25th anniversary of White Sox staying in Chicago

From SABR member Chris Jaffe at The Hardball Times on December 5, 2011:

Twenty-five years ago today was a big day for baseball in Illinois—and a dark day for baseball in Florida.

Dec. 5, 1986, was zero hour in the fight for a new ballpark for the Chicago White Sox. At that point, they were playing in Comiskey Park, the oldest park in baseball, but one that was not in the best of shape.

Team owners Jerry Reinsdorf and Eddie Einhorn wanted a new stadium, and this being modern America, that meant public financing. To help their case and to make things interesting, the Sox also began looking for options outside Chicago. They found a taker in Florida.

The Tampa Bay-St. Petersburg area really wanted a team, especially St. Pete. A ballclub would make it a two-sport area, to go along with the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. St. Petersburg especially wanted a team to avoid being the junior partner in the area, and the city did more than talk. In 1986, they started constructing a stadium.

This was serious. The Sox might leave Chicago for the Promised Land in Florida. Chicago had its plan: The city would build a new park at same intersection as the old one: 35th and Shields on the South Side. But they couldn’t dither for long. Deadlines were set. If public financing for the stadium didn’t come through, the Sox were going to Florida.

The big vote came in the state capital on Dec. 5. If the legislature didn’t approve of the money by midnight, Chicago would be a one-team baseball town for the first time since 1900. The legislature was in session, voting on the motion in literally the 11th hour. Governor Jim Thompson had votes, but not quite enough. He scrounged for more as midnight neared. He was running out of time, and it looked bleak.

Read the full article here: http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/blog_article/25th-anniversary-sox-stay-in-chicago/

Originally published: December 5, 2011. Last Updated: December 5, 2011.