicking the dirt. They tried to sneak a fastball by him and—boom!—he hit it into the upper deck in rightfield. He kind of defiantly walked and trotted around the bases. He was saying, 'Hey, I gotcha.' "

Former White Sox manager Chuck Tanner needs only to think of Dick Allen to recall the night Allen owned Chicago, in the middle of 1972, the year he probably saved the franchise for the city. The Sox had just staggered through four sub-.500 seasons, with attendance below one million in each one. "There was talk that the club might move," says Hemond. On Sunday, June 4, 1972, Tanner played Allen in the first game of a doubleheader with the Yankees, won by Chicago 6-1. A second victory would move the Sox into second place in their division. Tanner chose to rest Allen, even though he was bringing fans to Comiskey in greater numbers than had been seen in years.

"Dick's played every inning of every game this year," Tanner said that afternoon between games. "I want to give him a rest. Anyway, I'm saving him to hit the game-winning home run in the ninth inning [of the second game]." Writers laughed and turned to the game.

A crowd of 51,904 was on hand, and it began stirring as New York carried a 4-2 lead into the bottom of the ninth. Yankee pitcher Mike Kekich walked the first batter, third baseman Bill Melton, and then gave up a single to first baseman Mike Andrews. Shortstop Rich Morales was up next, but Tanner looked at Allen and said, "O.K., homey, you're the hitter." Tanner can still see that scene as it unfolded.

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