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WSI News - Sox Interviews

Flashing Back...

...with Ed Sherman.

another EXCLUSIVE from White Sox Interactive!   

By Mark Liptak 

Sometimes when you actually get a chance to talk to a person they are exactly like you expected them to be.

Take Chicago Tribune columnist Ed Sherman for example. You see him on Chicago Tribune Live! and you think, ‘this is the type of person I wouldn’t mind seeing a game with, or having a libation or two with.’ 

After you get the chance to spend some time on the phone with him, those assertions prove to be correct. Sherman was honest, funny, opinionated... when we spoke in early August. 


Ed Sherman of the Chicago Tribune!

He had just returned from covering the British Open and was in Sarasota, Florida at his parents house for a few days before heading to cover the PGA Tournament. 

Sherman, a Sox fan since birth, talked about his recollections of the team, the magical 2005 season, about having two sons, one of whom has gone over to the ‘dark side,’ and about the Sox broadcasting situation (he covers golf half the season and the media the other half, switching duties with Teddy Greenstein). He also talked about what went wrong in 2007 and how badly it will hurt the Sox in the long run and why. Overall some good insights from a person who has been around the club for a number of years, including as a beat writer. 

ML: Ed thanks for the time, how about a little background, you’re a Chicago guy right? 

ES: “Yes. I was born and raised in Wilmette and went to school at New Trier West high school. I know the first thing you’re going to ask is how does a kid growing up in Wilmette become a Sox fan?’ Well my dad was a Sox fan and actually there are a lot of Sox fans on the North Side, even more since the Sox won the championship.” 

ML: Do you have any early memories of the Sox? 

ES: “I remember I went to my first game in 1967, I was seven or eight years old. I remember watching on TV Joe Horlen’s no-hitter and thinking that this was really cool. (Author’s Note: Horlen threw his gem in the first game of a double header at Comiskey Park against the Tigers on September 10, 1967. He won 6-0.)” 

“I was the type of fan who’d sneak a radio into school to listen to the first exhibition game of the year from spring training, I mean it wasn’t even opening day yet! And sure we had Cub fans in school, along with a lot of Sox fans, and I was always part of the arguments.” 

ML: Didn’t you work as a vendor at Comiskey Park? 

ES: “I did. I worked at both parks from 1977 to 1980. From my senior year in high school on. It was a great job. You’d be working but whenever you heard the crowd roar you’d turn around to see what was going on. 1977 was such a great season.”    

ML: It’s rare when someone right out of school gets a shot to work at a major newspaper in a major city. How did that happen for you? 

ES: “I went to the University of Illinois where I did a lot of work for the school paper and such and applied to the Tribune when I got out. I actually was hired for the suburban Tribune and then when that ended went downtown. I was hired in 1981 and this is the only job I’ve ever had. I was the Sox beat writer from 1986 through 1989 and luck had a lot to do with that. They were looking for a young guy to do that job and I was there at the time.” 

ML: A lot of folks would say covering the Sox or the Bears or whomever is a ‘dream job.’ What’s it like being a beat writer? 

ES: “For me it certainly wasn’t a dream job. It was the hardest job that I’ve ever had anywhere. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful I got the chance and am glad I did it, but it’s very, very hard.” 

“The travel is never ending, you get home, get a chance to unpack, wash your clothes and it seems like you’re back on the road again. I’m not afraid to fly but I’m not the best guy when it comes to traveling. Paul Sullivan loves it, loves going to different cities and things. And the games are never ending...you can’t believe how many games that is to cover, including spring training. I’d be in Sarasota but I’d be out at Payne Park. Being a beat writer means you just can’t have a regular life.” 

ML: Correct me here but this was during the time when beat writers weren’t getting the weekend off when the club is at home right? Or getting some vacation time during the season. 

ES: “I never got any vacation time and rarely I’d get a day or two off on a weekend. Even that was hard because you’d never know you were going to be off until Thursday so it was impossible to make a lot of plans. I’d be off maybe Friday and Saturday but Sunday I’ve got to travel if the Sox had a Monday game.” 

