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WSI News - Sox Interviews

Flashing Back...

...with Nancy Faust.

another EXCLUSIVE from White Sox Interactive!   

 

          There has been one constant at both Comiskey Parks during the past 32 seasons.  (Other than the Sox not appearing in a World Series.)  With the exception of five home games during those three plus decades, organist Nancy Faust has been entertaining fans before and after games and in between innings.  A fan favorite, Faust has been part of Sox history during the leaderships of John Allyn, Bill Veeck and Jerry Reinsdorf.  

Nancy's own baseball card from 1987 at Old Comiskey Park!

          Faust was one of the first female organists to perform at a major league ballpark.  Faust believes that Jane Jarvis, who played at Yankee Stadium and was actually working for the Milwaukee Brewers when the Sox hired her, was the first woman major league baseball organist.  Though Faust was breaking a little ground, at first, her welcome to Comiskey Park was not totally a warm one.

          "There was a petition started by some fans who didn't think a ballpark was a place for a woman," Faust recalled during a recent interview.  "That has been the only negative thing about my job."

          Faust began playing when she was four.  Her mother was also musician and Faust is actually her mother's maiden name.  Nancy substituted for Mom at an old timers baseball banquet held in Chicago in 1969.  Sox front office man Stu Holcomb had attended the banquet, and Faust, though not a sports fan, wrote him about the Sox job.  She said he "filed the letter" before contacting her the next year.

          1970 was an awful year for the 106-game losing Sox.  The Sox drew more flies than fans as total attendance couldn't break the 500,000 mark.  Faust remembered Holcomb's frustration about losing a game in which the Sox drew 10,000.  Holcomb was pleased with the paltry number and told Faust, "We had a good crowd and we had to blow it."

          One would think that performing in front a near deserted ball club would be downer for a musician.  But Faust feels that was a good year for her to get her feet wet.  

Summer of 1977:  Nancy becomes a Comiskey Park icon to Sox Fans!

        "I wasn't really a baseball fan, and it was the best kind of year to break in" she said, referring to her first attempts to entertain baseball fans, and thus there were not many fans to disapprove of any of her performances.

          Holcomb didn't ask too much of Faust.  He gave the team roster with the birthplace of each player.  He suggested that she play the state song in which the player was from.

          In the beginning, Faust was stationed in the old center field bleachers, over 470 feet away from home plate.  She described herself as being "very accessible" to the fans.  Many fans gave her suggestions on playing songs that played off players' names.  An example of this  was when she played the Carpenters hit "Rainy Days and Mondays" when Oakland A's and future Cub outfielder Rick Monday strolled to the plate during a 1971 night game.  She said she eventually "got little crazier with the name associations."

          But the association that Faust is mostly known for is a tradition that began in 1977 that still goes on today.

          1977 was the year of the South Side Hit Men, and Comiskey Park rocked as the Sox knocked the ball all over the park.  During a game against the contending and eventual division winning Kansas City Royals, Faust played the "Good Bye” song when a shell-shocked Royal pitcher was taken out after yet another South Side pounding.

          "It wasn't the first time I had played it," Faust remembered.  "Everybody was having a good time and they began singing.  It was completely unplanned and that was the beauty of it."

          The Royals didn't appreciate the serenade and hated the short-lived practice of Sox players coming out of the dugout to acknowledge fans.  But now the song has become a symbol of Sox fans responding to good fortune or a White Sox victory.

          Faust also has fond memories of Harry Caray.  Eventually she was moved from center field to the upper deck over the third baseline.  She took an accordion and accompanied Caray back to center field during some of his bleacher broadcasts. 

          “He (Caray) promoted every side of the game,” Faust said, “and that included me.   When he sang during the seventh inning stretch, he always said, ‘let me hear you, Nancy.’”

          Faust, who has missed five Sox home games in 32 years only due to the birth of her son, sees that a lot of has changed in the way of ballpark entertainment.  When she began it was “only me and the PA system.”  Now with new technology the scoreboard can do many things to entertain.  She also believes the organ has fallen out of favor with up and coming musicians, thus making it difficult to find accomplished organ players.  Yet, she also believes the organ will have a strong association with baseball.

“The organist sets the mood and the ambiance and will always be synonymous with the park.”   

Listen to Nancy Faust play "Na Na Na Hey Hey Good-bye!"
Click Here to Listen!

(Requires the Free RealAudio player.  Get one here.)

Even more Sox audio clips featuring Nancy Faust available here!

 


Editor's Note:  Dan Helpingstine is a free lance writer living in Highland, Indiana.  In the early 80's, he worked as a stringer for The Times, then based in Hammond, Indiana, covering business-labor news.  For six years, he worked as a part-time sportswriter for the Merrillville Herald, a weekly that was a part of a chain of weeklies in Lake and Porter Counties.  He covered high school football and basketball.  In 1995, Helpingstine had a short story published in a murder mystery anthology entitled Murder Is My Business.  He also has had articles on the JFK murder published in the Post-Tribune of Gary.  His new book is titled "Through Hope and Despair."  It is the story of one fan's roller coaster ride with the luckless White Sox.

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