Grace Patricia Ryan Samfillippo is an 82-year-old legend. As one of the last living people to work for the Chicago White Sox's first general manager Harry Grabiner, she spent countless evenings nestled in the lap of Charles A. Comiskey as he riveted her with bedtime baseball stories. Along with her 80-year-old cousin Charles A. Comiskey II, Grace is a direct living link to the 'Old Roman' and his tremendous impact on baseball in America.
Grace Patricia's grandfather was Patrick Henry Comiskey, older brother and confident of Charles A. Comiskey. Patrick was the business manager of the White Sox in the late 1890s when the team was in St. Paul, Minnesota. During his tenure, the Comiskey brothers plotted to move the team to Chicago and invade the territory of the National League's Chicago Colts.
The team was moved to 39th
and Princeton (four blocks south of present day U.S. Cellular Field) because of its proximity to the working Irish neighborhood of Bridgeport. In April 1900, shortly before the Chicago White Stockings' first opening day, Patrick Henry Comiskey died of Bright's disease at the age of 47.
Grace has fond memories of her great-uncle Charley and their family vacations at their compound in Eagle River, Wisconsin. She bristles when she hears criticism of him and the widely-accepted theory that his low player wages was the primary cause of the Black Sox scandal.
"My uncle Charley was a generous man. He paid mortgages for an entire city block of fans around the ballpark. He paid for the neighbor kids to go to school and sent many of my family members to college at Notre Dame."
She produces original letters and papers documenting her uncle's philanthropy.
"He talked about the Black Sox investigation. It was really hard on him. He loved the game of baseball and felt betrayed by his players."
Grace is quick to point out that her uncle Charley wanted to be the first baseball owner to break the color barrier in the early 1920s. He rented his former ballpark at 39th
and Princeton to the Chicago American League Giants of the Negro National League for their home games. The Comiskey Family was very proud that Comiskey Park hosted the annual East-West Negro League All-Star game from 1933 - 1959.
She also says no one gives her uncle credit for the fact that the first night game in MLB history was actually played at Comiskey Park in 1920 when he brought in temporary lights.
When Charles A. Comiskey died in 1931 he left the White Sox to his son J. Louis Comiskey
. Louis, as Grace Patricia points out, weighed a colossal 400 pounds.
"Lou had a thing for donuts. Once he was at a store ordering a dozen donuts and told the store clerk to pack just nine because he had already eaten three of them," she said.
"He (Louis) tried to diet and was even hospitalized for obesity. He was so large he had a special 'Lou Comiskey' seat at the Eagle River, WI movie theater to hold his massive frame."
Lou's weight alarmed his wife Grace Reidy Comiskey
. With one eye on the future she frequently attended ballgames sitting in box number 45 near home plate.
Just eight years after the death of his father, Louis passed away in 1939 and left the White Sox to his wife and children. Grace Reidy Comiskey became baseball's second female executive and ran the White Sox from July 1939 to her death in December 1956.
In the beginning, Grace Reidy Comiskey had Harry Grabiner to assist her with baseball operations. Grabiner had been with the White Sox since 1905 when he started selling scorecards at the old 39th
street grounds, and became general manager in 1915 through 1945.