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WSI News - Sox Interviews

Flashing Back...

...with Paul Sullivan.

another EXCLUSIVE from White Sox Interactive! ††

Each 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.


Heís doing a job that any Sox fan would LOVE to do. Paul Sullivan is one of only a handful of reporters that cover a major league baseball team on a daily basis. As beat writer for the Chicago Tribune, Sullivan is with the Sox from the first day of Spring training through the end of the season and occasionally in the post season. Thatís a ton of baseball games, but Sullivan doesnít mind.

Sullivan was born in Evergreen Park and grew up in Homewood as a Sox fan and one of his fondest memories is sitting in old Comiskey Park on July 1, 1990. It was the 80th anniversary of the opening of the park and on that day the Yankees Andy Hawkins no hit the Sox but LOST the game 4-0.

Never shy about giving his opinions, Paul spoke with WSIís Mark Liptak when the Sox were in Detroit. He talked about his background, Jerry Reinsdorf, the Sox financial situation and what fans may expect from the team in 2002.

ML: How did you get into the business, and wind up as the Sox beat writer?

PS: "I went to the University of Missouri, majoring in English and went I got out (1981) I wasnít able to find anything. I took a job with Inland Steel working in the foundry. Then I worked at the Drake Hotel as a bellboy. I started doing some free lance work for The Reader. In fact the first story I ever did was on the Sox telling Andy the Clown he wasnít welcome at the park anymore. Finally I got a chance to do some work as a copy clerk for the Tribune and as a city desk assistant. While I was there, Mike Royko, took a liking to me and asked if I wanted to do some "leg work" for him. That led to a chance to do some weekend sports work and covering the high schools. Eventually I became the back up writer for all of the pro teams. I covered the Hawks in 1994 and got the chance to cover the Sox on a daily basis in 1994. In fact the first day I ever worked as a beat guy was in July 1994 when Albert Belle had the corked bat incident at Comiskey Park and one of his teammates tried to crawl through the ceiling ducts looking for the umpires room to switch the bat with one Paul Sorrento was using!. (Editorís Note: That player turned out to be pitcher Jason Grimsley) After that season was ruined by the strike, I covered the Sox through 1996, switched to the Cubs, then went back to the Sox in 2000."

ML: Were you switched from the Sox after 1996 by management?

PS: "No. That was my request. I didnít get along with then manager Terry Bevington. I felt he was incompetent and hostile to the media. He was a very, very difficult person to work with. I still feel the only reason he was retained after 1996 was to stick it to the media and fans who kept telling Reinsdorf he was an idiot! So I went to the Cubs who promptly lost their first 14 games of the season. When the Cubs stunk again in 1999 my bosses decided it was time to switch me back. I was against the move at first because I live near Wrigley Field and enjoyed having my nights off but it was the best thing that ever happened to me. Covering the 2000 Sox was a blast, even though they coughed it up in the playoffs."

ML: A lot of fans feel you have a "dream job" but youíre a slave to the schedule for six months and have to watch, I guess, over 190 games a year. Tell us about some of the tough parts of the job.

PS: "Well in a lot of ways youíre right, it is a dream job. The tough part is writing on deadline when the game is still going on and you donít know who is going to win. In the third game this season, Keith Foulkeís blown save forced me to rewrite my entire game story in about ten minutes. Foulked again as I like to say! The toughest part now is the traveling which is insane now in the post September 11th era. I never liked flying. Dealing with people like Bevington can be a hassle. Some people in management and some players donít understand that we are here to write the truth, not be public relations agents. I feel like Iíve always done that and I feel longtime Tribune readers respect that. That may be why Iím no longer covering the Cubs, but Iím better off with the Sox anyway."

ML: Paul some Sox fans feel the Chicago media slights the Sox. That itís biased towards the Cubs. You have probably heard that a lot especially in your "Ask Paul Sullivan" weekly column. When this comes up, what do you say?

PS: "I donít agree that the media is biased against the Sox, though I was watching WGN-TV in Cleveland the other day and the Sox were the 3rd story behind the Hawks and the Cubs. The Hawks? OK, they were in the playoffs. The Cubs? Thatís not right. I get a lot of abuse for being anti-Sox which is ridiculous if you know me or my background. My family and most of my friends are Sox fans. I guess this is an occupational hazard if you write for the Tribune. If you recall my writing in 2000 when the Sox were kicking butt, I praised the hell out of them. People only remember the criticism so what are you going to do?"

ML: By the way I assume this is Paul Iím talking with and not his "evil twin?"

