Jim O'Donnell: Sparkling no-budget doc 'Last Comiskey' is an every fan's 'To Sox With Love'

BILL VEECK ONCE SAID, “To be a White Sox fan frees a man from any other form of penance.”

But the old Comiskey Park was never intended to be a baseball confessional. It was an urban rebel enclave — complete with foaming vendors, fans immune to annual letdowns and Andy the Clown.

Determined basement documentarian Matt Flesch of Arlington Heights captures so much of the attitude and energy of the old Sox ballgames in “Last Comiskey,” a marvelous three-part series on YouTube.

Part I dropped Thursday. Part II will be available next Thursday. Part III is targeted for distribution on Thursday, March 16.

Viewing is free. Each leg runs approximately 35 minutes. The project is nonprofit, as organic as the non-chewable peeling paint in the antique stands that once stood at 35th and Shields.

REMARKABLY, “LAST COMISKEY” is the first stab at any kind of documentary by the 47-year-old Flesch.

Away from reel life, he is a vice president of communications & patient advocacy for a multibillion-dollar North suburban biotech firm.

Three years ago, the pandemic suddenly opened up large stretches of isolation ripe for fresh pastimes. He and older brother Mike Flesch seized the disruption to take a shot at crafting a love letter to Comiskey, which was demolished following the 1990 season.

“We picked 1990 for a number of reasons,” said Matt Flesch, who lives with wife Stacey and middle-school daughter Maggie less than a mile from Arlington Park.

“It was the last year of the old Comiskey. It was a season when Jeff Torborg and the Sox made such a great run at Tony La Russa and the imposing Oakland A's. And for me personally, at age 15, it was one of those wonder years where I was both a hard-core Sox fan and a young second baseman who still thought I might realize a longshot dream and play major league baseball.”

WHATEVER THE RECIPE, the home cooking of the Flesch brothers works.

There's no question that “The Last Dance” — ESPN's memorable look at Michael Jordan and the ill-ended Bulls dynasty — influences “Last Comiskey.”

“‘The Last Dance' aired as my brother and I were just trying to post some short homemade video about the old Comiskey,” Flesch said. “We had no thought that what we were doing would ever expand into what it has. Almost all of the core work has been done on Adobe Premeire Pro (video editing) software in my basement.”

THEY CAUGHT A BIG BREAK when the mythic Nancy Faust — the brilliant Sox organist (1970-2010) and, like Flesch, a graduate of North Park University — saw one of their early online snippets.

“Nancy was incredible,” Flesch said. “We wound up in contact with her and she gives us leads on contacting players from that ‘90 Sox team. In the end, she even sat with us at her home and provided some fresh musical updates that are featured in ‘Last Comiskey.'”

(The support and enthusiasm of the witty Faust — who in truth was David Letterman's Paul Shaffer before Shaffer was Shaffer — bleeds through to the point that her dog Cooper is listed in the credits. She also provided personal home video of September 30, 1990, the Sunday that Comiskey's 81-year existence ended with a 2-1 Sox victory over the Mariners.)

IN THE INITIAL WAVE of the pandemic, when Zoo” became a principal mode of communications around the globe, Flesch was buoyed at the response of players from that ‘90 White Sox:

“Vance Law was the first and he talked mainly about the ‘83 Sox and the old Comiskey. Then it just took off with people like Bobby Thigpen and Jack McDowell and Lance Johnson and so many others being so generous with their time and memories.”

A vanguard of media answered the Flesch inquiries. Among them: Tom Shaer, Rich King and Cheryl Raye-Stout. Kenny McReynolds also adds color.

“Then fans and vendors added so much to the blend,” Flesch said. “The vendors are so important in Part Two. Video came from so many different places.”

Ozzie Guillen — then still an fiery shortstop for the Sox — is prominent. Even legendary backstagers like “Chicken Willie” Thompson, the clubhouse cook and down-home Jones, is remembered.

THERE'S NOT A HINT of Jerry Reinsdorf bashing in the independent production. Flesch and brother fastidiously steer clear of any mention of the cynical politics and sub terra networking that brought about the new publicly financed White Sox ball mall.

As the project evolved, the brothers were hardly working without a net. One Matt Flesch associate at the biotech firm is a former producer for “Oprah.” Seasoned Chicago video pros including Mark Bandy (audio) and Pete Janotta (colorist) invested themselves to make the finished product roll.

IN PART I THERE ARE two stunningly electric moments for those tuned in — and old enough — to remember the magic of the White Sox at Comiskey Park.

The first is an audio excerpt of the great Jim Durham calling a ‘90 game on WGN-Channel 9. One year later, Durham — who died at age 65 in 2012 — was brutally disconnected from Reinsdorf's Sox and Bulls due to an irreconcilable rift between a green agent and an equally immovable Bulls vice president.

The second, much grander in scope, is video of Dick Allen batting during his regal run with the Sox (1972-74).

In the background, Faust plays “Jesus Christ, Superstar.” No one from either the Vatican or McCuddy's Tavern ever protested.

“LAST COMISKEY” UNDERSCORES that vibrant, engaging content is now being produced off the Main Drag of contemporary big-ticket sports media.

It should be a clear warning shot across the bows of the Sox's affiliation with empty-calorie NBCSCH and the ongoing exercise in cornhuskered banalities that the Cubs call Marquee Sports Network.

The YouTube doc is a wonderful, common-fan call to spring eternal by Flesch, Flesch and associates.

Bill Veeck and his perennial penance payers would only hoist some suds in salute.

• Jim O'Donnell's Sports and Media column appears Sunday and Thursday. Reach him at All communications may be considered for publication.

The homemade documentary "Last Comiskey," takes viewers inside the White Sox's former home during its final season in 1990 and follows that year's team through a surprising 94-win campaign. Part 1 was posted Thursday; the others will post next Thursday and March 16 at 8 p.m. Photo courtesy of Matt Flesch
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