Camps in Pop Culture: Charles Comiskey and Camp Menominee

One of the first things you see when you arrive at the Camp Menominee property in Eagle River, Wisconsin, is an iron fence with a series of green and white pillars lining the perimeter of the camp property. The pillars, decked out in the camp’s colors, are not just a welcome site for campers but a link to the property’s connection to one of the biggest names in the history of America’s pastime, Charles Comiskey.

Comiskey or “The Old Roman” as he was known was a player, manager and team owner who helped form the American League of baseball and oversaw construction of the first of two Chicago baseball stadiums that carried his namesake (the latter being renamed U.S. Cellular Field in 2003). The pillars on Camp Menominee date back to the early days of the White Sox and the stadium that pre-dated the first Comiskey Park, South Side Park (pictured above in 1907).

According to current camp co-owner Steve Kanefsky, the pillars were transplanted to the Eagle River camp grounds from the entryway at South Side Park when it was replaced in 1910 by Comiskey Park. Comiskey owned the property at the time and left the fence behind on the property when Camp Menominee relocated to The Old Roman’s former estate in 1947.

“It is really cool, especially considering I grew up as a White Sox fan and a camper of the camp,” Kanefsky wrote in an email of the camp’s Comiskey connection.

In addition to the literal piece of White Sox history that lines the property, Kanefsky said some old newspapers with a Charles Comiskey subscription stamp were found under a rug in what is now the camp’s Health Center. The building was a guest house when Comiskey owned the property, which also included a working farm.

“The local folks ask about it all the time; they all seem to know this was his place,” Kanefsky wrote in an email. “It was a working farm back in the day so many locals worked here over the years when Charles owned it.”

While Comiskey is a Hall of Famer credited with shaping and growing the game of baseball in the early 1900s, his involvement with the Black Sox Scandal in 1919 permanently tarnished his reputation. In the movie Eight Men Out, which dramatizes the events that led to the heavily favored White Sox “throwing” the World Series, Comiskey is portrayed as a miserly owner mistreating players and purposely shortchanging them of bonuses and other perks. He died in Eagle River, 16 years before Menominee, which was founded in 1928 in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, set up camp in its new location.

Matt Ralph

Matt Ralph

I'm the editor of Summer Camp Culture and also blog at Tangzine.com and MatthewRalph.com. I live in the Philadelphia area and went to camps and camp meetings growing up in Ohio, Maryland and New Jersey.

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