Take Me in to the Ballpark

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Portraits from the Park:
Comiskey Park Photographs, 1973–1990

Thomas W. Harney

Harney

September 30, 1990, marked a milestone in baseball history: the closing of Chicago’s old Comiskey Park, after a 2–1 win over the Seattle Mariners on a Sunday afternoon. In Portraits from the Park, Chicago photographer Thomas W. Harney shares sixty beautiful, black-and-white images that capture the old stadium between 1973 and 1990.

Portraits from the Park goes well beyond mere snapshots of a ballpark. In these pages, readers will find emotive, atmospheric images of fans from all walks of life. Each photograph captures the face of baseball fans, from a lone individual watching a game to a group celebrating a victory. Comiskey’s classic architecture filters through, as do a few of the players who at one time or another ran the bases. But it is the people here who tell the story of the much-loved though now long-gone ballpark.

Aside from noting the year during which each image was taken, there is no caption information. The reader is, depending on one’s perspective, either forced to or allowed to imagine what is taking place outside the frame. No words reveal whether the White Sox were winning or losing. A fly out? A double play? A home run? One can only attempt to guess what was happening on the field based on the subject’s expression.

Harney’s entrancing images are accompanied by essays from lifelong White Sox Fan Tom Nawrocki, an associate professor of English at Columbia College Chicago, and from Ed Maldonado, a former curator and director for the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs. Fans of the game and of the White Sox will find much to relate to in Nawrocki’s foreword, a love letter to the Sox, to Comiskey, and to baseball in general. Maldanado’s somewhat academic afterword dissects Harney’s approach to photography.

Die-hard baseball fans looking for sports-action shots will not find them in these pages. These images by no means provide play-by-play commentary on a particular game or a particular season. Rather, Harney has captured, in rich black and white, moments, many of them quiet moments, some of them private moments, all of them compelling moments. Each moment tells a story, and in doing so, Portraits from the Park captures a slice of history from the former (some might say “true”) home of the White Sox.

Three-Star Review

May 2013
Columbia College Chicago Press
(Distributed by The University of Chicago Press)
Photography
$35, hardcover, 93 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1-935195-39-9

—Reviewed by Kelli Christiansen

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