Later today, there’s a funeral for a five-decade White Sox fan.
That in itself is not worth a story. There are millions of White Sox fans, after all.
But this White Sox fan is special to me: my mother, Carole.
My mom grew up in north-side Highwood, but I don’t believe my mother every really followed sports until she married my dad, also a Highwood native.
(My dad determined his White Sox fandom at an early age: He liked the little-guy shortstop on the team, Chico Carrasquel, and when the neighborhood toughs hassled him for liking a White Sox player, my dad, as both a contrarian and a budding tough himself, determined the White Sox were for him.)
So my mom followed my dad into fandom, and my early impressions of her as a sports fan did not paint her as very dedicated — beyond a certain manager’s butt, at least:
But while not terribly versed in the nuts and bolts of the game, she took to the tribalism of “her team” and, additionally, her role as an anti-Cubs fan.
(Throughout the 2016 playoffs, I got several emails from my mom; the title of most, with no body copy at all, read simply: “Damn Cubs.”)
My mom had two favorite White Sox possessions, among many. One was my old Comiskey brick, which I gave her because I knew she’d cherish it even more than I did:
The second was the ticket stub from the first game at the “new Comiskey.” I flew up from Texas to see the inaugural game with the rest of the family; terrible game, but great memories. She kept her stub (like the one pictured below), in holder, right next to the brick, on her bookcase:
Both of those items are long gone from my possession — but something she cherished so much more.
When I moved back home after college, my parents now divorced, my mom and I saw quite a few games together, the two of us often joined by my girlfriend/future wife.
It was great fun to be able to combine two of her greatest loves, Elvis and dogs, at the ballpark.
We went to one of the first Elvis Nights at Sox Park, enjoying the skydiving Elvi and then getting some photo ops down on the concourse.
We also enjoyed one of the first Dog Days, back when the event was held, perhaps shortsightedly, in the literal dog days of August. It was a sweltering game, but she delighted in the pregame parade on the field — a parade that included a stop at the White Sox dugout, where her dog, Bianca, got a cup of water from a certain overmuscled Sox slugger:
We spent most of the game recovering out on the concourse and around the rain room mister. As you can see, Bianca had her fill of baseball pretty early on.
One of our White Sox experiences was just the two of us, taking in a game in our customary third-base line seats. While enjoying the game, we had a lot of family issues to take care of as well. I’m guessing in the end, the White Sox resolved the game better (with a win) than we did with the family stuff; baseball is so much less complicated than family.
It was an incident during the game that I’ll remember. It was a sunny, hot, weekend game, and I daresay there was more than the usual amount of skin visible in the stands. There were a few guys in their 20s, guys who’d fit right into the “Barstool Sports” set today, sitting right behind us, and the running commentary about every girl or woman walking back and forth to the concourse was really loud, and cringeworthy. I finally turned to them and tried to get them to pipe down a bit, as there were clearly a lot of younger kids/parents getting increasingly annoyed with the vulgarity.
As I tried reasoning with the gorillas, my mom slipped away. By the time our little conversation had nearly escalated to fists, there came my mom back to the seats, with security in tow. Now, the security folks just wanted to get the guys to simmer down a bit, but they immediately started howling and cussing — guessing they’d been two-fisting it for awhile already — and what started as a gentle reminder turned into ejection from the park.
As they left, still howling, our entire block of 10 rows or so down in 149 erupted in applause for my mom. True to her nature, she just shrugged it off, and might have even felt bad that the guys had been ejected. But several people came up to her later in the game and thanked her for standing up.
One of the real thrills I’ve had as a guy lucky enough to write about this team for 15 years or so, was featuring her (along with a certain future SSS staff writer, see if you can spot him) in a story about the White Sox’s World Series win in the game program the next year:
I’ll miss you, Mom.
Maybe we’ll get another ring, before those Damn Cubs do.