Had the Black Sox scandal not exposed the pettiness that characterized most of Comiskey’s later dealings, he might have been among the most respected elder statesmen of sport. Charles Comiskey was the son of a famous long-time Chicago alderman who represented the Irish ghettos of the near West Side. The boy rebelled against his father’s plans to apprentice him to a plumber. Instead, he played semi-pro ball on the Chicago sandlots. In 1879 Comiskey hooked up with baseball promoter Ted Sullivan, who taught him the art of playing first base. Until the 1880s, most first basemen started each play with a foot on the bag. Comiskey increased his range by playing off the bag, and his success popularized that style. As a player-manager for the St. Louis Browns of the American Association, Comiskey won four league titles (1885-1888).
Comiskey’s greatest fame came not as a manager, but as a mogul. When Ban Johnson took over the fledgling Western League (formed November 21, 1893), few imagined that eight years later it would challenge the National League for baseball supremacy. Comiskey assisted Johnson by purchasing the Sioux City franchise, which he shifted to St. Paul, and in 1900, to Chicago, where it was christened the White Stockings. For the next 31 years “The Old Roman” was the driving force behind the White Sox, who won championships in 1901, 1906, 1917, and 1919.
Comiskey’s own greed is considered to have been the real motivation for the “Black Sox” selling out to gamblers in 1919. When it was revealed that the players threw the Series for $10,000 because Comiskey had underpaid them for years, his sterling reputation was tarnished. Nonetheless, he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1939, as an executive.