Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Sweet Home Chicago


This is how I feel this morning as I sit at O'Hare Airport heading to the east coast. I have just finished two of the most memorable days in my baseball obsessed life. Here are a few of the highlights:

I left very early in the morning to get to Chicago in plenty of time to get to the park. I love the sounds of an empty stadium before they open the gates for the fans. That is when I snapped the wallpaper image I posted yesterday.

Overcoming my typical anxiety about interrupting a busy person, I was able to catch Dick Allen immediately after he finished this interview. I introduced myself and got to shake the hand of my baseball hero. He was gracious, engaging, interested and funny... all in about 2 minutes. It was a moment I will never forget.

Hall of Famer Rich Gossage was proudly parading around in a Dick Allen #15 jersey before the Sox made him change into his more traditional #54. Here is the Goose chatting with Nancy Faust. Nancy played to organ for 40 years in both old and new Comiskey Park. She was so happy to be included in this celebration. To me, Nancy Faust represents the White Sox as much or more than any single player to wear a uniform.

I also got to meet former Sox GM Roland Hemond. Roland is the architect of the memorable 1972, 1977, and 1983 White Sox. Roland is an incredible baseball man. Here he is posing with Gossage and his wife.

Dick Allen and Bill Melton spend a long time talking, laughing and hugging. It was great to see these former teammates enjoy each others company so deeply.

Dick Allen, Bill Melton, and Goose Gossage also posed by their White Sox race characters. Melton complained to anyone that would listen that is character has never won a race.

The Allen family tree was well represented. Including Dick's wife, his brothers Hank & Ron, his son Richard and grandson Richard III.

Dick did not short hop the first pitch, not bad for a 70 year old man.

I got this great picture of Dick holding the 1972 MVP plaque while laughing with his brother Ron. Hank is to his right wearing his #42 Sox jersey.

Sporting their Sunday Reds, the White Sox won in walk off fashion in 10 innings.

The weather in Chicago was simply perfect. Having lived in Texas for 15 years, I forgot how amazing a 70 degree day with the natural air conditioning of Lake Michigan could be. I also rediscovered WLS, the old AM radio station of my youth has been reincarnated on the FM dial. The best part is, they still play the music I love to hear and know all the words to the songs.

I also broke down bought an official 1972 White Sox hat to add to my collection. Sadly I couldn't find a matching Sox helmet. The search continues.

On Monday night I decided to attend the special dinner at the Stadium Club where I got to meet many Sox fans. It was nice to see there are actually people out there with at least as much adoration for Dick Allen as I have. At the dinner event I also got to rub elbows with a couple of former Sox batboys, the great Billy Pierce and Jack Brickhouse's wife (Pat).

There was a cool silent auction. I was surprised (and pleased) to discover the artwork used to promote this event was based on a painting of Dick Allen. This painting (which sold at over $500 at the auction) was based on the original slide (which I own) and put on this site.

Sitting with Dick and his family was former Sox slugger Carlos May. I reached out to shake his hand and say "Semper Fi" to my former Marine Corps brother. As I was doing that, another guy was telling Dick how nice it would be to have a statue of him inside the Sox ballpark. Dick scoffed at the idea and then quipped "I don't want to be out there if I don't have my man Carlos May out there to protect me..."

I also got to meet the incomparable Mark Liptak from White Sox Interactive. He originally alerted me (and invited me) to this event months ago. At the speaking portion of the night, Mark gave an unbelievable verbal account of the 1972 White Sox season that lasted for at least 30 minutes, with no notes. Very impressive.

They showed a cool video created for the Chicago Baseball Museum, with actual footage of Dick's two inside the park home runs against the Twins in 1972. Goose Gossage praised Dick Allen as "the best teammate and player he had ever seen". Goose shared in no uncertain terms how much he loves the man. He also told the crowd that "Reggie Jackson is full of shit"... which got a huge laugh.

Just like she did when he walked up to the plate at Comiskey Park, Nancy Faust played the theme from "Jesus Christ, Superstar" as Dick Allen prepared to speak. While not the most polished public speaker, the man was visibly moved by all the attention and adulation he was receiving. In true DA fashion, he deflected it back to his teammates and expressed his humility.

After the program ended, I worked up the courage to ask both Rich Gossage and Nancy Faust for their autographs. Both happily signed, sending me on my way like a 10 year old kid.

Finally, I also was very pleased to meet the one and only Leo Bauby. Leo is the one guy that I know in the world that has more Dick Allen images than I do. We chatted for some time and I plan on following up on his offer to meet and look at his collection.

I am not sure I can ever top this experience. I am really really blessed.


MilwaukeeMauler said...

DAHoF, what an incredible time you must have had. What a terrific recap of your day. Thank you for sharing it and the great photos. I never saw Dick play but his status here in Lawrence County is legendary in my book. My dad was no baseball man but he 1st told me about him. My co workers who grew up in his Wampum era of basketball talk of Dick and his brothers as one of the greatest teams in history. It's like the movie "Hoosiers" could have been about their team. Thanks for this great moment you shared. I too hope to have a moment like that with Vida Blue iin Oakland someday.

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