I checked, and was unable to find any White Sox player in the history of the franchise whose name, first or last, started with the letter X. Nor could I find any whose name started with Ex, nor has there ever been a player with the middle initial X. So, instead, I thought it might be interesting to talk about the various times the White Sox were rumored to be on their way out of town.
In 1961, White Sox owner Bill Veeck said that his health prevented him from owning the team, and he sold the White Sox to the Allyn brothers, Arthur and John. Arthur, the primary owner, was the president of Artnell Industries, an amateur entomologist, and enjoyed owning a baseball team. Until the mid-1960’s, when he started looking for someone to buy his majority share.
That’s where Bud Selig (yes, the current commissioner of baseball) stepped in. Bud, a Milwaukee used car dealer and minority owner of the Milwaukee Braves, was traumatized by the departure of the Braves for Atlanta after the 1965 season, and was itching to bring baseball back to his town. He talked Art Allyn into having the ChiSox play one game against each American League opponent in Milwaukee County Stadium in 1968. Both the American and National League had planned to expand in 1969, and Bud wanted to make the case for Milwaukee by proving that the fans were still wild about the game.
Well, Milwaukee lost out. The American League added teams in Kansas City (which had just lost the A’s to Oakland) and Seattle, and Bud was left out in the cold. So, he tried to buy the White Sox and move them. Reportedly, Selig and Allyn had a handshake agreement which would have been consummated after the 1969 season, subject to the approval of the other eleven American League owners. Which they didn’t get; the owners were not about to give up their presence in the nation’s second-largest city. Art instead sold his interest to his brother John, while Bud Selig managed to purchase the bankrupt Seattle Pilots, which then became the Milwaukee Brewers. And White Sox fans breathed a sigh of relief.
Until 1975, anyway. John Allyn, like his brother, got tired of owning a baseball team and started looking for someone to buy the team from him. At the same time, interests in Seattle, upset at losing their team after one season in the Pacific Northwest, threatened legal action against the American League. The American League considered getting John Allyn to sell the White Sox to an owner who would then relocate the franchise to Seattle. Not that Chicago would be without an American League franchise for long: Charlie O. Finley, the LaPorte, Indiana insurance tycoon who owned the Oakland A’s, had been looking to move his franchise closer to his home. If the American League were to move the White Sox to Seattle, he offered to move the A’s to Chicago. In the end, no one moved anywhere; Seattle was placated with the promise of a team when the American League expanded in 1977, and Bill Veeck, presumably rehabilitated from whatever illness had caused him to sell the team fifteen years earlier, raised the money to buy back the Sox. Again, White Sox fans breathed a sigh of relief.
In 1980, Veeck’s health again took a turn for the worse, and he looked for a buyer. He first discussed the matter with Edward J. DeBartolo, a real estate developer and owner of several other sports franchises, including the San Francisco 49ers of the NFL and the Pittsburgh Penguins of the NHL. Rumors started almost immediately that DeBartolo planned on moving the White Sox to Denver, which was categorically denied by DeBartolo himself. Still, the American League owners denied the sale to DeBartolo, noting that he didn’t live in Chicago and that he owned a horse track. Instead, Veeck sold to a group headed by Jerry Reinsdorf in 1981. And, once again, White Sox fans breathed a sigh of relief.
Until Jerry began to gripe about the condition of Comiskey Park. The oldest baseball stadium in the major leagues, it opened in 1910, and was starting to show its age. Plus, a number of seats were blocked by posts, there was no room for luxury boxes, and Reinsdorf wanted something new, and wanted the taxpayers to foot part of the bill. He said that, if he didn’t get the funding, he was going to move the team to St. Petersburg, Florida, which had just built Tropicana Field and was looking to bring a team to the Gulf Coast. In a marathon session, the Illinois House and Senate approved a measure on June 30, 1988, granting the money for Jerry to build his stadium. (Actually, the measure was approved in the early morning hours of July 1; House Speaker Mike Madigan literally stopped the clock so that the measure could pass before the end of the legislative session.) The new ballpark, called New Comiskey Park, was built across 35th Street from the old one after the businesses there (including McCuddy’s, the tavern Babe Ruth is said to have slipped out to for a beer between innings when the Yankees were in town) were relocated and the area was cleared, the old ballpark was razed for a parking structure, and the White Sox began play in their new stadium at the beginning of the 1991 seson. Tropicana Field, meanwhile, became the home of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays (now simply the Tampa Bay Rays) in 1998.
Personally, I’m not impressed with the new stadium, which is in its twenty-second season and has been called U. S. Cellular Field since 2003. I attended a game there in 1993, and noticed that, while there were no longer pillars holding the upper deck obstructing the view of the game, fans and vendors walking through the aisles were now obstructing it. In fairness, they have made modifications that have improved the fan experience, but I’m still not impressed.
(Evidently, Jerry’s decided that the stadium, and any money that comes from it, is his, and managed to get the head of the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority fired a few years ago. She’s filed suit against Jerry and former Governor Thompson for that. I’ll be watching that case very closely.)
So there you have it: the saga of the times that the Chicago White Sox came close to moving away from Chicago.