In June of 1976, I received a personalized letter from birthday boy Bill Veeck (1914) dutifully answering the questions I had mailed to him a week or two earlier.
I have preserved the letter, pictured above accompanied by a shot of “Barnum Bill” I clipped from a Sox media guide, in a scrapbook that has followed me throughout my life.
I love this letter.
As a 10-year-old without any resources at my fingertips, I asked Veeck to fill in the blank spaces of Jim Spencer’s career. In addition, I wanted Bill to hear me out on hot prospect of the day Nyls Nyman.
I obviously complimented the Sox on the new uniforms Veeck had brought on board for 1976 — which was the first season of his second ownership stint with the Sox.
I can also deduce from this letter that my handwriting heading into my middle school career wasn’t great. My late name is Marran, not Marvan as it says on the letter. I chalk that up to my “iffy” penmanship.
I have come across a Sox Facebook group which had a couple of letters like these and anecdotes about how Veeck was so fan friendly he would get on the telephone and answer fans questions.
It’s no wonder he endures as one of the most popular figures in White Sox history.
Note: I have posted about this before in similar fashion but this was too good NOT to post today
If history had twisted and turned in another direction, maybe the Raiders would be moving from Guaranteed Rate Field to Las Vegas.
Or, maybe the Raiders wouldn’t be moving at all.
National Football League owners voted 31-1 Monday to approve the Raiders move from Oakland to Las Vegas. The Raiders aren’t expected to play in “Sin City” until 2020, according to reports. The franchise is hoping to eventually play in a $1.9 billion stadium.
In Monday reports, it was Mark Davis, the son of longtime Raiders’ owner Al Davis, being quoted.
Could that have been Bill Veeck’s son, Mike Veeck, instead?
For a fleeting moment, it appeared White Sox owner Bill Veeck had purchased the Oakland Raiders.
The Jan. 14, 1961, Tribune aggressively reported that Veeck had bought the American Football League team for $175,000. The purpose, of course, was to get Comiskey Park to generate some revenue in the winter.
While the move made sense because Comiskey Park has been the home of the NFL’s Chicago Cardinals until 1958 and the Raiders were losing money, the story wasn’t close to being true.
The next day, the Raiders, Veeck and the AFL denied the report.
“We would like to have a tenant for Comiskey Park in the offseason, but I wouldn’t go as far as buying Oakland to get one,” Veeck said in the Tribune.
The Tribune reported that Tommy King, a the public relations director at the Merchandise Mart, was one of Veeck’s “associates” in the deal.
Like Veeck, King said there was nothing to the report.
“I know nothing about any deal to buy Oakland,” he said in the Tribune. “However, I am interested in getting another football team into Chicago and feel there definitely a market for one.”
A Daley occurrence
That was the sentiment 37 years later when the Sox, Comiskey Park and the Raiders were linked again.
In a prominent Dec. 12, 1998 story in the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley said he would “love” to bring the Raiders to Chicago and that the city could support two teams.
Daley even went so far to as to suggest Comiskey Park, which had just completed its eighth season of baseball, could be remodeled for football.
Like Veeck 1961 story, there was nothing to this.
Daley said he hadn’t contacted the Raiders and a Raider executive said he was not aware of any contact between the team and Chicago.
At the time, the Bears at the time were looking at suburban stadium sites, which may have prompted Daley’s comments.
Other links: Bo knows
The strongest connection between the Sox and the Raiders is Bo Jackson.
On Jan. 13, 1991, Jackson suffered a football career-ending hip injury in an AFC playoff game against the Cincinnati Bengals at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
The injury, which occurred in a Raider loss, led to Jackson’s release by the Kansas City Royals, his other employer, on March 18, 1991, paving the way for his signing with the Sox on April 3, 1991.
With the White Sox, Jackson would make history by becoming the first man to play with an artificial hip.
He left the team after the 1993 A.L. West Division championship team as one of the more popular players in team history, a distinction he still holds.
