Welcome to the refreshed South Side Sox! To celebrate the new look and feel of our sports communities, we’re sharing stories of how and why we became fans of our favorite teams. If you’d like to share your story, head over to the FanPosts to write your own post. Each FanPost will be entered into a drawing to win a $500 Fanatics gift card [http://blog.sbnation.com/2017/5/24/15685020/why-are-you-a-fan-reader-sweepstakes-announcement-and-official-rules]. We’re collecting all of the stories here [https://www.sbnation.com/why-we-are-fans] and featuring the best ones across our network as well. Come Fan With Us!
Most Chicago White Sox fans I have met learned to love the Pale Hose because of the family. It’s part of their lineage with fandoms beginning with the Go-Go Sox featuring Nellie Fox and Luis Aparicio. Proceeding to The Winning Ugly squad starring Harold Baines and Carlton Fisk, and the dynamic duo of Frank Thomas and Robin Ventura. Cherishing the 2005 World Champions forever still wearing Paul Konerko and Mark Buehrle jerseys at games. I love hearing others talk about their earliest memories of becoming White Sox fans because it comes from a place of happiness.
My fandom stemmed from tragedy, and lucky for me, it’s lead me home.
What is the earliest memory of your life? Do you know how far back you can remember? For me, it was when I was five years old. Our family was living in Champaign, Illinois on Crescent Avenue in a small apartment. I remember my Mother coming to get me out of bed and followed her to my parent's bedroom. She sat me down, and I asked where Daddy was. In amazingly calm tone, my mother told me that Daddy got hurt and he was in the hospital.
Years later, I pieced together what happened that fateful night of June 1st, 1991. My father, Richard Craig, was riding his motorcycle on U.S. 45 a mile and a half north of Tolono, Illinois - just south of Champaign. Drinking that night, he lost control and crashed into a ditch at 7:55 pm. He was taken to Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, and ten days later at 10:45 am, he passed away at the age of 32 due to acute cerebral failure. I was just six years old.
I’m not sure if it was to help me cope with a devastating loss, or help my grandma cope with losing her son, but I would spend the next two summers with my grandparents in Bradenton, Florida just south of St. Petersburg. There I learned how to swim, fall in love with my grandma’s chocolate cake, and learn about the game of baseball.
My dad wasn’t into baseball. He loved fishing. Hell, it’s on his gravestone: Richard B. Craig - Gone Fishin’. I first learned about the game from my grandpa Fearl. He was the jolliest man I have ever met and one of the strongest. Three bouts with cancer and he refused to let it beat him. Often he would take me to breakfast at the local coffee shop where I would get a blueberry donut and a chocolate milk. 26 years later, it’s still my favorite morning meal.
The first time I played catch was with my grandpa if you can call it that. More like a game of fetch as I remember just running after each throw and skipping it back. Gosh, I would get so frustrated not being able to catch the ball. Finally, instead of throwing the ball at me, my grandpa tossed it high in the air, and somehow that ball of twine fell into the mitt. I’ll never forget what he said, "Hey! One day you’ll be a center fielder." Nine years I played organized baseball and each one of those I was in center because of him.
The first encounter I had with the Chicago White Sox was on television. At my aunt Ksue’s house in Champaign, after riding a big wheel up and down the block, I’d sit with my uncle Ron to watch the Sox. I was a rowdy kid, and he didn’t have a lot of patience with me, so he didn’t bother telling me who anyone was on the field. I wouldn’t learn until my mom started dating my now father, Gary. He wasn’t the biggest baseball fan, but he loved collecting cards and autographs. Our first encounters were taking me to the card store to start my collection. I remember my first pack because it contained the holy grail: a Frank Thomas rookie card. We bought a Beckett that day and found that it was the most expensive in the pack, so it had to be good. Little did I know that it would spark a love affair.
In the Summer of 1992, I was with my grandparents again. Learning how to swim every day, eating pounds of chocolate cake, and watching the Sox on WGN. The baseball cards helped to learn who was on the field, but it was shopping experiences with my grandma that amped up my fandom. Just south of Bradenton is Sarasota, and this is when the Sox Spring Training home was at Ed Smith Stadium. During these shopping excursions, I would often get spoiled with new clothes that I had zero interest in except for my Sox shirts. My grandma was always concerned with me wearing black in the hot afternoon’s, but I didn’t care.
One evening my grandpa decided to surprise me. He bought two tickets to see the Sarasota Sox. I don’t remember much from the game just getting a hot dog with mustard only because grandpa refused any consumption of ketchup. Praying for foul balls hit in our direction down the first base line and the mosquitos. My god the mosquitos at Ed Smith Stadium almost ate me alive. Poor grandma thought I had developed chicken pox the next day. I loved it though, and I started having a better sense of the game. My uncle Randy and cousin Brandon afterward would watch Sox games with me explaining what was happening and how the strategy worked. Then Frank Thomas would come up to bat.
Without a doubt, my favorite athlete of all time is The Big Hurt. When you are seven years old just learning the game and watching a man his size destroy baseball’s it’s easy to understand why I was such an admirer of his. My family had moved to Wisconsin and the opportunity to watch Thomas was minimal. If I were lucky, maybe once a week I’d get a chance to watch on WGN, and if it was on, I stopped whatever I was doing to hunker down in front of that TV. I also tried to stay in tune watching SportsCenter every morning before school.
The 1993 White Sox are still one of my favorite team’s because I was starting to get it. That roster was so talented: Ventura, Cora, Guillen, One Dog, Raines, Black Jack, Alex Fernandez, Wilson Alvarez, and Jason Bere. It would give me a boost at school if Thomas hit a home run the previous day.
My first heartbreak was the ‘93 American League Championship Series. I remember watching the games on CBS and thought they had a chance after winning Games 3 and 4. My mom woke me up in the middle of the night to tell me they lost Game 6. I was devastated, but from that moment forward I was hooked for life.
In a strange way, my love for the White Sox helped me cope with the loss of my father. Taking my mind off his absence and learning something new pushed me to move forward. I had excellent guidance all my life to remind me to try to be the best I could be to make him proud.
Being a White Sox fan has helped me through some of my other tough times. I struggled in College to make friends and be social until 2005. A quick way to make friends is finding some Brewers fans who liked Scott Podsednik and invite them to watch the World Series. I’ll never forget the night of Game 2.
In 2008 during my communication classes at college, I would hear my professors talk about the new wave of media: Blogging. They encouraged to find blogs that were interesting to us and learn how they function. I came across some site called South Side Sox.
When my life became unravel in Wisconsin, this community was here to give me advice on adapting to life moving to Chicago. This community has taught me more about the game of baseball and what it means to be a White Sox fan. Amazingly, it’s also given me an opportunity to chase a childhood dream that I thought I had lost a long time ago. This community's support for the podcast gets me out of bed each day looking forward to making a show you can enjoy.
And on some random night at a bar, me wearing a White Sox hat struck up a conversation with the love of my life. Who miraculously likes to watch games snuggled up on the couch while sharing her thoughts on how Omar Narvaez can improve his pitch framing.
The circumstances on how my fandom began are terrible, but I’m grateful for the happy memories I have watching this team from the South Side. Especially with people like you who come to South Side Sox every day. Thanks for being a crazy White Sox fan like me.
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