A lot of history, and a lot of hope

Sox fans are enjoying the ride with their team

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By KEN TRAINOR

Rev. Larry McNally managed to attend the only post-season game the White Sox have lost this October?#34;and he loved every minute of it.

"The fans were in it from first pitch to last," he said. "Afterwards, everyone said, 'We'll get 'em tomorrow.' Nobody was hanging their head."

Ascension Parish's number one Sox fan?#34;and he has plenty of competition?#34;has enjoyed a love affair with the team since he grew up in St. Kilian Parish, 87th and May, in the 1950s. He's the exception among Sox fans. Win or lose, he doesn't suffer. All the disappointments, "it never got to me."

The only time he really got upset was when they talked about moving the team to Florida in the 1980s. And one other time.

"My grandfather had a ticket for me for the seventh game of the 1959 series."

The first game he attended was an 8-3 victory over the Kansas City Athletics on a Saturday afternoon with Barry Latman on the mound for the Sox. "My dad was a Yankee fan," McNally recalls, "so we went to a lot of Sox-Yankee games. We were always at each other. My mother kept saying, 'Now stop it, you two.'

When he got older, he and his friends attended almost every homestand. In high school, he worked at Comiskey as a vendor, filling the pop and popcorn machines. The stand was right by the players' entrance, so he got to talk to his heroes?#34;Eddie Fisher, Tommie Agee, Pete Ward, and Ken Berry. Berry and Ward would stop and chat for a few minutes. "They were very friendly," McNally recalls.

He attended the second-to-last home game at the old Comiskey Park. The Sox won and nobody left. The crowd stayed for at least 45 minutes after the game ended. He misses the old place, but likes the new park. "Every seat is a good one," he said, "and I've sat all over."

He watched the clinching game Sunday, of course, then yelled and clapped and screamed. "It's nice living by yourself," he noted. "You can do that kind of thing." The rectory switchboard lit up with friends calling, even the Cub fans to engage in some good-natured sparring.

He likes this year's group because "they play like a team." He'd prefer the Cardinals because he wants to keep the series in the Midwest. Overall, he's "very confident" about the White Sox chances, "but I'm not bringing out the broom."

A different magic

Frank Muriello has been a Sox fan since "my Uncle Joe took me to a game for my sixth birthday." Muriello is now in his 70s. "I was privileged to see two games of the 1959 series," he recalled, including the first-game 11-0 romp. "That was a really great team. The newspapers described Aparicio and Fox as 'magic up the middle.' Fox had that big bat that was fat down low. Guys today are always breaking their bats. Fox got a lot of hits off that part." He loved players like Minnie Minoso, but his favorite was probably "Big Klu," Ted Kluzewski, the late-season acquisition in '59 who had two homers and seven RBIs in that first World Series game.

This year's team has "a different magic going on. They're not as discernible as to their greatness, but I wish them well." Muriello used to attend about 20 percent of home games each year, but he's scaled back to about five each season, usually with friends who invite him. He's hoping one of those friends will call with tickets to the series.

His sons are Sox fans, too, and a couple called him Sunday night after the Sox clinched. "We were cheering. Actually, I got a little choked up." He called his youngest, who lives in California, and was told he was out to dinner.

"I left a message. I said, 'You're a bum.'"

Banging pots and pans

Jessica Mackinnon, director of public relations at Dominican University, wore her Sox T-shirt under her black suit to work the day after the Sox clinched. "People were asking if I was in mourning," she said, "but everyone I knew who is a Sox fan got a real good flash in the hallway."

She's been a Sox fan most of her adult life "by default. Every guy I've been involved with since college was a Sox fan," including her husband and two sons, 10 and 12, who play youth baseball in Oak Park, of course.

"It was really exciting to watch the game with them," she said, but the victory was almost anti-climactic. They were shocked when the pivotal play turned out to be "a rinky-dink Little League mistake" by the Angels' pitcher, who tagged A.J. Pierzynski with his glove while holding the ball in the other hand.

But they thoroughly enjoyed the outcome. "The Sox are classic underdogs," she observed, "and it's great to see underdogs succeed."

She wishes they had clinched in Chicago and not on a Sunday. As it turns out, she attended the game in 1983 when the Sox clinched their first divisional title. On the way home, "everyone in Bridgeport was standing outside banging on pots and pans."

A family affair

Park District of Oak Park Commissioner Mark Gartland admits he's been pretty much "glued to the set" the last few weeks during the Sox run, but his kids' sports schedules have interfered on a few occasions. He was at a volleyball game recently, and "all the other parents were looking to me for updates," which he dialed up on his cellphone.

