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White Sox Have Trouble Attracting Fans To Comiskey Park

September 8, 1996

CHICAGO (AP) _ For the Chicago White Sox, the musical phrase ``Take me out to the ball game, take me out to the crowd,″ isn’t always appropriate.

The team is having trouble filling even half of Comiskey Park.

With the White Sox in the midst of a pennant race, players, spectators and team officials find the lack of fan support confusing.

``I can’t explain it,″ relief pitcher Roberto Hernandez said. ``I don’t know why anybody doesn’t come here. It’s been like that all year and I don’t see it changing. People are either wearing blue or those are empty seats out there.″

After Saturday night’s game drew 28,219, the season total was 1,492,827, an average of 21,635. That’s less than half the capacity of stadium, which can hold more than 44,000.

Last year’s average attendance was 22,673, but now with the team battling for a playoff berth, the White Sox still are struggling at the gate.

``I’m surprised by it,″ said Barb Downes of Downers Grove, who brought her 2-month-old son to his first game Friday. ``I just don’t understand it at all.″

Some people say the apathy is a holdover from the 1994 strike. The White Sox were in first place when the players walked out in a dispute with owners, and the World Series was canceled that year.

Two years later, the game still does not have a collective bargaining agreement.

``Once the strike hit, a lot of people got angry, got disillusioned,″ Judy Earley of Chicago said. ``They didn’t want to come back because there was no settlement. They’re staying away because there’s still no settlement.″

Jim Fromhart from Bolingbrook said the strike showed the public how little they had in common with players.

``People are boycotting because they have no sympathy for management or for players who are complaining about making millions of dollars a year,″ he said.

Others say the problem isn’t with the players, it’s with the new Comiskey Park that opened in 1991. The park’s upper-deck seats are so steep they could make a fan dizzy.

``It’s a very elitist environment geared toward those who have chosen to mortgage their homes for season tickets,″ Joe Rosen from Palatine said.

Sister Immacula from Marquette Park has been attending White Sox games for 20 years and can remember when she could buy a front-row seat for less than $5.

``Now the big corporations have bought all the box seats, and it costs too much to bring your family here,″ she said. ``I wouldn’t be here if someone hadn’t given us the tickets.″

And even if the tickets weren’t expensive, some spectators think the park lacks the atmosphere of the old Comiskey Park, demolished in the building of the new one.

Sean Pendergast, a salesman from Chicago who was only there to see his favorite team, the Boston Red Sox, said Comiskey Park is a bad place to watch a game.

``There’s absolutely nothing unique about this place,″ he said.

Looking to boost the lagging attendance, the White Sox have sponsored numerous promotions this season, including one game where fans were encouraged to bring their dogs to the park. There also was an old car and a romance night.

Jan Andrews of Chicago thinks management needs to do even more to encourage visitors, although she loves Comiskey Park.

``There’s too much security, it’s not exactly a fan-friendly place,″ she said. ``They need to make it a place where you can sit back, relax, and root for your team.″

If that doesn’t happen, she said, she’s worried it might not have much of a future. Some have suggested that the Chicago Bears, who want a new stadium, should take over Comiskey and the White Sox should build another stadium more conducive for baseball.

``I don’t want to see this place become a big blue morgue,″ Andrews said.

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