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WSI News - Sox Interviews

Flashing Back...

...with Richard Lindberg.

another EXCLUSIVE from White Sox Interactive! ††

Every month Mark Liptak will speak with a former White Sox player or member of the media on the team, the history, and the issues. We hope you fans will get as much enjoyment reading it as White Sox Interactive does bringing it to you.


There is no one alive who knows more about the Chicago White Sox franchise then Rich Lindberg. The Chicago native is an avowed Sox fan who is known as the "official" Sox historian.

Lindberg is the author of numerous award winning books about life in Chicago. His subjects range from Chicago history and Chicago politics to Chicago crime and, of course, the Chicago White Sox. He is our generations version of Studs Terkel.

The books on the White Sox include "Stuck On The Sox", "Whoís On 3rd - The Chicago White Sox Story"," The White Sox Encyclopedia", and "Stealing First In A Two-Team Town: The White Sox From Comiskey To Reinsdorf."

The White Sox have been a labor of love for him since childhood. Lindberg saw the near misses in 1964 and 1967, the revival in 1972, the "Southside Hit Men" of 1977, "Winning Ugly" in 1983, the team that almost shocked the world in 1990, "Good Guys Wear Black" in 1993, the labor dispute that wiped out the 1994 post season, the "White Flag" trade and the unexpected "The Kids Can Spray" title in 2000. He has laughed, cried, and anguished with the team.

His passion for the Sox doesnít mean unquestioned loyalty. His impressions of Bill Veeck have often disagreed with Sox fans, most of whom revere the former owner as the "Patron Saint Of The Common Fan." He also has warned about the future of the club if Sox fans "donít forgive and forget".

Lindberg has his own web site which can be used to purchase any of his books on the club. If you are interested in learning more about him and those books go to www.richardlindberg.net. In addition to his work writing, he is the public relations director for Search International, a private detective agency that investigates and researches high profile clientele and businesses.

He talked with WSIís Mark Liptak recently on a wide range of White Sox topics including Jerry Reinsdorf, some major marketing mistakes and an uncertain future after the lease expires at Comiskey Park...


ML: What was it that caused you to start writing about the Sox?

RL: "It was my passion for the team. I first became a fan around the 1962, 63 season. I grew up in the Northwest side which is all Cub fans, in fact the first game I ever saw was the 1962 All Star Game at Wrigley Field. I just thought that the Sox uniforms looked sleek. I watched the Sox and saw them play teams like the Yankees and Red Sox and thought the American League was "big time" baseball. Also Comiskey Park was so far away it was like in another world. As a kid itís one of those things where you couldnít get there, so you wanted it more. I finally saw my first Sox game on June 20, 1964. Gary Peters lost a 1-0 game to Whitey Ford. I still have that program and three years ago when I finally met Peters, I showed it to him. Jim Landis was also there and both guys were amazed that this little kid kept all the innings and recorded all the outs. I stayed with the Sox growing up and started researching into their history. For example I spent five years of my life spending time at the library downtown looking through every game the Sox played from 1900 through 1966. I recorded the final score and the winning and losing pitchers. It turned out when I first got to know some of the Sox management that they didnít have ANY records on the club before 1951. What they had since then was only three small filing cabinets. Iíd continue to send the Sox stats I discovered and such and they would give me a call when they needing something. For example the night Joe Cowley opened the game with seven straight strikeouts of the Rangers, I got a call from the press box in Arlington, Texas. They needed to know if that was a record and who held the old one. Things like that."

ML: Can you give us some historical "tidbits" that the average Sox fan may not know?

RL: "Well remember the "classic" Sox uniforms from the 50's and early 60's? Those were designed by former owner Chuck Comiskey. He told me in an interview that he was tired of the Sox being a laughingstock and he wanted new uniforms that reflected that change in attitude. He copied them from the Yankees and said Ďif you want to be the best, copy from the best.í Another thing Sox fans may not know is that in the late 60's, then Mayor Richard J. Daley wanted to build a new multipurpose stadium for the Sox and Bears. Only he wanted it in Lake Michigan! Mayor Daley wanted it out in a lake on a man made island with a causeway reaching it. The environmentalists groups were against it and it never got off the ground. Then current owner Art Allyn wanted a new stadium in the South Loop Area around Polk Street but that never happened either and he lost interest in the team."

