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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Guest Columnist:  Dan Helpingstine

Author of the new Sox book "Through Hope & Despair"

Tales of Sox Marketing

or, "My Dinner with J.R. and the Chicago Media"

During the 80's, there was a movie where there was no action. The whole film consisted of two men having a long conversation over dinner. My Dinner with Andre was amazing in that it sustained interest without using violence, sex or special effects to lure an audience. The minute I heard about the White Flag Trade, I began planning for my book, "Through Hope & Despair", A Fan's Memories of the Chicago White Sox, 1967-1997. No matter how successful the trade was going to be in the long run, I felt the loss of credibility that came with the trade would have a devastating and lasting impact on the White Sox. Since I knew I was going to criticize the White Sox and the media, I didn't expect to have dinner with any of them. What I didn't expect was an almost dead silence some cases and outright unprofessional behavior in others. Actually, some of the response I received from the White Sox was what I expected. During the early the stages of my project, I contacted a Jennifer Sloan, a PR person who is no longer with the club. I identified myself as a writer working on a book and asked if I could get some assistance in contacting several ex-Sox players for interviews. For some reason Sloan was angered by the request. In a curt way, she told me to fax the list of names to her. Other than the attitude, she gave me no real assistance. At SoxFest 1999, I approached Jerry Reinsdorf. I identified myself as a fan from Northwest Indiana and told him I was writing the book. In a sarcastic tone, Reinsdorf replied, "Oh yeah? No kidding." I asked for an interview. He referred me to PR man Scott Reifert. The interview never happened. Once the book was published in September 2001, I called Reifert's office. Reifert was not in at the time of the call, and I spoke with a woman whom I assumed was Reifert's assistant. I told her I had written a book on the team and that I wanted to come to the ballpark to give a few copies to the organization as a professional courtesy. The woman was polite and helpful and informed me that I could bring the books by on the next Monday or Tuesday. Then I was put on hold, and I had to assume that Reifert had returned. When she came back on the line, she told me Reifert wouldn't be available for the remainder of the season. You can draw your own conclusions about the White Sox. The media, whom I believe, takes an arrogant and condescending view of fans, has not been much different. Small dailies in Indiana and weeklies in Illinois have run my press releases. John Burbridge of The Times in Munster, Indiana did a feature article on me. Other than that, my book and I have been ignored. I sent copies of my book to Jay Mariotti and Steve Rosenbloom. Neither returned follow-up calls or even acknowledged they received the book. E-mails to both also went unanswered. A copy of the book was also sent to Jeff Mayes, the Sports Editor of the Post-Tribune of Gary. When I called him, he was as defensive and angry as Sloan had been. Subsequent phone calls, e-mails and press releases have been ignored. This is kind of odd since I have written several articles for the Post-Tribune for other editors. At SoxFest, Trib sportswriter Paul Sullivan stopped at the booth I shared with George Bova of WSI. Sullivan talked to George and even arm wrestled with him. Though I had a stack of my books on the table and a 3x4 foot sign of the book's cover hanging behind me, Sullivan didn't even pretend to notice my existence. So far the only Chicago reporter to notice me has been Sun-Times sportswriter Joe Goddard. He was nice enough to buy a copy. In addition to the Post-Tribune, I have sent press releases to, called, or written letters to the Sun-Times, the Tribune, the Daily Herald and the Daily Southtown. No calls have been returned. I have not been able to monitor every edition of these papers and so, to my knowledge, no press releases have published. I want to make it clear that there is no obligation of any media outlet to promote my book. However, it is not every day when a fan writes and then pays to publish his own work. That, in itself, is a story. Secondly, I raise some valid points about the current state of the White Sox. A newspaper writing about that would encourage public debate. Isn't that one purpose of a newspaper? (Also what does it say about a media that makes a celebrity out of Ronnie Woo-Woo?) As far as the media goes, you can draw your own conclusions. The experience of writing this book has not been all bad by any means. The people I interviewed were open and honest. I enjoyed recalling some great memories. And, for a short time, in a small way, I felt part of the game I have loved for all my life. Additionally, I want to thank the fans that have bought the book so far. I sold 85 copies during SoxFest. Also, fans were very receptive to me during those three days. Many who have been regular visitors and or posters to WSI stopped by. The feedback from those who read the book was positive.( Including a glowing e-mail from Mark Liptak.) It felt good to know that I struck a chord with at least a part of the real audience I was trying reach. In the end, it won't matter that the media and the White Sox continue to take the low road.

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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