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In honor of actor Andy Garcia and his (unintentionally) hilarious reaction to Sofia (Mary Corleone) Coppola's death scene in "The Godfather, Part III."
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Pre-game formalities

Posted 06-05-2009 at 08:42 PM by TommyJohn
Updated 07-04-2013 at 04:55 PM by TommyJohn

The day of the first games of the All-Time White Sox series dawned bright, crisp and clear. There was an unmistakable buzz in the air, the kind that comes in October when postseason baseball comes to town. Four White Sox teams would meet in these semi-final best-of-seven series to determine which of them would earn the right to call itself the "Greatest White Sox team of All-Time." White Sox fans across ages and generations eagerly anticipated the games, many of which would see old Comiskey Park restored to all of its old splendor.

Charles Comiskey himself was looking forward to the games. He was at the ballpark he had built in 1910, clearly enjoying his surroundings. For one thing, the cool Chicago air was very refreshing-a definite change from the stifling heat and smell of brimstone that he had been enduring for the past eternity or so. For another, a team he had built, the 1917 club, was going to take on the 1959 team, built by his grandson Charlie Comiskey II. Charles I had died when Charlie was a young boy, so it would be great to see him as an adult. Charlie himself had died a couple of years ago, so he was happy to be back and rstored to his youthful, if rather headstrong, 1959 self.

The teams that came together were also different-the 1917 squad was one of the most talented in club history. They had the likes of Eddie Collins, Buck Weaver, Ray Schalk, Red Faber, Swede Risberg, Eddie Cicotte and of course, the greatest of them all-Joseph Jefferson "Shoeless Joe" Jackson. This club also had Chick Gandil, a former pro boxer with a badass glare and an attitude to match. They were great, but divided. One clique of players-Collins, Faber, Schalk, et al. had nothing to do with Gandil, Jackson, Weaver, Risberg, et al. It was a recipe for trouble that would indeed come up two years later, when a clique led by Gandil would "fix" the World Series and shame baseball. There would be dire consequences for their actions-banishment from baseball and the tongue-clucking disapproval of Ken Burns, Bob Costas and a host of other fans who swing bats with all the panache of Gramma chasing flies with the swatter.

That was all forgotten about for now. Right now the 1917 White Sox went quietly about their warm-ups. The only peep came when Eddie Collins told Gandil to take a shower because he smelled like sulphur and one could see the fumes rising from Gandil. The snarly first baseman said he would if Collins would cap the brightness of his halo. Eddie obliged, removing his halo from over his head and putting it in his pocket.

"I think we have a great chance to win. We are the best Sox team of all time. We'll show ya" said Eddie Cicotte, sounding nothing like the whiny, ****-in-the-mouth actor who would go on to portray him in the movie.

Their opponents, the legendary 1959 "Go-Go" Sox, were on the opposite side of the field hollering, chattering, hugging, swinging, and just happy to be in each other's company after all these years. Their reunion before the first series (against the 1901 team) had been a joyous occasion. Many "ya look good for bein' dead!" jokes flew fast and furious. The main jokester was Nellie Fox, the MVP second baseman, who ran around with the plug of tobacco planted firmly in his cheek, talking about how great it was to be back playing baseball. Luis Aparicio fielded grounders, Sherm Lollar took batting practice, Al Smith shagged flyballs and "Jungle" Jim Rivera scoped the stands for babes. They were happy to be young and alive once more.

The assembled press corps was just as legendary as the players they were covering: Irving Vaughn, Sy Sanborn, John Carmichael, Warren Brown, Jerome Holtzman, Edgar Munzel, Wendell Smith, Ring Lardner and Hugh Fullerton were a few of the many gathered for the occasion. Lardner and Fullerton stood and joked around with the 1917 players, they seemed almost to be good friends. One overheard Lardner talking to Collins about what seemed to be a gin rummy game they had played. It was all very strange to the 1959 players to see.

Fullerton was ecstatic about the series. "Four of the greatest diamond aggregates in the history of the Pale Hose will meet on the field of honor to slug it out for the right to be called 'The Greatest.' When the final out slaps into the leather and the shouting has died down, one team will stand alone, their arms upraised, proud owners of said title."

Also joining their group were three award-winning authors and White Sox fans-James T. Farrell, Nelson Algren and Studs Terkel. Farrell's and Algren's 1917 selves would be in the stands, eager-faced kids rooting on their team. Their 1959 selves would be covering the series as "guest reporters" and write of what they saw. Controversy developed when Nelson Algren insisted on being given a separate place to watch the games-he didn't want to be in the press box. When asked why he said "I associate not with the mediocrities of the media. If I do, their mediocrity will rub off on me. I live forever and ever with my words. Theirs is used to wrap fish." He was told he couldn't have his separate box. "How many Nobels have they won?" Algren sniffed. Finally, they gave in and built a special "Algren Box" complete with throne, for him to watch and cover the games.

The 1917 and 1959 generations of White Sox fans were ready and eager to see the series. Their excitement was palpable. Arguments were already ensuing, bets were being made, insults were flying, along with a few fists.

Game time arrived with a sellout crowd of 32,000 jammed into the 1917 version of Comiskey Park, which lacked an outfield upper deck. The crowd buzzed in anticipation. Pregame ceremonies included introductions of several luminaries-Broadway Impressario and Charles Comiskey friend George M. Cohan was introduced, amongst others. Mayors William Thompson of 1917 and Richard J. Daley of 1959 walked out to the mound and threw ceremonial first pitches to Ray Schalk and Sherm Lollar.

"How are you Mr. Mayor?" Lollar asked Daley upon returning the ball to him.

"I'm good" said Daley. "Considering I've been dead since 1976 and haven't voted since 1996."

"Big Bill" Thompson took his ball from Ray Schalk and went to sit with two men he introduced to the press as "local businessmen"-James "Big Jim" Colosimo and John "Little Johnny" Torrio.

Ring Lardner chuckled. "Come on, Bill. We've all been dead a number of years now. We know the truth. We know "Big Jim" and "Little Johnny" are the racketeers who run this city."

Thompson flashed a look to Lardner. "You have no idea what you're talking about!" He shouted, then walked away with a threat to punch the King of England in the nose.

"I thought I detected dollar signs glinting in his eyes" Lardner would later observe.

The buzz continued to grow as game time grew near. Jack Brickhouse settled behind the mike to announce the game. He had no 1917 counterpart, so he would be partnered with Bob Elson, the other 1959 announcer. The PA system for this game would consist of a guy with a megaphone, shouting out the lineups.

The owners were also part of the pregame festivities-Bill Veeck came out with his GM Hank Greenberg. Charlie Comiskey walked around, saying little to Veeck, choosing instead to talk to his grandfather and Harry Grabiner. All of them received standing ovations when they were introduced.

At last game time had arrived. The 1917 World Champion White Sox took the field to a deafening wall of sound, the crowd jumping to its feet and giving them a sustained ovation. The players stood on the diamond and and loosened up. Red Faber completed his last warm-up pitch, Schalk fired it Weaver, who tossed it around the horn to Risberg, Collins and Gandil. Joe Jackson stood in left field loosening up as the crowd in the stands shouted out their adoration.

The ovation finally subsided and the crowd sat down with a thunderous roar. Luis Aparicio stepped in to the batter's box. Faber got his signal from Schalk, wound up and threw. The series was underway.

Next: Game 1 results and the start of the 1983 vs. 2005 series.
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