I've alluded to it frequently, but I am a White Sox fan despite having never lived in the Chicago area. In fact, I lived in the same house in southern Connecticut until I graduated from high school. However, my father was born on June 4th, 1942 in the suburbs of Chicago. Since today is his birthday, and since he can offer a perspective ranging further back than anyone on our staff can, I thought it would be appropriate to get some of his thoughts and memories on the record. To this day, conversations with him prompt me to write about things that he has pointed out to me, or ideas that emerge from our discussions. And after all, I would probably have been a Yankee fan but for his influence.
My questions and comments are in bold, my father's responses are in italics. Asterisks denote my musings after the fact.
1. What is your first White Sox-related memory?
"I started following the White Sox in 1949, listening to them on the radio. My favorite player was Steve Souchock because he was the best home run hitter on the team (he finished the year with 7).*
My first memory is a game my father took my twin brother and me to. My father took care to point out to us that when the fans went "LOOOOKE" when Luke Appling came to bat, they were not booing him. Gus Zernial had broken his collar bone, and as we were leaving, somebody noticed that Zernial was sitting in the stands with his arm in a sling. We got his autograph, and he told us that he was studying the pitchers."
Zernial would wind up being traded for Minnie Minoso. Do you remember when that happened? Or is it drowned out by positive memories of Minoso?
"I was playing softball in the yard with some friends when my father came home from work and told us about the Minoso trade. I liked Zernial a lot, but my father was optimistic about the trade, and so was I."
*For context, it is true that this is a pretty low number to lead a team. If this were 1905, no, but in 1949 Ted Williams hit 43 homers to pace the league. Then again, Souchock managed his 7 home runs in only 277 PAs!
2. What was it like going to the 1959 World Series? (*My father went to Game 1 of the 1959 World Series, which was a huge success for the White Sox even if the rest of the series didn't go well).
The streets of Chicago were lined with red, white and blue bunting. It was a sunny day, and everything went right for the Sox. It was a happy crowd. At the time, I assumed the Sox would be back in the World Series soon. (They had been in contention every year after 1951.)
*As you guys well know, the White Sox would not be back to the World Series until 2005.
3. Who was your first Favorite Player on the team? And who are your 5 favorite ever on the White Sox?
A tough question because I have so many favorites. Minny is #1 and Frank Thomas is #2.
Pitchers: Buehrle, Billy Pierce, Britt Burns.
I didn't know Frank had passed Baines for you.
I'm a little surprised as well. I am happy every time the camera picks up Baines on the bench.
Wilbur Wood, Juan Pizarro, Eddie Fisher, Floyd Robinson, Aparicio, of course.
I remember the Yankee game we went to in 2005 when Rowand made sensational catches for the first two outs of the game, and somebody behind us said: "Who is that guy?'
I remember that Rowand moment as well. I don't know if it's because I always thought good White Sox players never got enough credit in the media, but I have always enjoyed when fans of other teams realize, "Wait — this guy on the White Sox is way better than I thought!" The next game we went to, two days later, I overheard a father lean over to his maybe 5-year old son and say, "The White Sox center fielder is one of the best defensive outfielders in the game. Keep an eye on him."
I remember being excited about Rowand's catches — but also thinking, "Orlando Hernandez is not fooling anyone tonight."
*My dad and I went to two of the three games at Yankee Stadium in 2005. The White Sox lost the first, El Duque's return to Yankee Stadium, and then won in the 10th inning off of Mariano Rivera, partially thanks to Bernie Williams still being in CF for some reason and also thanks to Juan Uribe's opposite field power.
4. What is the worst thing that ever happened to the organization? Hawk Harrelson as GM? Canceling the 1994 World Series? Something else?
There were some bad things that almost happened, but didn't. The Sox always had shaky finances.
Losing La Russa and Dombrowski was tough. I remember Rizzuto in 1986 asking what had happened to the White Sox. He thought that had been good the previous year and then had broken up their team.
