Growing up in Wilmette, Illinois, McComas dealt with a fact as hard as the streets: "Everybody was a Cubs fan! We're talking about the late 40s, and early 50s. The Sox were awful. I used to cry in bed when they lost. I spent my youth in tears! I learned how to deal with defeat and disappointment by being a Sox fan."
McComas pitched the project to Ed Short, the White Sox general manager. "They were OK with it. They didn't care one way or the other." On a crisp day in late September, between the second-to-last and the final series of the 1966 season, McComas, his crew, and Peter Sandquist, a young boy whom McComas knew from his neighborhood and who was the son of a state representative, gathered at the park and spent the afternoon filming exterior and interior footage. Particularly memorable are shots inside as an elated Sandquist runs past the long line of photographs of former White Sox players, their faces and bodies a blur of action. "Those photos were inside, right opposite the stairs leading into the park. So we used a hand-held subjective camera to show Peter's point-of-view as he runs past the photographs. That's why the picture is jumping up and down." Also evocative are interestingly-composed shots of Sandquist running past closed concession stands and empty seats, and along steeply angled ramps.
|McCamos, on location at Comiskey Park|
Also key: verisimilitude. McComas grew up, as so many in Chicago did, listening to the great Bob Elson call White Sox games on the radio, and he hoped to get the broadcaster to narrate the fantasy sequence in his film. "In those days they had debutante balls and coming-out parties," McComas says. "I met Elson's daughter at one of those and asked her if I could get to her dad." The ruse worked. Elson met McComas and his crew at a recording studio on Hubbard Street in Chicago. "I had listened to him for years so it was a big deal for me." Elson arrived in style, rolling up to the studio in a big Buick. "It was tough to find parking there, but I had a spot," McComas remembers. "I stood in the spot for him but he was late—I probably got into ten fights protecting that parking space! But he got in and we went upstairs, where I played the film for him once, and he said, 'Alright, I get it.' The idea was for Elson to ad-lib the action just like he would if it were a real game. So when the bases are loaded, Elson says 'Koufax into the stretch.' I said, 'Cut, cut! Bob, with the bases loaded he'd go into a full windup.' And he said, 'You're right!'
"So I corrected Bob Elson!" McComas laughs at a memory that still delights him a half century later.
The image of a tow-headed, striped-shirted boy jumping a fence and running the bases is strangely eternal, yet also, in its innocence, very much of the era. I asked McComas if he feels that he could make his film today. "They'd probably want money," he sighs. "Everybody wants money." Of no small surprise to McComas is the the general indifference with which his film was greeted by the White Sox organization. "No one ever picked up on the film. Years ago, I sent it to the White Sox marketing guy thinking that, once they'd moved to U.S. Cellular Field, there'd be nostalgia, a yearning for old Sox fans to see the old Comiskey again. The first 20,000 would get a free DVD of the film, or they could show it on the screen during a rain delay. But I never heard back from them. I don't know that it got to the right guy. They can still do it."
"It was fun for me to get into the park and to do all that stuff," McComas says. "They say you should do what you know. And I definitely knew that."
Here are some screen grabs, followed by the film:
Photo of young McComas via Tom McCamos.