“The thing is that even though the Sox were bad in those years they always seemed to have a lot of compelling stories. I enjoyed covering them. Think about it. In 1986 you had “Hawk” Harrelson as G.M., you had Carlton Fisk being moved to left field, the Sox were courting Billy Martin, then they fired Tony LaRussa then “Hawk” resigned at the end of the season. In 1987 you had Larry Himes who rubbed a lot of people the wrong way with his personality, then in 1988 you had the threat to move the team to St. Petersburg. It was one story after another.” 

ML: How difficult was it for you to distance yourself from the team? I mean these were the White Sox, you grew up a fan of the White Sox. 

ES: “It really wasn’t that hard. I covered the Sox with guys like Joe Goddard and Dave Van Dyke and they told me early on ‘you root for a fast game.’ The only time that I found myself rooting for them to win is if they were on a losing streak. You lose nine in a row, especially if they are close games, it’s tough trying to go into that clubhouse.” 

ML: In 2005 when the Sox finally got to the World Series did you ever say to yourself, this isn’t happening? 

ES: “All the time. I had to pinch myself a lot to be sure of it! (laughing.) For the first two games I had bought three seats, my dad who was ailing, came up from Florida. It was hard for him but he wasn’t going to miss this chance. My brother had another seat and I’d rotate my two sons for each game. I was covering the media angle of the World Series so I spent a lot of time in the Fox complex. One of the broadcast directors for Fox is a huge White Sox fan, he’s a former Sox bat boy. I e-mail him a lot with Sox news. I’d be monitoring their broadcast to comment afterwards on the job that they did.” 

“For game #2 I had already written a column that was probably going to stand up unless something dramatic happened like the cameras going out, so about the second inning, I went to my seat. My son was on my lap and I just got into the game. I wasn’t going to leave this for anything. We were about even with the Sox on deck circle about 30 rows up so the seats were good ones.” 

“When Paul Konerko came up with the bases loaded it was the most thrilling moment I’ve ever seen in any sport that I’ve ever covered. I mean one moment you’re sitting there saying ‘come on Paulie, just one time...’ and then he hits the very first pitch. I mean from where I was sitting there was no doubt it was going out. The place exploded, I’ve never myself been that excited for anything in sports, ever! I didn’t actually get a great look at Scott Podsednik’s game winner because my son was on my lap, I actually thought it had hit the wall.” 

“I’m a typical Sox fan...even when they led the series three games to none, I found myself thinking, ‘OK we’re going to be back here for game seven, they’re going to blow the next three games.’ I was in such a state I was begging for the series to end. It was that hard emotionally for me. Having my dad there to see this with me was just special. At least one time we were able to see the Sox go all the way and win it.” 

ML: I’ve got to bring up something that you told me during the stretch run in 2005, you said you were hearing the ‘Let’s Go-Go White Sox’ song in your sleep because your son downloaded it from White Sox Interactive! 

ES: “It was on our desktop...he was playing it all the time! It was a great time. I have two sons. One is now ten and he’s a Sox fan, my other son is twelve and he’s a Cub fan. I think he did it to be different from his brother. It’s just so foreign to me to have Cub stuff in the house! I like the Bears and the Bulls but the only team I care enough about to get pissed off over are the Sox.”  

“That’s one of the things that I’m happy for, if the Cubs do someday win a World Series, Sox fans can say, ‘we did it first.”   

ML: What about the Chicago Tribune and the Cubs being owned by the same company...if nothing else it puts you guys in a difficult situation doesn’t it? 

ES: “You know there are more Sox fans at the Tribune then Cubs fans. It just really bothers me that people think we’re being told that we have to write something positive about the Cubs or that we have to write something a certain way. I have never had a hint from anyone, anytime that I had to do something a certain way. To think that someone like Rick Morrissey is being told what to write is ridiculous. Any reporter would resign first.” 

