5 Facts Every Chicago White Sox Fans Should Know About Iowa

The Backstory You Need For “The Field Of Dreams Game”… And the Real Reason Iowa Leans to the Southside — not Northside

The movie Field of Dreams solidified the special bond between the state of Iowa and the game of baseball. Over the years, the Field of Dreams movie site in Dyersville, IA has become one of the Meccas of baseball. Indeed, anyone who’s been to the field will tell you it’s a magical, surreal place.

It’s only natural, that MLB would want to play a game in Iowa. Thus a game was scheduled at Field Of Dreams for August 2020.

(Edit: The Chicago White Sox were intended to play a real, live, MLB game versus the New York Yankees in a stadium built beyond the left field corn at the original Field Of Dreams movie site. After Covid-19 struck, MLB altered the schedule to be White Sox versus the St. Louis Cardinals. In July, the Cardinals suffered a Covid-19 outbreak in the clubhouse, and the Field Of Dreams game was postponed for 2021).

Obviously a baseball debate began.

Iowa is a state with no major league baseball team. And if you grew up in “the WGN-era,” you might assume Iowa is a Cubs state, especially because the AAA-Cubs play in Des Moines.

But the reality is, the team with the deepest roots in Iowa is not the Cubs, Cardinals, or Twins — but the Chicago White Sox.

This article provides the top five reasons why Iowa is in fact, Chicago White Sox turf:

  1. Another Comiskey Park… in Iowa?
  2. The Sioux City Cornhuskers
  3. The Iowa Oaks
  4. The mystical Field of Dreams
  5. Yankees AT White Sox

So let’s cross the old-man River and go for a deep drive, way back — into White Sox, Iowa, and Baseball history.

When someone says “the other Comiskey Park,” you might assume they mean Old Comiskey Park. The one built in 1910 and demolished in 1990. Or maybe you think they mean New Comiskey Park, the one built on the other side of the street at 35th and Shields, currently called Garanteed Rate Field.

But in fact, there’s another actual Comiskey Park — and it’s in Iowa.

Charles Comiskey, courtesy of wikipedia

All three Comiskey Parks were named after the original owner of the Chicago White Sox, Charles Comiskey.

Comiskey, “the Old Roman” was born and raised in Chicago, a son of an Alderman. Before Comiskey became the owner of an MLB team, he was a talented ballplayer.

Comiskey came of age in the first decades of professional baseball. He stood out among his peers as a batter, pitcher, and especially first baseman. In 1878, when Comiskey was 19, he was recruited to play professional baseball for the Dubuque, IA Rabbits.

Comiskey was a decent hitter for the Iowa team, but was revolutionary as a first baseman. For example, he was an early adopter of wearing a glove.

But Comiskey is best remembered for playing “off the bag.” His off the bag style-of-play utilized more athleticism to cover more ground defensively — and is noted on his Hall of Fame plaque.

By 1882, Comiskey was a major league player-manager for the St. Louis Browns.

But by then his ties to Iowa were set in stone forever. That’s because during his four years in Dubuque, Comiskey met, fell in love, and married a local girl named Nancy Kelly.

Subsequently, in 1929, Comiskey Field was dedicated in Dubuque, IA on the former home of the Dubuque Rabbits. The site remains Comiskey Park to this day serving as green space for the neighborhood community. Many of the homes surrounding the Comiskey Park are vintage to it’s Rabbits years, including some eerie mansions on a bluff overlooking the old field. The whole area makes for an interesting detour on your way through town.

Comiskey Park, Dubuque, IA.

And yes, the park has a baseball diamond. But no, there isn’t an exploding scoreboard.

Charles Comiskey’s official Hall of Fame page doesn’t mention Sioux City, IA. But that’s where it all started for the Chicago White Sox.

In 1894, the Sioux City Cornhuskers had just won the Western League title for the second time in four years. In 1894, Comiskey had just retired as player-manager of the Cincinnati Reds, and he was looking to move to the owner’s box. That fall, Comiskey bought the Sioux Cornhuskers.

The Sioux City Cornhuskers c. 1894, courtesy of the Sioux City Museum

Comiskey’s time in Cincinnati was important to baseball history (and I’m not referring to the 1919 World Series). While there, Comiskey befriended a local newspaperman named Ban Johnson. Subsequently, the two men formed the plan that would turn the Western League, into a new major league.

Comiskey convinced Johnson to become president of the Western League and they established the league offices in Chicago.

Comiskey moved the Sioux City Cornhuskers to the larger market of St. Paul, MN. He renamed his team the St. Paul Saints, until 1900 when Comiskey moved his club to Chicago.

The same year, Johnson and Comiskey formalized their plan to rechristen the Western League as the American League. With that, there were two Major Leagues.

The rival National League team in Chicago allowed Comiskey to bring his team, but wouldn’t let him to use “Chicago” in his teamname. Instead Comiskey chose the name “White Stockings,” because it already had the city associated with it’s name. Believe it or not, the Chicago Cubs originally used the name The Chicago White Stockings.

Comiskey’s White Stockings promptly won the 1901 American League Pennant. In 1904, he officially changed their name to the Chicago White Sox.

In 1906, the White Sox defeated the Cubs in the only a crosstown World Series ever played in Chicago. Thus establishing their dominance, until the next cross-town World Series can be played.

The White Sox would remain one of the best teams in baseball winning the World Series again in 1917. The nexus of power shifted in 1920, when the Black Sox scandal gutted the team, coinciding with Babe Ruth’s meteoric rise with the Yankees.

