As told to Emmet Sullivan
Photograph: Chicago Tribune photo
The Comiskey name is closely associated with the White Sox, and yet people don’t know how the name got rubbed out of the team history. It’s a colorful but little known chapter.
Two years ago, I was doing research for Hank Greenberg, my biography of the famous Jewish major-league player [published last month by Penguin]. At a time when Jews were seen as weak and unathletic, Greenberg was a big Jew who hit home runs. But there is another part of his story, one that concerns his time as owner of the White Sox, that I had to trim from the book.
In 1901, Charles Comiskey brought his team, the St. Paul Saints, to town and renamed them the White Stockings [they became the Sox in 1904]. His grandchildren, Dorothy and Chuck, inherited them in 1956. Dorothy was given a controlling interest, but Chuck saw the team as his birthright and battled her in court. Tired of fighting, Dorothy decided to sell her shares.
Greenberg had owned the Cleveland Indians with Bill Veeck, the most charismatic man in baseball. After Veeck left the Indians in 1949, he convinced Greenberg to pool their money and buy Dorothy’s shares [which they did for $2.5 million in 1959].
Chuck, it sounds like, was a drunk with a huge ego. Veeck hated him, so it was Greenberg’s job to mollify Chuck. Veeck had figured out a way to save money by selling players and taking them back—a bookkeeping sleight of hand—but they needed Chuck’s shares to do that, and he gave them a hard time. Chicago’s American described their dysfunction as a “comic opera.”
In 1961, Veeck was diagnosed with “chronic concussive syndrome.” By then, Greenberg was tired of commuting between Chicago and his children in New York, so they sold their shares to Arthur Allyn Jr., a Chicago businessman. Chuck thought he could pull off a great business deal by selling his shares and buying back a controlling interest at a lower price. He sold but couldn’t afford to get them back. Chuck’s obstinance rendered the Comiskey name obsolete with the White Sox.”