20 Years Ago Today: U.S. Cellular Field Opens
CHICAGO (CBS) — This is the anniversary of two momentous occasions in White Sox history.
On this day 20 years ago, the White Sox played their first game as U.S. Cellular Field, which originally went by the name of its predecessor, Comiskey Park. On this day four years ago, Mark Buehrle pitched a no-hitter against the Texas Rangers.
New Comiskey Park opened on April 18, 1991, directly across 35th Street from old Comiskey Park, which dated from 1910. The ballpark featured an exploding scoreboard, an old-fashioned façade, and 40,000 unobstructed-view seats.
The new ballpark was built after a contentious battle between the White Sox and the Illinois General Assembly, which almost ended with the Sox leaving town.
In 1988, the General Assembly failed to secure a funding bill for a new stadium. The Sox said they would move to a new stadium in St. Petersburg, Fla., and with Cubs and Cardinals fans outnumbering Sox fans in the General Assembly, the odds weren’t looking good that Chicago could convince the team to stay. “Florida White Sox” T-shirts were being printed in the Sunshine State. House Speaker and Sox fan Michael Madigan seemed resigned as he told Sports Illustrated: “If the Sox leave, life will go on. We’ll have other opportunities for recreation.”
But at 11:59 p.m. the night before the deadline, Gov. James Thompson secured the votes to finance the new Sox park, a move that saved the team $60 million in new construction costs. The White Sox remained in Chicago, and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays (later just the Rays) moved into the St. Petersburg stadium in 1998.
The White Sox say new Comiskey Park attracted a record 2,934,154 fans in its first year. The ballpark was renamed U.S. Cellular Field in January 2003.
Sixteen years to the day after the new ballpark opened, Buehrle pitched a no-hitter by the Texas Rangers, but his game missed being perfect by a fifth-inning walk by Sammy Sosa.
Buehrle faced the minimum 27 batters in a 6-0 victory over the Rangers, picking Sosa off first right after walking him.
It was the 16th no-hitter in White Sox history and first since Wilson Alvarez threw one at Baltimore on Aug. 11, 1991.
Buehrle would later outdo the achievement. On July 23, 2009, he pitched a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays.
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