You've often heard (read) me refer to my "daughters", especially when telling my favorite story about them at a Sox game when they were young (9 and 10?):
Sox had a runner on 1st, one out, and the runner stole second safely. The crowd is cheering, stolen base or Frank coming up I'm not sure. They had a quick chat but did not join the applause. I asked them why, and they replied "with first base open Frank will never see a strike". My proudest moment as a baseball father (to that point).
Anyway, HSA isn't the only cute, smart, and funny one as you'll soon see. Her sister is also capable of some wordiness!!!
More after the jump:
Standing on LaSalle in 2005, celebrating my team's World Series victory as they rode on double-decker buses through the city, I didn't think anything could be as memorable or amazing. I was wrong.
My friend, Joe, has season tickets in the Scout Seats section - first row behind the plate. If you ever watch a home night game on tv, you will see Joe sitting next to Maurice, the security guy behind the plate. Joe pulled a lot of strings and got us the tickets to Frank Thomas Day when he realized what a big Big Hurt fan I am.
We arrived early so we could enjoy some food and beverages in the Scout Seat Lounge before the game. We went out so I could see the view from the seats before I was supposed to go up to my seats in Section 346. When Maurice saw us, he said, "Go ahead, girl. Go on out on the field. I'll take your picture." So, Joe and I went out on the field behind home plate and got a couple pictures taken. Maurice told us the ceremony was going to start in 20 minutes so we should go cool off in the lounge and come back out then. We followed his advice and headed back in towards the lounge.
We went into the tunnel that leads to the hallway which leads to the lounge and right in front of me was Ron Kittle. I shook his hand and got a picture with him. While we were talking, I mentioned that I had a baseball card that I would like for him to sign but it was in the lounge. He promised that he would come to the lounge and find me to sign the card.
I was finishing up my chat with Ron Kittle when the one and only, Minnie Minoso, was walking past me! I said a quick hello and continued on my way back to the lounge.
On our way, a few people were standing behind the ropes watching a a group of three guys talking by the Visitor's Clubhouse. One of the men was wearing baseball pants and a Yankees shirt. Joe looked at the people behind the ropes and asked if that was, in fact, Mariano Rivera. They confirmed it was him and we went up to him and asked if we could get a picture! He was very friendly, although he spoke very little. We went under the ropes and headed over to Rivera. Joe went to one side, I went to the other and put my arm around Rivera. We took the picture and asked him to sign our tickets. He obliged us with his autograph. We shook his hand and he went on with his business and we went on towards the lounge.
By the time we got back, I had 10 minutes before the ceremony was to start. I grabbed a quick gourmet omelet, ate it and headed back to the Scout Seats.
I got out there just in time for them to announce Hawk Harrelson as the emcee for the ceremony. They showed a montage video of Frank's career - highlights, interviews, records.
As I watched the montage, I was practically transported back to my childhood when I came to watch The Big Hurt play. I thought about sitting behind the on-deck circle to watch Frank and Ozzie playing. I thought about when we couldn't afford tickets to the game and went to the park a couple blocks from Comiskey to listen to the game on the radio and watch the fireworks afterwards. I thought about my dad and sister and how the White Sox have always and will always bond us, even when things got tough. Frank represents my youth. He represents what I love about the game of baseball because he, in part, showed me what the game of baseball is all about. He represents the early days of our White Sox fandom. He is one of my idols. All of these thoughts overwhelmed me and I cried tears of joy watching the montage. Big Frank deserved every second of that ceremony and every tear that was shed at US Cellular and all over Chicagoland as people he touched throughout his 15 years as a Hometown Hero reminisced.
After the ceremony, Frank and his family stood right in front of me for the National Anthem. Frank was literally within arm's reach. Then the gates opened and he and his family walked right past me. Being unaware of etiquette in the presence of such greatness, I followed them into the tunnel. I walked behind them, listening to them talk to people along the way. I had Frank's college baseball card from the year he was drafted by the Sox ready to be signed but didn't want to interrupt his family talk or while he was holding his baby. We got to the end of the tunnel and he turned the other way to take a picture with the security guard. I had to continue on my way towards the lounge.
When I returned, I sat down and tried to compose myself. I was still overcome with emotion of the entire ceremony and the fact that I was there - within feet of one of my heroes. Shortly after I stopped crying, I noticed Minnie Minoso sitting at the end of the bar having some lunch. I went over to him and asked if he would mind signing my game ticket. He said it would be no problem and took out his Sharpie - because my pen wasn't good enough. I said, "I cannot believe I'm standing next to you right now." And he said to me, "It's really me, Darlin'." I replied, "I know it's really you... But... Growing up, you never think you'll have the opportunity to stand next to one of your idols." He looked me in the eye and said, "Thank you for the compliment, Young Lady." I asked if I could get a picture with him and he said, "Of course! And this don't mean we engaged or anything but, give me your finger." I held out my hand and he took his World Series ring off his hand and put it on mine for our picture. I nearly cried again. I thanked him for his time and let him finish his meal.
Later in the game, Ron Kittle walked into the lounge looking for me. He found me and asked if I had that card for him to sign. I pulled out his rookie card and he signed it. I also had him sign the card of him from when he was on the Yankees. Under his signature on the rookie card, he wrote, "83ALROY." He said, "Wow. 1983." I said, "Yep, that was the year I was born." He looked at me and said, "Ok... Now you're just making me feel old." We talked for a couple minutes and then he continued on his way.
My friend, Jayme, and I went out to the scout seats to watch the last couple of innings. Unfortunately, we were out there to watch Mariano Rivera come to the mound to finish the game for the Yankees resulting in a 2-1 victory for the Yankees.
In the scheme of the season, the loss has importance. It will help to influence first place in the AL Central. But... In the scheme of a Sox fan's life, the loss means nothing on August 29, 2010 because not even that could dampen the spirit of Frank Thomas Day 2010. Being present as one of my heroes was recognized for his contributions to the White Sox organization and the sport of baseball, watching as his number was retired and his image was unveiled on the left field wall, will far surpass a World Series parade in my memory.
Mark my words: I will be in Cooperstown in 2014 when Frank Thomas is inducted into the Hall of Fame.