Since 1982, Des Moines, IA has been home to the Chicago Cubs AAA-affiliate. Before that, Des Moines was a White Sox town.

The Iowa Oaks minor league baseball club was established in 1969, and they were a White Sox affiliate until 1981.

While the White Sox affiliate, the Iowa Oaks had a distinct logo — which you may recognize.

The iconic White Sox “Hitman” logo originated in Des Moines. The logo wasn’t officially brought up to the majors in Chicago until the 1981 season.

Around the same time as the Oaks logo became the White Sox Logo, another icon was brought up from Des Moines to Chicago: Tony LaRussa.

When future Hall of Famer Tony La Russa was called up from Des Moines to manage the White Sox halfway through the 1979 season, he was just 34 — still young enough to be a player. The real question is this — did hip, young Tony La Russa tell the White Sox to change their logo?

(Edit: It’s worth noting that in October 0f 2020, the White Sox signed Tony La Russa as manager. Will he have them change the logo again??)

Nick Madrigal at White Sox Spring Training 2020

Either way, the Sox broke out the iconic Hitman logo and it stuck. And although it was retired in 1986, the Hitman remains one of the most popular alternate jerseys in professional sports. To this day, it can be seen on fan gear, as an official Sunday alternate uniform, and on the official White Sox logo of spring training.

Have you ever notice the similarities between the Hitman logo and that other White Sox icon — Shoeless Joe Jackson of the 1919 Black Sox?

This brings us to W.P. Kinsella’s 1981 book, Shoeless Joe, which he wrote while at the world famous Iowa Writer’s Workshop.

In truth, no story about Iowa and the White Sox would be complete without mention of Field of Dreams.

The farm used in the movie is still open to the public and located in Dyersville, IA, just outside of Dubuque.

Iowa sites were used throughout the movie. For instance, the street outside Terrance Mann’s apartment in Boston, and the motel they stay at in Chisolm, MN are both actually Dubuque.

Without a doubt, the Field Of Dream movie site has become one of baseball’s meccas.

In reality, when you arrive at the movie site, you can hardly believe it exists.

The movie features iconic dialogue. “If you build it, he will come.” But the line that moves otherwise stoic men to tears is, “Hey Dad? Wanna have a catch?”

Subsequently, last Spring while the 100 year Black Sox anniversary came and went without much fanfare, I went on a deep dive into White Sox, baseball and world history.

A recent trip to baseball Mecca.

Who can forget the immortal line, “Wanna have a catch?” Its an esoteric scene, and W.P. Kinsella was an out-there kinda guy, who thought deeply about baseball.

“He always said with baseball, anything’s possible,” said Willie Steele, Kinsella’s biographer. “There’s no clock. You can play an infinite number of innings until somebody wins. There’s no limit to how far somebody can hit a ball, there’s no limit to how far somebody can throw a ball, it’s endless possibilities.

And I think when you look at his baseball fiction, that’s what it is. His question he would ask as a writer was: What if? What if Shoeless Joe Jackson comes back from the dead? … And when you start asking that ‘what if’ question, anything’s possible.”

That said, I got a what-if question WP Kinsella would’ve loved —

Seriously.

  1. How is it that the Black Sox scandal was one of the worst moments in baseball history…?
  2. Yet the “Hey Dad… wanna have a catch?” scene in Field of Dreams is arguably one of the best in baseball history? (If it isn’t one of the best moments in baseball history, why is Field of Dreams considered hallowed ground?)

It’s a dichotomy.

The historical context surrounding 1919 is shocking. But oddly, I found no historian has ever looked at the broader socio-politcal context of the Black Sox scandal.

First of all, 1919 looked like pure chaos. We might appreciate the Spanish Flu infused world of 1919 a bit more in the wake of the COVID-19.

To clarify, I’m not a Black Sox denier. Instead, I’m leaning in to the Black Sox story for all it’s difficult wonder.

I think it’s fascinating and worth noting that unlike many forgotten baseball greats — the Black Sox have remained afloat in the cultural zeitgeist. (Thanks to The Great Gatsby, Eight Men Out, Field of Dreams, and now the August 13th, 2020 game.)

Thus, the Black Sox are a lightning rod. The tip of the iceberg to our forgotten history. And yet somehow, surprisingly, the Black Sox lead to the cathartic, resurrecting power of, “Hey, Dad…wanna have a catch?”

It’s uncanny, when you stop and think about how the Black Sox deal has actually played out. For example, Shoeless Joe Jackson is a way more recognizable player now when compared to most who are enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

For these reasons, I think Sox fans need to own this past, unfurl the freak flag if you will, and lean into our paradoxical, gnarled, glorious, phoenix-like history. They say Baseball is like life. As such, I think the Black Sox are in fact a source of optimism — that things will always work out in the long run.

Bottom line — It’s time to celebrate the Black Sox/ White Sox in all our ugly, beautiful, mythical humanity. Read more on that here:

MLB built a stadium at the Field of Dreams movie site, and they will come.

COVID-19 permitting, the bond between Iowa and the White Sox will take center stage on August 13th, 2020, when the White Sox play the Yankees.

It will be the first MLB game ever played in the state of Iowa.

And when the Yanks visit the Sox at the Field Of Dreams — your pocket schedule says it all — it will be a home game for the White Sox.

What will the field look like?
The design of the park pays homage to Chicago’s Old Comiskey Park, home of the White Sox back when “Shoeless” Joe played.

Til then, find someone to have a catch with.

Pattern recognition is the task of the Artist. This is the pattern recognition you’re looking for.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store