When: June 17, 1979 at Comiskey Park
Who: Me and my Dad
Road trip from Eau Claire, WI to San Antonio, TX. School had just ended for me, so my dad drove up from his home in San Antonio to pick me up so we could go back to Texas together. My dad and I used to take little trips together. Just a guys weekend or overnighter. However, once my parents divorced those trips weren’t really possible any more. So this opportunity to spend time with my dad was a really big deal for me. Our drive was to include a game in Chicago while also stopping in Memphis to see the home of Elvis Presley, Graceland.
Why this game?
Tom Poquette, of course! TP was the only big league player ever to come out of Eau Claire, WI. This season we saw him play, TP was at the peak of his career. Coming off an All-Rookie campaign with the Kansas City Royals, he had been traded to the Red Sox at the beginning of the 1979 season. So naturally my dad and I scheduled our trip with two goals: see Tom Poquette play and to try to meet him afterward. Oh yeah, we would also see Hall of Famer’s such as Carlton Fisk and Jim Rice.
At that time, the neighborhood surrounding Comiskey Park was not exactly known for its warm and inviting citizenry. I remember pulling into a “parking area” where the first price was $10. Then there was an “optional” upgrade cost of another $10 for which the individual in the parking lot promised he wouldn’t throw a concrete block through the car window. Obviously, we chose the upgraded parking fee.
As for the game, I don’t remember very much. I do recall seeing Carlton Fisk play that day because, you know, he is freaking CARLTON FISK. The other memory of the game is having to step over a few of the fans who were sleeping in various parts of the park. I thought they were just tired or bored, but my dad later explained they were passed-out homeless people who hung out at that park all the time.
Awesome Souvenir Alert: Check out this multi-purpose popcorn holder. When you finish the popcorn, you can tear off the bottom and it becomes a megaphone.
Game Note: Don Kessinger played shortstop for the White Sox and was the manager. I always thought it was cool to see a Player-Manager.
Afterwards, dad and I were on a mission to find Tom Poquette. We went outside to the players entrance where the team bus was waiting to take the players to the airport. It didn’t take very long until THE TOM POQUETTE walked out of the park toward the bus. After we called out his name, Tom very kindly took some time to talk to us and take a picture. The only portion of the conversation that I remember is he teased me about wearing a Cubs hat on the South Side. What a highlight for my first MLB game.
As I said earlier, the neighborhood in South Side Chicago was a bit rough. My dad and I needed to find a bathroom. The first place we saw was a Kentucky Fried Chicken that was full of people. As we walked up, the people inside looked at as through the front window. Looking right at us, they walked over to the front door and locked it. We decided it was probably in our best interest to find a restroom somewhere else – like Arlington Heights.
Following the game, we headed south towards Memphis. And, yes, we saw Graceland. For a big Elvis fan like me, this was huge. Plus, I dined in the fine Southern dining establishment called Sambos. Yep, that was a real place. Actually it was a large chain. Surprisingly, it doesn’t exist anymore.
I visited my dad all over the world as I grew up, but I will always have a special place in my heart for the trips we took together. In fact, the last time we did something together before his diagnosis, we went to a ballgame. It was just like the old days, but this time I brought my son with me. I am very grateful that Mac was able to share that with both me and my dad.
Post Script: Less than a month later, Comiskey Park was the scene of one of the wildest nights in baseball promotion history. The epic Disco Demolition Night became a full-fledged riot on the field as fans fueled by large quantities of cheap beer and a hatred for the Bee Gees literally set fire to the stadium. A true Disco Inferno! Let Bob Costas explain: