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The First Fan 2012 edition
President Obama and I share something, that being the University of Chicago, Hyde Park, the South Side and the Chicago White Sox. The President taught at my alma mater and still resides in Hyde Park, the residential neighborhood where the school is located. I spent my years there in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, a tumultuous time but one when I nevertheless found the time to follow baseball and even play some.
The President is as well known is a fan of the White Sox, the South Side team. The White Sox are not followed to the same extent as are the Cubs, they don’t have a historic stadium, their TV deal is not as lucrative, and they are usually the second story in the Sun-Times and Tribune. Of course, they did win a World Series in 2005 but like the Cubs this past off-season has been one of change at New Comiskey AKA US Cellular Field.
When I lived there the Sox played in Old Comiskey Park; it was a deteriorating structure by the side of the Dan Ryan Expressway in a charmless and even dangerous neighborhood but it was a fairly easy ride on the El or even the bus from where I lived. From my dorm room on the 8th floor of Pierce Tower at 55th and University, I could even see the lights of the ballpark during night games. Being from Philadelphia I was well acquainted with the North Side Cubs and very familiar with seeing their revered shrine Wrigley Field on TV; I knew the players and even though it was a much longer ride to get there I looked forward to when the Phillies would visit.
Many of my classmates and fellow dorm-denizens were from Chicagoland (as it is called) and some of those were Sox fans; they convinced me it was all right to have an AL team to root for, and why not the Sox? I sort of flirted with that, but in 1972, when the White Sox acquired my favorite player, Dick Allen, the deal was done and I got a Sox hat and planned on attending more games. Unfortunately for me, much of that summer, a great MVP season for Dick and a hard-fought battle between the Sox and the Athletics for the AL West, I was in Newport, RI at US Navy Officer Candidate School. The first thing I did when I got back to town was head to Comiskey to see Dick continue his assault on AL pitching.
George W. Bush of course was an owner of the now-ascendant Texas Rangers. One of my favorite stories is how, after he had become President, he sat in on an MLB owners’ meeting. After listening to the back-biting, petty grievances, and puffery on display, the President was asked how if felt to be back and famously remarked, “I see not much has changed.”
While I was in Chicago Richard M. Nixon was President and his love for and knowledge of baseball was legendary. The President was asked by reporter Cliff Evans for his favorite all-time All-Stars. President Nixon was an honorary member of the Baseball Writers Association, so during the summer of 1972 he did so and updated it in 1992. You can find it on Baseball-reference.com.
President John F. Kennedy was of course a die-hard Boston Red Sox fan. When he attended the All-Star Game in 1962 and met the great St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Famer Stan “The Man” Musial, he said, "A couple of years ago, they told me I was too young to be President and you were too old to be playing baseball. But we fooled them."
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