The Chicago White Sox' one-time Field of Dreams is being turned into a parking lot.
Speedway Wrecking Co. crews on Wednesday began the task of knocking down the walls of the oldest stadium in major league baseball to provide parking for the newest park, also named Comiskey, across 35th Street on the city's South Side.Boos resounded from scores of fans - clad in business suits, work clothes and even a clown costume - who showed up at 10 a.m. for the first swing of the wrecking ball against the outer right-field wall of the 81-year-old stadium.
Then the crowd broke out in the familiar Comiskey ditty, "Na-na-na-na, Na-na-na-na, Hey, hey, hey, goodbye" from the song by the band Steam.
The old stadium, named after former White Sox owner Charles Comiskey, who built the ballpark in 1910, is a treasury of memories - the first exploding scoreboard, the majors' first All-Star Game, Babe Ruth's home runs.
It was home to Shoeless Joe Jackson and controversial club owner Bill Veeck, who dreamed up the scoreboard exploding with fireworks. Joe Louis fought there for the heavyweight title in 1937. The Beatles banged out tunes in 1965.
"I'm saddened. My grandfather brought my dad here, my dad brought me here, and I brought my kid here," said Ray Janisch, 35, a Chicago plumber.
Accountant Ted Kramer, 54, said he and the old stadium have been through a lot together.
"I've been coming here since the 1940s," he said. "We've both suffered through all these years."
On Wednesday, a sign reading "Speedway Wrecking. The Hardest Hitters of All Time" hung over the main entrance of old Comiskey Park. It will take the heavy hitters six to eight months to complete the job.
But some souvenir-hunting fans tried to help the demolition along by using sledgehammers and poles to loosen bricks on the top of a back wall that wasn't being watched by security people. They were chased away by an angry Speedway official.
The demolition job began on the same day two-sport superstar Bo Jackson signed a contract in Sarasota, Fla., to play for the White Sox if he is able to come back from a serious hip injury.
As the destruction of the old Comiskey's walls began, members of the media got a tour of Comiskey II, a $150-million, state-of-the-art facility receiving the final touches before the April 18 home opener against the Detroit Tigers.
Since March 1, Speedway has been tearing down the inside of the old park, leaving little more than the walls.
The seats are long gone, selling for $250 apiece, with the proceeds going to charity.
The grass is at a city park.
The infield dirt is across the street at the new park.
Some community groups tried in vain to save the original Comiskey from the wreckers, and efforts are still under way to salvage a part of it for a small memorial plaza and park on the site.
"Their precious parking lots are all saved," said Mary O'Connell, 44, of the grassroots group known as Save Our Sox Field of Dreams. "Just because we're building a new ballpark doesn't mean we have to obliterate every trace of the old one."
But the players are not all that choked up about moving to a new park.
"The old Comiskey was old," Carlton Fisk said. "It just didn't provide things players and fans want and that progress has allowed. This new park has the proper facilities for the baseball team and the fan who comes."