ML: Youíve seen firsthand the good and bad sides of the last two owners, Bill Veeck and Jerry Reinsdorf. Tell us about those men.

RL: "When Bill Veeck first bought the team in 1976, I thought he could do no wrong. I learned though that Veeck conned the city of Chicago and Sox fans. He never had the finances to field competitive teams and didnít have the ability to develop young players. He continually exaggerated his product. Unfortunately after time, I had several encounters with him that werenít pleasant. That being said, he still belonged in the Hall Of Fame because of what he brought to the game. Jerry Reinsdorf is a soft spoken, low key individual. He will only sell the team if baseball stops being interesting to him. Obviously heís also made a tremendous number of public relations gaffes."

ML: You provide some compelling evidence in your books that although Veeck did a lot of good for the Sox he also basically ruined the team. Can you explain that further?

RL: "Veeck was very self serving. He knew that the 1959 pennant winning team wasnít put together by him. It was put together by Chuck Comiskey, Frank Lane and John Rigney. All Veeck did was get Ted Kluszewski. Veeck wanted to win the pennant again in 1960 to reflect his skill not those others. He traded the cream of the Sox minor league system for a bunch of guys like Gene Freese and Minnie Minoso who were done. The guys who were traded turned out to be some of the biggest stars of the 60's. Players like Norm Cash, Johnny Romano, Earl Battey, Johnny Callison and Don Mincher. If the Sox had just one of two of them, they would have won pennants in 1964 and 1967. When Bill returned to the Sox in 1976, he basically saved the team from the mess that he created sixteen years earlier."

ML: There is a perception among many Sox fans that all Jerry Reinsdorf cares about is keeping his payroll low and breaking the players union. Do you think thatís true and if so, why is he that way?

RL: "Jerry cares about his limited partners. He wants to make sure that they donít lose money. In that respect both he and Bill Veeck are alike, they both cared about the others in the ownership group. He told me one time during an interview that he was Ďfinancially secure but he doesnít have the resources like the Yankees and wonít extend himself.í He would rather choose to break even then go bankrupt. He has made his share of errors. He had surrounded himself with the wrong people. They screwed up the new ballpark, although in fairness, the upper deck problem was caused by the surrounding areas and the architects design, not Jerry Reinsdorf. That park wound up coming in below budget and the Sox didnít spend the money that was saved on the amenities it badly needed."

ML: What are your thoughts on the Chicago media and the way they cover the Sox?

RL: "Thatís a real hot point with me. Most of the reporters are from out of town. They are from California, Pennsylvania wherever, but not Chicago. The papers donít hire local guys anymore. So these guys go out to the games; they see the "picnic" atmosphere at Wrigley Field. Then they go out to Comiskey Park and they say Ďwhat is this?í They donít know about the Sox, or the history of the team. They are smart enough to know that more people gush over what they write when itís about the Cubs, so they buy into this idea that Chicago is a Cubs town and do more on them. Coverage in Chicago is biased, is slated towards the Cubs. This hasnít been a Sox town since John Carmichael died."

ML: You talk of a conversation that you had with Jack Brickhouse about the biggest mistake the Sox ever made in 1968. Tell us about that, what Brickhouse tried to do to stop it and the subsequent fallout effects.