“Is it a conflict of interest?, sure it is... and that’s why I’m glad this will be over in a couple of months. Perception does become reality.” 

ML: But you have to admit it does look funny to the average person when it comes out that editor Dan McGrath and reporter Paul Sullivan are ‘asked’ to come before Andy MacPhail (Author’s Note: Then Cubs team president) doesn’t it? And then apparently that MacPhail was upset at the things being written about the team. 

ES: “Mark that happens all the time in this business. It’s an intimidation technique and if anything this shows that we aren’t being told what to write or to only write good things about the Cubs. If that was the case, why would MacPhail be upset?” 

“That happened to me one time as well. I was in charge of the college football coverage and both myself and my editor was asked to meet with the athletic director of Northwestern. He was upset at the way he thought we were covering the school. It’s just a way for parties to clear the air on things.” 

“When I covered the Sox they were always very fair to me. I got along great with Jim Fregosi. One time I was part of the Sox Winter Caravan, we were in Peoria. It was myself, Jim and Danny Pasqua. We had like a ‘town hall’ meeting at the Elk’s Club or someplace and a fan stood up and asked why the Tribune roots for the Cubs. Fregosi smiled and looked over at me and said, ‘what about that, why do you guys root for the Cubs?’ I said, ‘well I don’t see the Sun-Times here, yet we are, what does that say?” 

ML: Some Sox fans point out that while the Tribune may not be telling reporters and columnists what to right, subtle things take place that paint the South Side / White Sox / Organization in a bad light or attempt to minimize achievements. For example they point out that a few weeks ago Mark Buehrle pitched a fine game in getting a win. The AP internet headline of the game said, "Buehrle Pitches A Gem." The headline at ChicagoSports.com said, "Buehrle Gets By." Then they'll talk about the front page story in the Tribune the day the 2005 playoffs opened that talked about the Bridgeport neighborhood. Among the story were comments that the Sox haven't really helped the neighborhood and talked about the drug use and unemployment in the area. That certainly sounds like a legitimate story but they ask why did it 'happen' to run on the day the Sox opened up the post season? The neighborhood issues were there in April and July and September. They ask about the timing of that story on the day the Sox were the biggest entity making news. 

ES: “Forget about the headline part of the question. I don't write them.”  

“As for the Bridgeport story, again, that had nothing to do with an anti-Sox bias. It had more to do with doing a good story. That's how the metro section works. Also, understand when the Sox, or any team, reaches the spotlight, more sections in the paper get involved in the coverage. Thus, you get a story about Bridgeport that probably won't be written in April or May when their writers are working on other things.”

“Yet having said that, I thought the timing was terrible. Again, it comes down to perception. Yet another reason why we should get rid of the Cubs.” 

ML: Technology has changed the way sports is covered so dramatically the past twenty years, from satellites and ‘superstitions,’ to satellite radio, to the internet and web sites like White Sox Interactive, how has that changed the way you cover an event? 

ES: “I think because of technology fans don’t just want to know what happened on the 18th green or in the 7th inning, they can find that out themselves... they want more analytical reporting. They want to know what was going on in the player’s mind when something happened. They want the perspective that goes with an event. To do that you’ve got to develop relationships with the players so they feel comfortable talking with you. The other thing is that technology means almost instant stories. When I was covering the World Series games I’d get home and my stories were already up on our website. People forget the Tribune is also a web site, not just a newspaper.  

ML: What’s your opinion of web sites like White Sox Interactive that are devoted to a team? 

ES: “I think they’re a positive thing. They allow more people to get more information.” 

ML: Let’s talk about one of the areas you specialize in, media reporting. After 2005 John Rooney left the Sox radio booth after eighteen seasons. There was a lot of speculation about why he left, the contract issues, wondering if it was the Sox or WSCR that wouldn’t come up with the money, his desire to return to St. Louis. Can you clear anything up on his situation? 

ES: “I think with John it was a lot of attraction to return to his hometown. As far as the money situation I think the White Sox were the one’s that had some issues with his salary request but I can’t say that with 100% accuracy.” 

