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If You Publish It, They Will Come – The Launch of “Last Comiskey”

Updated: May 28


L to R: Donn Pall, Ken Smoller, Nancy Faust, Jack McDowell, Matt Flesch, Ron Kittle and Tom Shaer.


It has been about two weeks since the launch event for the “Last Comiskey” book at the Chicago History Museum (CHM) and I am still walking on air. Despite concerns about an empty room, we packed the McCormick Theater with White Sox fans and Chicago history buffs from around the city and across the country. It was a spectacular night in which we celebrated the “Baseball Palace of the World”, which stood for 81 years until its demolition in 1991.



I am extremely grateful for those people who helped make the night a reality. It takes a village to launch a book and “Team Last Comiskey” included a lot of really amazing friends and family who volunteered their time. Also, thank you to the folks who braved the Chicagoland rush hour traffic and filled the hall that night. Lastly, thank you Rick Kaempfer and Dave Stern of Eckhartz Press for agreeing to publish this book.


Author, Ken Smoller, with his wife, Jaime and sons, Charlie and Simon. Charlie is wearing Ken’s old vendor hat from 1991-93 at new Comiskey Park.


Rick Kaempfer of Eckhartz Press, Ken Smoller, Dave Stern of Eckhartz Press and Dr. David Fletcher, Co-Author of “Chili Dog MVP” and "Joe Jackson, Plaintiff, vs Chicago American League Baseball Club, Defendant."


Members of Team “Last Comiskey” including, Jami Brown, Jennifer Barclay, Jaime Smoller and Alison Manzella.


(L) Ken with childhood friend, Adam Becker. Adam was one of Nancy Faust’s roadies that night. (R) Ken with college friend, Jen Kraft. Jen assisted with check-in.


Lisa Rhodes-Powers was present on behalf of sponsor, Soirée brand mocktails. Soirée was co-founded in 2023 by Bravo TV’s Margaret Josephs; Lexi Barbuto of the Real Housewives of New Jersey.


On a personal note, launching my first book at this particular venue was special. I vividly recall taking field trips in elementary school to the institution then known as the Chicago Historical Society. I marveled at the congealed blob of a child’s marbles found in the smoldering ruins after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. I wondered at the diorama of the White City of the 1893 Columbian Exposition. Once my children were old enough, I eagerly brought them to the CHM so that they too could learn the all-important history of the Chicago Hot Dog, see the Lincoln mask, board the ancient L trolleys and more.


Now, decades later, I was thrilled that my book about one of the most important buildings in Chicago and sports history debuted at such a prestigious locale. When my collaborator, documentarian Matt Flesch, suggested the CHM as forum for the book launch, I seized the opportunity. It felt like the ideal choice given that our book specifically furthers the mission of the Chicago History Museum. Seeing the “Last Comiskey” book on display in the museum’s gift shop was a tangible reminder that a decades-long goal had come to fruition.


Once they were old enough, the Smoller kids got a chance to marvel at the wonders of the Chicago History Museum. Having them pass out Cracker Jacks at the book launch was a full-circle family moment.


Author, Ken Smoller with his father, Jerry Smoller.


L to R: Architect and “Last Comiskey” contributor, Brian Powers, Author Ken Smoller and Documentarian, Matt Flesch.


“Last Comiskey” book display at the Chicago History Museum gift shop.


Getting pitching tips from former White Sox, Jack McDowell.


Beyond returning to a museum that I revered in my childhood, the entire night was filled with nostalgia on a granular and collective basis. For all of us in attendance, we delighted in the stories shared by former White Sox players, Ron Kittle, Jack McDowell and Donn Pall. Legendary broadcaster and Emmy Award winner, Tom Shaer, smoothly guided us through the jam-packed evening with his customary grace, eloquence and insight. Naturally, the “Last Comiskey” book all started with the captivating documentary by Matt Flesch, which guests had the privilege of viewing that night in abbreviated form. As was often the case at old ballpark, the real hero of the night was organist, Nancy Faust. Despite suffering from a broken ankle, Nancy and her wonderful husband, Joe Jenkins, carted her organ downtown and thrilled the crowd with the sweet sounds of her music. As one person told me, “Nancy made the night a special event” by filling the hall with the same notes that used to bounce of the arched walls of Comiskey Park.




I could elaborate for thousands of additional words about my memories from the night, but instead will largely let photos and videos convey the story. If you still have not had a chance to purchase “Last Comiskey”, please visit www.lastcomiskeybook.com and share with any of your friends and family who are baseball or Chicago history fans. Also, please sign up for my free blog at www.stadiumvagabond.com or follow me on social media (@stadiumvagabond). My ultimate goal is to release another book about all of the stadiums across Chicagoland and Illinois, so your feedback and support is appreciated.


Thank you,

Ken


P.S. These photos are from a variety of people who sent me their images. I apologize for not crediting each photographer properly as I lost track of the original photographers.



John Brudnak, Andy Frain Supervisor was dressed to impress.



White Sox Historian, Richard Lindberg


Stephanie Walters, Lifelong Sox Fan featured in “Last Comiskey” documentary and book


Blogger, John Wroblewski (www.johngysbeat.com)




Architect, Brian Powers provided this Comiskey Park floor plan showing the detention area (“Comiskey Jail”) mentioned by Ken Smoller during the event.


David Marran (@SoxNerd), White Sox Scoreboard Crew, and his wife Laura



White Sox organist for 41 seasons, Nancy Faust, lead the crowd in ‘Take Me Out to The Ballgame’ two times as shown from four vantagepoints.





Tom Shaer’s Introduction to the “Last Comiskey” documentary film.


Nancy Faust taking in the “Last Comiskey” abbreviated documentary screening.


Full Presentation – Part 1

Full Presentation – Part 2

Full Presentation – Part 3

Full Presentation – Part 4

Full Presentation – Part 5

Tom Shaer’s interview of “Last Comiskey” author, Ken Smoller.


Behind the Scenes – Nancy Faust’s soundcheck - “Creep” by Radiohead.


Nancy Faust plays “Classical Gas by Mason Williams


Afterparty at the Old Town Ale House

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