For Gartland, the Sox odyssey has been an opportunity for some wonderful family experiences. He and his 7-year-old son attended the now-famous Game Two of the Angels series with the contested "dropped third strike." When Pierzynski whiffed, Gartland put his head down, thinking all he had to look forward to was a long ride home on the Green Line at 10 p.m. When he lifted his head, A.J. was standing on first base, and the entire series had changed.

"When you're at the game," he observed, "it's not like TV. You don't immediately know what's going on." He and his son left the stadium holding hands, surrounded by relieved and happy fans who were screaming, singing, chanting, and literally jumping for joy as they headed down the long ramps at The Cell.

Gartland couldn't help noting that his son was experiencing the opposite of what he went through, growing up near Midway Airport. One of nine children, Mark, his brother and his father were White Sox fans. His mother and seven sisters rooted for the Cubs. "As a result," he quipped, "I've always associated the Cubs with femininity."

With all those kids, Gartland's parents didn't have a lot of disposable income. But once a year, they would pack lunches, get on the Archer bus, and head to Comiskey for a White Sox game.

Things have improved a bit, and the upwardly mobile son was able to take his 78-year-old father to the second game of the Boston series, the first post-season game for either of them. Gartland also managed to land two tickets to this Sunday's World Series game, which he'll also be attending with his dad.

As for his team's chances, "I don't want to jinx it, but I'm really confident. After August and September, they're battle-tested. In the post-season, you need pitching and defense, and they have plenty of both. These guys don't know about Chicago baseball history. That's the fans' angst."

He admits he shares some of that angst from years of disappointments. "You keep waiting for 'the Bartman moment.' When it didn't happen, we were overjoyed. It was so cool."

Embracing team history

Frank Lipo's family moved from New York to Deerfield in 1970 when he was five. The rest of the family had just gone through the thrill of the 1969 Miracle Mets, so they weren't about to switch their loyalties to the Cubs. The Sox became the adopted team, and Frank grew up an anomaly in the north suburbs.

"My friends kept asking why I was a Sox fan," Lipo recalls. The executive director of the Historical Society also has a historical perspective on his franchise. He likes the fact that the current team incorporates so many former Sox players?#34;Ozzie Guillen, Joey Cora, Tim Raines, Greg Walker, Harold Baines. "They're embracing team history, which is great."

There's more of a family feel now than in the past, he says. "It's a more lovable team with interesting personalities. You don't have any Albert Belles." He likes the way they've blended pitching, defense, timely hitting, youth and veterans. "And Ozzie's crazy enough to be fun. To see it all come together is amazing. It's great to see a group of players, talented but not superstars, really pull together. And they didn't have to mortgage their future by trading away their minor league system to get a couple of stars like Ken Griffey Jr."

He and his family "went crazy" Sunday night, and he had to resist the urge to go to Midway to meet the team. He's hoping to try his luck getting tickets, but if not, "I'll still be hanging on every pitch. Baseball is great, inning by inning, when it's this exciting.

"I just hope the dream doesn't end too soon."

 

The White Sox are in the World Series and you're looking for the right spot to share your joy and a beer? Here are some ideas:

Avenue Ale House: 825 S. Oak Park Ave., Oak Park. Avenue Ale House has prepared for this occasion by dusting off its 14 television sets, and reminding customers that it has two big screen TVs, one on the roof and one downstairs. They will be offering their usual good service, with half-price appetizers at selected times and domestic beer specials Sunday through Thursdays.

FitzGerald's: 6615 Roosevelt Road, Berwyn. FitzGerald's is going to offer the usual club entertainment, all the games on the TVs in its Sidebar, and something really special: a 16 by 9 foot inflatable screen in the parking lot. Rent-com is providing the screen which will be placed in the parking lot against the mural wall, providing an outdoor beer garden. Food will be served from FitzGerald's Roosevelt Grill, there will be drink specials on Miller beer, and the atmosphere will be family-friendly and free.

Poor Phil's: 139 S. Marion St., Oak Park. On game days, Poor Phil's is going to be offering $1 hot dogs and $2 Miller draft beers. Peanuts and popcorn will, as always, be available to customers, and one of the "craziest" White Sox fans will be bartending. Six regular and two plasma TVs will be tuned to the World Series, and Poor Phil's staff may go the face-painted route to support the Sox.

?#34;Katherine Galo

 

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