5. Whom do you think they should use the #3 pick on?
I don't know enough, but I would avoid Boras clients and have a presumption against high school pitchers. I think you should be cautious with top 5 picks, not roll the dice.
6. Where would you rank Kenny Williams for White Sox GMs historically?
They have had very good general managers----Frank Lane, Ed Short, Rollie Hemond. Williams belongs with those guys.
In addition, Kenny Williams has a lifetime pass from me.*
*I have been extremely hard on Williams in recent history. It's hard not to be, given that he sacrificed the future for short term gain, and this is the logical fallout. For someone who only had to wait until he was 18 for a White Sox World Series it's easy to forget how special it was for someone who waited 63 years.
7. When it came to raising me and Annalisa (my sister) — did you consciously try to exert any influence on our rooting interests?
I tried not to influence you. After all, your mother was a strong Yankee fan.
I remember you taking us to lots of White Sox-Yankee games, and in fact, I remember being about 5 or 6-years old and being the only one of our group rooting for the Yankees. I think I just wanted to be contrarian. Were you expecting anything in particular?
Your mother and I used to go to Yankee/White Sox games a lot. They played a double header on our anniversary one year, and we remarked how fortunate it was that they split.
Do you remember the story about your taking your Yankee cap off when the White Sox took a big lead, and the man behind you said: "Young man, wear that cap with pride."?
It's hard to realize that there was a game when Righetti got the win for the Sox and McDowell took the loss for the Yankees.*
*The Righetti-McDowell matchup occurred in '95 before my 8th birthday. Here is Game 1 of the doubleheader in which that game happened, and here's Game 2. I remember Frank Thomas and Tim Raines going back-to-back.
8. Do you think the White Sox should buy or sell at the deadline?
It depends on circumstances more than in most years. There are a lot of players whose futures are hard to predict. Dunn is the only player who is certain to lose value at the end of the year.
9. How did you wind up rooting for the White Sox instead of the Cubs?
My father was a White Sox fan. He had relatives who knew the Old Roman, Charles Comiskey. He was born across from the site of the old Comiskey Park, although he was born in 1903, before Comiskey Park was built. I looked up Comiskey Park on the Internet once, and apparently the site was a junk yard at the time my father was born.
Was there always this sort of rivalry between the White Sox and Cubs? Or did you notice a change when the Tribune bought the Cubs?
The Tribune made a big difference to me. I still call myself a fair weather Cub fan. Cousin Walt and I were probably the only people at Shea rooting against Tom Seaver's perfect game try in 1969. We joined in the ovation after Qualls broke it up, and took note that we were probably the only ones applauding Qualls.
I think the rivalry is greatly overblown. I had relatives, especially Judy, who were big Cub fans. My Aunt Lavergne reminisced the last time I saw her about how she used to go to Lady's Day at Wrigley every week during World War II.
10. What teams do you remember the most fondly? I assume that most people would answer the 2005 version. I know people like the '83 team and '59.
1954, 1959, 1983, 1993, 2005.
*And this one of the many things I was hoping for in an article like this. 1954 is a team that I never would have thought to look at. The '54 White Sox won 94 games, and although they didn't make the playoffs, they featured great seasons from cool players like Ferris Fain — whom we should absolutely remember, I mean the guy had three 100+ BB seasons with less than 30 strikeouts! — and Minnie Minoso. Also — Virgil Trucks.
The 1993 White Sox were awesome. A Bo Jackson walk-off to go to the ALCS? Sign me up.
I hope this was as interesting for readers as it was for me.
Philip Schaefer writes about baseball — and, well, almost anything else you can imagine — at http://philipschaefer.com, which he updates daily. I am biased, but I'm a fan. It's hard to condense 60+ years of baseball fandom into one article, so I suspect this is a format I will re-visit in the future.
Happy birthday, Dad. Go Sox.