Welcome to Alphabe-Thursday sponsored by Ms. Jenny over at Jenny Matlock..."off on my tangent." For a list of this week's participants and information on how you can join in on the fun head over to Ms. Jenny's blog.
This week we are studying the letter "F" as in FAN. To be more specific, I'm talking about one of the most loyal and dedicated Chicago White Sox FANS that ever lived...my Dad.
When Dad was around 14 years old his Boy Scout Troop in Westwood, NJ decided that they'd each pick a baseball team to root for and support. He told me that most of the teams were taken by the time they got to him, so he chose the Chicago White Sox almost by default. His relationship with the White Sox spanned many decades and lasted the rest of his life. No one can ever say Dad wasn't loyal.
That's Dad making the tag in this picture. His brother is the umpire and his friend Clarence is out at the plate.
Of course, growing up and living in a suburb of New York City until his late 80's, he was surrounded by mostly New York Yankee fans, but Dad didn't care. It would have been easy to root for the Yankees especially during all their winning seasons, but Dad was a White Sox FAN and that was all there was to it. He made a commitment at 14 years old and he wasn't going to renege.
Initially, the only way to follow his team was in the newspaper or on the radio. He'd listen to games when they played the Yankees and when TV came into being he was sometimes able to watch them when a Yankee-White Sox game was televised. These were the days before satellite and cable TV and coverage was limited. However, sometime during the 1950's he discovered that his car radio could pick up a Baltimore radio station, so when the White Sox played in Baltimore he'd sit in the hot garage and listen to the games on the car radio.
As I recall, most games (if not all) were played during the day. My mother would listen for the scores and warn us if the White Sox lost. She'd say, "Don't bother your father when he gets home because the White Sox lost and he won't be in a good mood." So, we'd keep our distance and give him a while to get over the disappointment. However, if they won I knew he'd be in a great mood and that's when I'd hit him up for a dollar or a trip to Woolworth's or the doll store to look for something new.
People would often ask if Dad grew up on the south side of Chicago. No, he was born in Jersey City, NJ and only went to Chicago a couple of times in his life and never during baseball season. One time we drove to Chicago to catch a train to California for a convention and another time we went to visit some friends that had moved to one of the Chicago suburbs.
Dad did get to go to some games at Yankee Stadium when the White Sox were in town. We had a neighbor that had season tickets and the box was right at the first base line. He would sometimes give Dad tickets and we'd all go to Yankee Stadium. It was always a thrill for Dad to see his team up close and personal.
Everyone knew that Dad was a Chicago White Sox FAN, and he sure knew his team. He could tell you the latest score, batting averages, etc., at the drop of a hat. What always amazed me was that he mostly followed his team by reading the sports section of the newspaper, The Sporting News, or catching the latest score on the radio or television sports report.
Over the years we never had trouble figuring out what to get him for Christmas, birthdays, Father's Day, etc. We'd just buy him something with the Chicago White Sox logo. Back in 1993 my mother convinced him to dress in some of his latest White Sox garments and pose for a picture. She wrote on the back, "All dressed up and no place to go. Is this a White Sox FAN - or is this a White Sox FAN??" (I think the picture was taken under duress...he doesn't look very happy to me.)
In 2005 the Chicago White Sox played the Houston Astros in the World Series. Mom had died in 2001 and Dad was living by himself in New Jersey. I'd watch the game from Texas and he'd watch from New Jersey and then he'd call me afterwards. He was so excited! The White Sox were doing well, but there was one game when Dad didn't call. I became concerned and called him to make sure he was OK. He explained, "Honey, your team is losing and I don't want to rub it in." I laughed and said, "Dad, I know you've waited all these years for the White Sox to win the World Series. You earned it, and you wouldn't be rubbing it in."
In 2006 Dad moved to Texas and Assisted Living near me. The following baseball season I discovered that I could sign up for White Sox TV online and Dad would be able to watch the games. For the first time in his life he was able to see just about all their games that season. He'd sit in front of the computer screen and this almost 89 year old man was suddenly that excited 14 year old boy again.
They had a 4th of July party at Assisted Living one year and face painting was part of the festivities. Look what he had painted on his face!
Sadly, Alzheimer's took it's toll on Dad and for the last year or so of his life he didn't even ask about the White Sox anymore. He died last September at almost 92, but up until the day he died he still wore his White Sox cap just about every day.
For Christmas 2007 we gave him a White Sox Legacy Brick enscribed "Bill Durgin of NJ - Loyal Fan Since 1932." The Legacy Brick program gave FANS a chance to have their names immortalized at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago and seemed an appropriate gift for the White Sox's most loyal FAN outside the state of Illinois. The original bricks were arranged in a diamond shaped plaza outside Gate 4 and Dad's brick is located somewhere near first base on this plaza. Each of the FANS received a duplicate brick for themselves. I now have Dad's brick sitting on my fireplace in the den.
I still receive the White Sox scores by E-mail. I've been getting them sent for years so I could keep Dad informed when he missed a game. Now I just like receiving the scores because it makes me feel like a part of my Dad is still with me.
Old White Sox FANS never die...they just slowly fade away.
Now head over to Ms. Jenny's blog and visit some more Alphabe-Thursday "F" posts.
P.S. If anyone lives in Chicago and goes to White Sox games at U.S. Cellular Field could you please send me a picture of my Dad's Legacy Brick? I'd love to see it! Thanks.