Not Bo but Billy Joe
Billy Joe Hobert, who spent one season in the Sox system after being drafted by the club, went 0-5 as the Raiders starting quarterback in 1995 and 1996.
Hobert, an outfielder, was the White Sox 16th round pick in the June 1993 draft out of the University of Washington despite never playing college baseball.
Hobert, a left-handed hitter, batted .256 with four RBIs in 15 games at the Sox Rookie League affiliate at Sarasota in 1993.
That, however, was the extent of his professional baseball career.
Hobert went on to quarterback 29 games in the NFL for Oakland, Buffalo and New Orleans between 1995 and 1998.
Hobert gained some “fame” for admitting he didn’t thoroughly prepare for a 1997 Bills’ game against New England in which two of his first three passes were intercepted. He was quickly cut.
Jim Spencer, the first baseman for the 1977 South Side Hit Men White Sox, is the only player in team history with two 8-RBI games and they happened only 39 days apart (May 14, 1977 and July 2, 1977).
FYI: Spencer’s 8-RBI performance on May 14, 1977 came in a game which started at 10:30 a.m. at Comiskey Park. The fans on hand watched Spencer’s historic performance while munching on free Egg McMuffins, McDonald’s newest menu item.
Other Sox players with 8-RBI games: Carl Reynolds (July 2, 1930), Tommy McCraw (July 2, 1967) and Robin Ventura (Sept. 4, 1995).
On International Women’s Day, I salute the legendary Nancy Faust.
Nancy entertained Sox fans as the Comiskey Park/New Comiskey Park/U.S. Cellular Field organist from 1970 to 2010.
When she was honored at Comiskey Park one time, Sox executive Howard Pizer called Nancy the “Babe Ruth of stadium organists.”
That is underselling Nancy.
There were other power hitters and other baseball superstars and other personalities who would transform their sports or the culture.
There will never be another Nancy Faust.
Aside from being an amazing musician (she literally could play complicated songs on demand), Nancy had a great ear for the game and the fans.
This is how she integrated “Na Na, Hey, Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” into Sox games. That riff has become a standard at events now. Last night, I heard it at a Marquette women’s basketball game.
Based on that alone, Nancy should be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Not featured in an exhibit but honored with a plaque with an induction ceremony with a speech, which should be, of course, from behind an organ.
Nancy was more than an organist, though, to those she touched.
Her reputation as nice, kind, friendly, sincere and interested in you are all 100 percent true.
When you stopped by to see Nancy during a game and she was happy to see you, she was, in fact, happy to see you. There was nothing phony about her.
I should know because I worked with Nancy every day I was at Comiskey Park/New Comiskey Park/U.S. Cellular Field from 1984 to 2010.
In addition to getting an inside look at her genius (the singing along I heard on headsets was great!), she became a great friend to our family. This happened hundreds of times over during her career, I am sure.
She was at our wedding, we exchange Christmas cards and emails and she is genuinely thrilled for all the great things that are happening in our lives. We exchanged emails on the day of our daughter’s wedding.
When she retired in 2010, she mentioned that coming to work at the Cell was not work but being part of a family.
The presence of Nancy Faust was a major reason why that was true.
The Sox have a long history of giving women opportunity.
Mary Shane was hired by Bill Veeck as the first female play-by-play broadcaster in 1976.
Christine O’Reilly-Riordan gave me my start with the Sox in 1984 and she is still with the organization as a vice-president. She gave my name to Liz Burke, who was running the scoreboard, and I was off and running.
Other managers I have come into contact include Bean O’Malley, Nichole Manning and Amy Gullick Sheridan.
On gameday, the Sox scoreboard room features the likes of Laura Marran, Melanie Ramsey Murphy, Meghan Gleason-Vollmer, Jen McMahon, Bianca Alfreres, Lori Moreland, Kedonica Taylor, Kendra Dinkins and Pam Johnson all immersed in production.