RL: "I talked with Jack about it in an interview in 1996. Jack told me about the time he, Arnie Harris and Sox owner Art Allyn sat down for lunch. Jack expected the Sox to agree to another extension on WGN after their agreement expired after the 1967 season. He was shocked when Allyn told him that the Sox were moving to a basically brand new UHF outlet WFLD (Channel 32 in Chicago). Brickhouse, whom I consider a giant of the broadcasting industry, said he felt sure that something would happen to the industry in the future that would make it possible for WGN to be shown not only in Chicago but around the Midwest, he strongly urged Allyn to reconsider. Allyn wouldnít but he had the best interest of the team at heart. You have to look at why the Sox wanted to move in the first place. WGN was basically showing Sox day games on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, they werenít showing night games because they didnít want to disrupt their evening schedule. Very few road games were shown and those were only from the East Coast, New York, Cleveland and such. Allyn wanted ALL Sox road games shown and at least WFLD tried to do that. For the first time Sox fans saw the inside of the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum and Anaheim Stadium. The trouble was UHF technology was very new. You had to have a converter box to be able to get the channels on your old TV and it didnít work very well. The picture was snowy, grainy and unreliable. The other problem was that WFLD decided to have Jack Drees do the games. Dress was an East Coast horse racing guy who wasnít known in Chicago. Bottom line the experiment just didnít work."

ML: Did leaving WGN-TV and letting Harry Caray go doom the Sox to an unwinnable position for the fans loyalty?

RL: "I think so. These decisions werenít just "minor" mistakes...both happened to coincide with a resurgence by the Cubs. For years the Cubs were a dead team, then Leo Durocher came in and things started happening. It was at the same time the Sox left WGN. Then when Harry left after 1981, Chicago started to become more aware of the Wrigley Field area, the stadium started to become a tourist attraction and Cub fortunes went up again. If you think about it, Harry going to the Cubs really showed the power of the Tribune Company. Harry heeled to their demands. He stopped taking shots at the club, at the players, he didnít have any negativity. He had to because he had no place else to go, where was he going to wind up? Cincinnati? St. Louis??"

ML: Youíve warned that unless Sox fans are willing to "forgive and forget" about the strike, the "White Flag" trade and the loathing of the owner, that one day this team might be in Las Vegas, Mexico City or someplace else but Chicago. Was that based on your personal knowledge of Jerry Reinsdorf?

RL: "If such a thing would ever happen it would be because of pressure put on Reinsdorf by his limited partners. When the new stadium was announced I know some his limited partners started grumbling because they felt that after a few years, the novelty of a new stadium would wear off and theyíd be right back with the same attendance troubles. They were disappointed with the location of the new stadium. The Sox have had problems drawing fans for years. In 1967, in the greatest pennant race ever, they only drew 960,000 fans. This team almost left four different times, Iím still surprised that theyíve stayed. The Sox organization knows that they have to win, they donít draw when they lose...but what happens if the Sox get good and still donít draw. I mean really good. What could happen in that case, is the limited partners start saying Ďweíve tried everything we know how to do and canít make it, letís look elsewhere.í"

ML: Speculate on the future of the team when Jerry Reinsdorfís gone will you?

RL: "With all of the problems the team has right now, if something were to happen to Jerry tomorrow or next year, I donít know of any bottom line CEOís of any major companies in Chicago that would be interested in buying the team. I think out of town companies would be very interested. The question is, would they keep the Sox in Chicago? Another thing I am very apprehensive of is this....what happens when the lease at Comiskey Park expires in 2010? Thatís only eight years from now! Whoever owns the club, whether itís Reinsdorf or someone else will probably do a serious reevaluation about this team in Chicago. Itís always amazed me that instead of fighting the common enemy, the Cubs, and uniting against them, Sox fans spend more time about fighting with each other. Regardless of whoever owns the team, weíve got to unite and support this club. Owners change, we just have to ride the present one out."

ML: If the Sox were to leave, the American League just wouldnít "give up" this market to the National League would they? Iíve got to think a new team would come in.

RL: "Under the present set of difficulties I donít think the American League would rush in with a new club. Even if they did, it wouldnít be the Sox would it? It wouldnít have their history and so forth and I donít think Sox fans would support an expansion team at all."

You can learn more about Richard Lindberg and his extensive set of Sox books at Rich's official site, richardlindberg.net.†

What are Rich's thoughts about some of the best-known, and most heroic figures in Sox history?† Check back Tuesday as Mark Liptak plays a bit of word association with Rich Lindberg!† Another WSI exclusive!


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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