Give the woman a statue.
Nancy Faust is getting inducted into something called the Shrine of the Eternals at the Baseball Reliquary. Let’s break down this for a moment. “Shrine of Eternals” is pretty self-explanatory. I had to look up reliquary, though; it means “a container for holy relics.” So, basically, this honor recognizes the most awesome of all awesome baseball things. Officially, it’s a hall of fame for off-field contributions to baseball. (Tommy John, or maybe just his elbow, is getting inducted, too.)
The Reliquary folks call Nancy Faust, who retired as the White Sox organist in 2010 after 40 years, “without question, the most famous ballpark organist of the past half-century.” I’m certainly not going to argue with them. This article does a beautiful job of outlining Nancy’s specific talents: her ability to play anything after hearing it once, and her incorporation of musical puns as players walked to the plate (drop your favorites in the comments).
For fans of a certain age, Nancy Faust at a Sox game was as sacrosanct as hot dogs. Players and managers and uniform styles came and went, but Nancy was always there. My most vivid memories in my early years as a Sox fan involve three things:
- Begging my father to take me to the center field shower on blistering hot days.
- Screaming “root, root, root for the WHITE SOX!!” during the seventh inning stretch.
- Singing, “Na na na, hey hey hey, good-bye” with glee as an opposing picture left the mound.
In short, Nancy Faust was a big part of my baseball life, and I wasn’t the only one. As a fan, you felt like you knew Nancy. “Oh, good old classic Nancy,” you’d nod as she played “Walk the Line” after Frank Thomas drew a base on balls. She welcomed fans coming to her booth and saying hello, and many of us did.
For all of her musical cleverness, though, Nancy’s crowning achievement was her rendition of Take Me Out to the Ballgame. In her hands, it was an uptempo, joyful ode to a joyful game. I swear, at every other baseball stadium I’ve been to, I get all JK Simmons in Whiplash. It’s not a funeral dirge, people! Pick up the tempo!! (Current White Sox organist Lori Moreland also does a top-notch job, props to her.)
The folks at The Baseball Reliquary are getting it right. And I hereby propose that to mark this truly deserved honor, the next statue on the White Sox concourse be of Nancy Faust, at her organ.
Sure, sure, I hear you, “But, Lurker Laura,” you say, “There’s already a plaque in her honor. Isn’t that enough recognition?” To that, I say, raise your hand if you ever get your picture taken next to that plaque. Tell me that you point it out to friends or family who are attending a Sox game for the first time and then proceed to annoy them with stories of your favorite Nancy Faust song cue. You can’t, because you don’t do either of those things. But I bet your softball-style-1980s-replica-jersey you’d do both if there was a statue.
White Sox fans love our “people” as much as our players. Is there another groundskeeper in all of MLB with a nickname? Would Sox fans have rioted if Bill Veeck’s beloved pinwheeled, exploding scoreboard hadn’t been replicated in the New Comiskey? Are we more than slightly peeved that Harry Caray was a true, genius broadcaster with the Sox before he got drunk and rambling and somehow more famous elsewhere? No, yes, and duh, of course.
Perhaps we feel this ferocity towards the people who made Sox Park a special place to be because there’s something in the Sox fan DNA to be proud of contrariness, quirks, outside the mainstream. I see your 27 World Series championships over there, but we have an organist! Comiskey Park was a magical place for me in the late 70s and early 80s. A couple of great, fun, heartbreaking teams, more than a few lousy teams. But I never had a bad time at the park as long as the shower was running cold, and Nancy was there to play Take Me Out to the Ballgame.
So get this done, Sox Powers That Be. We’ll talk about Roger Bossard next.