Title: “Commy:” The Life Story of Charles A. Comiskey, The “Grand Old Roman” of Baseball and for Nineteen Years President and Owner of the American League Baseball Team “The White Sox”
Location: Google Books Date: 1919
There have been several biographies written about Charlie Comiskey (1859-1931) over the years, but this early one is intriguing because it was published in 1919, before the World Series Scandal (no mention of the World Series which would be expected) of that year and because of its title. Comiskey was most often called, “The Old Roman.” But, his friends called him “Commy.”
And, it is the final chapter of the book, titled BY ” COMMY ” HIMSELF, that is most interesting because Charlie talks about his own character and addresses some of his critics.
It is fitting that the man who has furnished the subject matter for the preceding chapters should have a hearing on his own account. Up to this time he has had a chance only to vouch for the facts, so permit the ” Old Roman ” to speak for himself:
By Charles A. Comiskey.
Having a biography prepared has always seemed to me as either superfluous or in the nature of an epitaph. The omission of both sometimes would seem to be of an advantage to the living. Also the ” story ” of a man should denote some achievement. I hope that what I have accomplished has been in the open, so it cannot be considered new. If it has not been out of the commonplace it should not be called noteworthy. Others have done as much as well, so I must consider it a special compliment of the author and publisher to have taken the chance they have in producing this book. I can furnish no secret documents from hidden archives but I can make the statement that the world has given me a square deal — possibly more than I am entitled to. I can think of no exception. It has been all the same whether I have been a temporary or a permanent guest in any community in which I have lived.
I was perfectly satisfied with the West Side of Chicago when I was in knickerbockers. I hope it was with me. They treated me fine in Milwaukee, in Elgin and Dubuque. No one could have been given more consideration than I was in St. Louis. It is impossible to register a kick against Cincinnati and it is with pleasure that I recall my five-year stay in St. Paul. I think I left with a fair share of the population my friends.
Naturally Chicago has seemed different to me from the rest. It has never ceased to be my home. 1 was born here and here I hope to finish. If the people think as much of me as I do of them there can be no grounds for disagreement There is no sectional feeling in my allegiance to the city of my birth because there happens to be a White Sox family on the South Side. I have as many personal friends on the West and North sides as I have on the South.
Words cannot express my real feelings towards the people of Chicago. Did I have the power of expression that others possess I would completely fail in voicing my appreciation of what they have done for me. They encouraged me when I first came to the city. Since then they have built a ball park for me and made it possible for me to get together teams which, at different times, have been fortunate enough to repay them for their outlay. Not I or my managers have won pennants for Chicago. The fans alone have raised the flags which have flown on the South Side.
Occasionally I have been charged with the crime of ” buying ” pennants. If I am guilty it has been for the sake of those who furnished the money. I have been counted a hard loser. My friends wanted me to have a winner. The fans have insisted upon it. The winning of individual ball games contributes to the total and without more victories at the end of the season than anyone else there would have been no championships.
I have fought for every point because, through bitter experience, I early learned that one lost decision sometimes may mean the loss of a pennant. It is the small things in life which count; it is the inconsequential leak which empties the biggest reservoir.
Many have spoken about my luck. I admit that I have been fortunate in many of my undertakings but I do not think that success is governed by the throw of the dice. I do not claim that I have been more foresighted than others. I have had my reverses but I have tried not to lose my appetite.
The real secret of my good luck has been that I could always figure on support. You can do wonders when you have everybody with you. I may not be able to figure out why my friends have been with me but they have. Perhaps it is because I have tried to be on the level with them. That should not be a source of pride to me as it is part of good business. No one has any license to brag because he is honest. That should be natural instinct and, besides, if you are not, they put you in jail. Honesty is merely a form of insurance.
I have been given credit, sometimes entirely unearned, for doing many things for the advancement of the game. I have fought for it because the game deserved it. Baseball is the greatest sport in the world. It is the cleanest, besides affording more people the right kind of amusement than any other. I do not say that because I have made my living at it. I say it from the heart. There have been reports now and then that I contemplate disposing of my ball club. I never had any such intentions. I would be lost without my team. I have spent my life in the game and I have no regrets. To me it has not been misspent.
Formerly sport was not regarded as a proper calling for young men. It is beginning to assume its rightful place in society. To me baseball is as honorable as any other business. It is the most honest pastime in the world. It has to be or it could not last a season out. Crookedness and baseball do not mix. It has become immeasurably more popular as the years have gone by. It will be greater yet. This year, 1919, is the greatest season of them all.
The reason for the popularity of the sport is that it fits in with the temperament of the American people and because it is on the square. Everything is done in the open. What the magnates do behind the screens the fans care nothing about.
Year by year a higher and higher class of players come into the game. This is not meant as a slur on those of the earlier days, the pioneers, but. it is a proof of the attraction it has for young men. The rewards of today are, of course, more in keeping with the efforts than was the case when I broke into the game. I started in at $3 a day. Now some players get that much a minute, counting their actual playing time.
As to a comparison between the players of my days and today there is no way of arriving at a conclusion. It is quite possible to pick a ” greatest team,” but the selection would be based purely on personal opinion. I think I had wonderful players in Caruthers, Foutz, Bill Gleason, O’Neill, Bushong and others, but it would be a matter of opinion to compare these with such stars as Ed “Walsh, Billy Sullivan, Jiggs Donohue, Joe Jackson, Happy Felsch, Eddie Collins, Ray Schalk, Eddie Cicotte and a score or more equally as good who have played for me on my Chicago teams.
We have Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Babe Ruth, Grover Alexander, and a host of others. How would they have stacked up with Radbourne, Sweeney, Ramsey, Williamson, Barnes, Pfeffer, Anson, Clarkson, Kelly, and such outstanding figures? It is hard to tell. Batting averages and pitching records do not give the answer, as conditions under which they played were different from those of today.
Personally I think Ty Cobb of the Detroit team is the greatest player of all time. This is no disparagement to others. Ty is in a class by himself. He is a wonderful batter and would have been able to hit any kind of pitching in the old days as well. He is one of the speediest men in the game. He is as good a fielder as one would want, but above all he is a thinker when in the game. His mind works every minute and he carries the team along with him.
In sportsmanship there is little to differentiate the Eighties from the present. We fought to win then. The right kind of team does so now. Perhaps we were a little rougher about it than they are now and it seemed that we could stand harder knocks then than can players of today. I do not mean that the boys have less grit today. I have some of the gamest players in the world on my own team, but then there was less arnica on tap.
The spirit of the game remains the same and that is why I take pride in being identified with it. “With me baseball will never grow old. In my own estimation it may not have improved so much as many believe, but regardless of everything it is the same good old game. If I have contributed to its success I do not refer to this in the sense of boasting. I had to or fall out of the ranks. It was a fast game when I played it and the pace was hot. As the fans know, I have often had trouble in keeping up with it since then, but they have been forebearing. What I have tried to do has been my level best.
Photo Credit: CHARLES “THE OLD ROMAN” COMISKEY, The Chicago Black Sox Trial