ML: Chris Singleton was hired basically to replace John with Ed Farmer sliding over to do play by play. Singleton had very limited media experience and there are a number of fans who post at White Sox Interactive that he and Farmer simply can’t be listened to. Those fans feel they are that bad. What can you tell us about how Singleton got the job?

ES: “I was surprised when I heard it was going to Singleton, everything I heard said it was going to be Tommy John. I think the Sox wanted a fresh face.”   

ML: Who made the decision to hire Chris, WSCR radio or the White Sox? 

ES: “I think it was a collaborative effort with the White Sox having more influence in the decision.” 

ML: Steve Stone is a name tossed out a lot by fans concerning the possibility of him joining the Sox broadcast team in the future. Singleton’s deal is up after the season. Could Stone be a replacement? Or is his situation in the wake of what happened with the Cubs and his honesty in calling a game ‘red flags’ to the Sox organization? 

ES: “There’s a possibility although he won’t come cheap. Considering the way the season has gone hiring Stone would be a real off season publicity boost.” 

“Concerning his situation with the Cubs, I think that was something that Dusty Baker let get out of control. And I’ve never considered Steve at any time a ‘ripper’ like some other members of the media. He’s just calling the game and adding insight.” 

ML: You broke the news last year that for the first time in at least twenty years, the Sox were garnering higher ratings on TV then the Cubs based on what happened in 2005 and the success that continued in 2006. Given the massive boost in attendance, in television ratings, in advertising deals, how much will this awful performance in 2007 hurt the franchise? 

ES: “It’s going to hurt them quiet a bit.”  

ML: The other thing of course was that they were making serious inroads in taking back the city that belonged to them throughout the 1950's and a lot of the 1960's. This season is a serious setback in that effort as well. 

ES: “You know I tell people that the Sox have had a hundred years to make Chicago a Sox town on a regular basis. I mean the Cubs went what, thirty years without having back to back winning seasons? The Sox have had their chances to become the team in Chicago and for some reason they’ve never seemed to be able to get the players to make a sustained run, and that’s what it’s going to take.” 

ML: Finally Ed, what’s your opinion on the overall job Kenny Williams has done as G.M.? At White Sox Interactive, if I can generalize, you seem to have two camps. One group says that Kenny has won a World Series and should get as much slack as he needs... the other group cites one playoff appearance in seven years and mentions that the Sox were a 95 win, playoff team when he took over. By 2002 they were down to 81 wins. Then in November 2005 they win a World Series...now two seasons later they’ll be lucky to break even. What’s your take? 

ES: “The thing with Kenny is that I don’t blame him for what happened to the bullpen this year. I mean Mike MacDougal showed he could pitch, David Aardsma got people out when he was with the Cubs. The guys he got just didn’t pitch.” 

“I do think Kenny made the mistake of putting all his eggs in the basket with Scott Podsednik and Darin Erstad at the top of the lineup and he’ll have to fix that. And the injuries didn’t help.” 

“The other thing is, and this is not brain surgery, you’ve got to have your farm system produce some players. The Cubs spent 300 million dollars this off season but they’re winning because of the kids out of the minor league system.” 

“Overall I like the job Kenny has done with the Sox and think he deserves a good run in that position.” 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ed Sherman's father passed away September 20. His family made sure his White Sox cap was with him in his final moments. 
White Sox Interactive sends its condolences to Ed and his entire family.

 


Editor's Note:  Mark Liptak is an experienced sports journalist, holding several awards for both his electronic and print media work.  He has held numerous sports reporting positions for various TV and newspaper organizations, including Director of Sports for KNOE-TV (Monroe, Louisiana) and KPVI-TV (Pocatello, Idaho), and sports writer for the Idaho Falls Free Press, where his column "Lip Service" has appeared for for a number of years.  "Lip", his wife, and cats presently live in Chubbuck, Idaho, where they collectively comprise 100 percent of the Pocatello River Valley's long-time Sox Fan population.  

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