Talking With Jack Perconte About Comiskey Park, Municipal Stadium, and the Kingdome
Last year I looked up the story of the first game at the original Comiskey Park on July 1, 1910. Months later I talked with Jack Perconte about his time playing for the Mariners in the mid-’80s to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Kingdome’s implosion this March. I realized that Jack closed his career with the White Sox in 1986, four years before the end of Comiskey. He’d also spent some time with the Indians, playing in Municipal Stadium in the early ’80s. The common thread of him having played in three extinct ballparks, two of them venerable, led me to ask Jack some questions about what they were like for him to play in them.
To commemorate the 100th anniversary of Comiskey’s first game, here are Jack’s recollections of the three stadiums, in the hope of bringing them back to life, however faintly, for some of the fans who experienced the games there, and perhaps a few players as well.
Arne: Could you describe the atmosphere of playing in the Kingdome, not so much the field, but in terms of the fans, having air conditioning and a roof over your head, things like that. I see attendance in ’84 was only about 10,000 per game, so I imagine the team had to motivate itself much of the time.
Jack: Playing in the big leagues was motivation enough, not to say that playing in front of bigger crowds wasnâ€™t desired and a little more exciting. My goal was to concentrate on what needed to be done so that often, I was oblivious as to the size of the crowd. The Mariner fans always seemed knowledgeable and appreciative of our efforts as far as I can remember.
Arne: What was the Kingdome turf like? Did it give true bounces, did it have nasty seams, or was it essentially just standard, predictable Astroturf?
Jack: I would say standard and predictable. Because of the true bounces off turf, it helped my fielding percentage immensely. I did not possess great major league hands so the true hops helped â€“ I could get use to the speed with concentration, so not having to adjust to inconsistent hops like on natural outdoor fields helped my defensive game.
Arne: As a second baseman, how did you adjust to playing balls off turf instead of dirt and grass? Was it something fairly easy to get used to?
Jack: As mentioned above, great concentration can overcome most anything so if one stays focused and has good fundamentals, fielding on any surface is manageable. My defensive weakness showed up more on turning double plays than fielding the ball.
Arne: How did the turf affect you as a base stealer and running the bases? I noticed that you had very good steal numbers in 1984 and ’85, and wonder if the Kingdome had anything to do with that.
Jack: I believe it did â€“ not having to worry about wet turf helped. It also had a lot to do with batters behind me in the order. I came to understand how they would be pitched by teams so I learned to pick the best pitches to run on.
Arne: Was the drummer guy in the Cleveland bleachers around in the early ’80s? If so, how clearly could you hear him from the field?
Jack: Yes, he was there and not only could we hear him loud and clear, we could talk to him in between pitches pretty easily because of the lack of crowd noise â€“ Ha!
Arne: Did the bowl shape of the Cleveland stadium funnel winds down to the field? I imagine the “Mistake by the Lake” nickname was linked to the chill and the wind coming off Lake Erie and down into the stadium.
Jack: Not sure how it got name and donâ€™t remember winds as being out of ordinary â€“ do remember gnats, bugs and other flying creatures being around many nights though.
Arne: I guess Municipal Stadium was over 50 years old by the time you joined the Indians. What kind of shape was the clubhouse and the turf/infield in?
Jack: They were both beaten up at that point. Everything about the stadium seemed old and outdated. The turf, especially the outfield, was very uneven. I remember playing games after they held a concert in the stadium and the field was especially terrible for those games. I didnâ€™t enjoy going back on pop-ups for that reason. But, then again, it was the big leagues and the worst place in the major leagues is still better than the best place in the minor leagues.
Arne: Was Comiskey similarly worn down by the mid-’80s?
Jack: The stadium did not seem as run down and the infield was always in good shape in Comiskey. But, like Cleveland, the area around the park didnâ€™t seem to have a lot of excitement so it was hard to feel the usual area enthusiasm associated with other parks.
Arne: I know Comiskey was called the “baseball palace of the world”: Did you think that sort of grandiose title fit the place?
Jack: Maybe in its day it deserved that title but by the time I played there, there were many nicer palaces built.
Arne: In terms of the weather, what was the difference between Cleveland and Chicago in, say, April and September? Was Municipal Stadium windier and colder than Comiskey?
Jack: Donâ€™t recall much difference between the two â€“ seemed like you could get a cold, nasty night any time of year but not unlike any northern outdoor parks.
Arne: How do you compare the personality of the Cleveland fans and the White Sox fans?
Jack: Both were very similar because of the frustration of not having won very much. I was only with the White Sox when we were way out of the running in 1986 so I didnâ€™t experience the whole â€œget excited for the season only to be let down againâ€ phenomenon that usually occurred with both teams.
Arne: It sounds like the area around both Comiskey and Municipal Stadium was pretty rough in the ’80s. Was it a dicey proposition to get into and out of the parks, especially at night?
Jack: I donâ€™t ever recall being fearful but we did not hang around long after games, especially after losing, so maybe that was why.
Arne: Had you grown up going to games at Comiskey and/or Wrigley? How do you compare those two ballparks?
Jack: Mainly went to Comiskey growing up because of growing up more to the south of Chicago (Joliet, IL). It was always a delight going to any major league game so just remember having a great time and falling in love with the game of baseball.
Arne: What do you think of the difference between how a player experiences a stadium and how a fan does? Is there a complete separation in terms of their perspective toward it?
Jack: I wrote an article for Seamheads that addressed this and yes, ball players judge parks quite differently. Simply put, ballplayers enjoy ball parks that they play well in and dislike parks that they struggle in. I was being a little facetious about that but it holds true for the most part. Of course, newer stadiums that have more modern features are always more enjoyable in my opinion â€“ not to take anything away from the Wrigley Fields and Fenway Parks.
Arne: What kind of features does a player want in the ideal ballpark? In terms of dimensions, fans, quality of the field, the clubhouse, etc.?
Jack: I can only speak for me – I liked bigger fields because I hardly ever hit homeruns. The bigger the outfield the better the chance I could get an extra base on balls to the outfield. As a hitter, fields that do not have a lot of room in foul territory were always best â€“ nothing worse than fouling out. Fans like we had in Seattle, who appreciated effort and not just production, are the best. Most fields in the big leagues are top quality so that was not an issue.
Arne: What was the best and/or most inspiring stadium you played in?
Jack: My two favorites were Kansas City Royals stadium because I had seen a few games in it when I was younger – so to play in it years later seemed almost unreal. Always something about Dodger Stadium too â€“ maybe because they drafted me and I was so proud to come up in that organization, and it was beautiful of course.
Arne: And, finally, what was the worst and/or least inspiring stadium you played in?
Jack: Probably old Detroit Tiger stadium because the field seemed â€œcockeyedâ€ to me when I was out at second base â€“ very uncomfortable to me – and I didnâ€™t hit very well there and they were so darn good back in those years and etcâ€¦