PS: "(laughing) You know I really have to stop doing that! Sox fans get upset when I donít answer their questions in that column. Sox fans are among the smartest in baseball but you have to remember I get about 20 E-mails a day. You can only try to answer a question like "when is Nardi Contreras going to get fired" so many times before you have to try something different. Thatís why I put embargoís on certain subjects after a period of time."

ML: Tell me about Jerry Reinsdorf. You are around him, what kind of a guy is he?

PS: "I donít know him well enough to say what kind of guy he is. Iíve been to dinner with him and heís a funny guy with some great stories to tell. Of course when I came back to the Sox he stopped talking to the media, so the only time Iíve heard from him is when he got upset over something Iíd written. I see that now he is talking to some writers but not me. I guess he thinks that Iím unfair because I knock his ballpark which is one of the worst in baseball. Thatís his right and if he doesnít want to talk with me thatís fine too. Iím not going to change for anyone, including the owner."

ML: Itís surprising that they have a lot of marketing problems since Rob Gallas is a former newspaper guy who covered the Sox. He should know what the fans want.

PS: "All I can say about this is that the Sox are poorly marketed. Whoís fault it is, I canít say. If I were the marketing director of the Sox, I could increase attendance by a half a million fans or so. The first thing I would do is make the upper deck a party deck with very cheap seats. Keep the riff raff up there and not in the bleachers where they can cause trouble. The fact that the Sox refuse to cut ticket prices in the upper deck proves they donít understand how much people dislike sitting up there."

ML: The Sox have spoken a lot about their financial troubles this off season and Spring, especially Kenny Williams. When you hear that do you believe them?

PS: "If itís true that the Sox have problems itís of their own doing. Reinsdorf has shown before he will spend on the team, so that accusation isnít accurate. The problem now is that he refuses to spend any money on pitchers, having been burned by the likes of Jaime Navarro. Thatís why his team has never been a championship contender. I canít forget that the Sox got Ken Hill in the Summer of 2000 when they had a real chance to "go for it." They also got Charles Johnson and Harold Baines whom they didnít need. For the sake of all Sox fans, I hope they donít go too long this season without making a move for a veteran starter and not a Ken Hill type."

ML: What do you think of the job that Jerry Manuel does as field manager?

PS: "Iíve dealt with a lot of managers and head coaches and Manuel is by far the easiest to deal with because he treats writers like human beings and doesnít take criticism personally. I donít agree with all of his moves, especially when he takes out a starter who hasnít given up a hit in four innings but he always has a reason for what he does and thatís all that matters. After dealing with the moronic Bevington for two years, Manuel is a breath of fresh air. I hope Sox fans appreciate his attitude which rubs off on the team. The Sox could have rolled over and died last year but they didnít. That was a tribute to Manuel."

ML: I guess the biggest question with this club is the pitching staff. The Sox have so many guys coming back from injury or who are inexperienced. How could the team justify not doing more to shore this up in the off season?

PS: "Itís strange that the Sox have a veteran lineup that may be one of the best in baseball, if not the best, yet theyíre willing to put so much faith in unproven pitchers like Jon Rauch and Danny Wright. I feel both of those guys are going to be All Stars someday, but now is not the time to develop young pitchers. Now is the time to "go for it." Wright is starting to look good and Rauch had a decent outing in Oakland, but I agree they need another starter and Iím not talking about Jim Parque. Scott Erickson, Paul Byrd, Denny Neagle or someone with experience should be available in a month or so. I hope they donít ignore the problem and blame the fans for not coming out more and supporting them, but I wouldnít be surprised if they do."

ML: So how do you think the Sox will do in 2002?

PS: "They have the talent to win the division by a wide margin and Kenny Lofton has changed the entire complexion of the team. Foulke is coming around and the bullpen in general seems to be much better then it showed the first week. Whether they can beat Seattle, New York or Boston and go to a World Series remains to be seen. Iím not sure about that. Like I said they need another proven starter. The chemistry is much better then last year and Mark Buehrle is the real deal. Too bad the Sox are alienating him with their silly salary structure, the one that says itís OK to reward draft picks with millions but not OK to give your best pitcher a reasonable raise. The Sox can win it in spite of all this. For their good fans sake and for my family, I hope they do it. But if they donít, I hope management doesnít blame the media or the fans which has been they way theyíve been doing things the last few years. Kenny Williams has to pull the trigger on a deal, there is no other way around it. One last word for the fans, especially those Sox fans who are worried about every little problem, LIGHTEN UP and enjoy this! Itís only baseballĖSox fans are the most knowledgeable in baseball, but they are also the most panicky. Chill out everyone."

As always your thoughts, questions and comments are appreciated. E-mail me at mliptak1@ida.net.


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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