Leftover SoxFest Tidbits
By Scott R.
Without question, the funniest moments of SoxFest 2013 – held this past weekend at the Palmer House Hilton – came courtesy of the 1983 White Sox.
Manager Tony La Russa, Harold Baines, Greg Luzinski, Tom Paciorek and Ron Kittle spent several seminars needling one another, telling jokes and reminiscing about that 99-win division champion, all while the audience was treated to the entertaining show.
Luzinski, nicknamed “The Bull” and the team’s designated hitter, directed many of his barbs at La Russa.
“He’s a ‘student of the game,’” Luzinski mockingly said of La Russa, “quoting” the manager in a pretend past conversation with The Bull. “There’s a certain right-handed hitter, you can’t play. A left-hander is pitching, you’re 1-15 against this guy. He’s going to play instead.”
“Hell,” Luzinski said. “I told Tony ‘Your ‘He’ doesn’t even have an average!’”
Luzinski and Kittle still appear to be hurt – maybe literally as well as figuratively – by past slights when they claim La Russa failed to retaliate and protect them in the batter’s box.
“Harold was always Tony’s favorite,” Luzinski said. “If I got hit or Kittle got hit, nothing would happen. I got hit on a 3-0 pitch, a 3-0 pitch!, and it was ‘Wait til next year.’ Kittle was on crutches and it was ‘Wait until next year.”
“But if Harold got hit …”
“It’s true,” La Russa admitted with a shrug. “Bull’s always been too sensitive.”
And with that, he leaned over and gave Bull a kiss.
“I’ve been waiting for that for 30 years,” the DH replied.
“Bull was so tough we had to tell him when he got hit with a pitch,” Paciorek added to laughs.
When asked about their best memory from clinching the 1983 American League West title, Baines offered a strange reply.
“It was the first time I tasted champagne,” he said of the post victory celebration. “I’m not a drinker and I’ve never had any since!”
Paciorek told a story that highlighted the team’s chemistry. Former Tonight host Johnny Carson once had a popular comedy sketch where he played a mind-reading character named Karnak the Magnificent, who provided questions to answers.
Paciorek said someone in the clubhouse would call out, “Catch 22!”
And all the team would reply in unison, “Catch 22!”
And the originator would then yell the question, “How many fly balls Ron Kittle would catch if you hit him 100!”
Best quote from SoxFest 2013:
“I was raised on Hamms.” – Greg Luzinski, who grew up in Prospect Heights and starred in football and baseball at Notre Dame of Niles.
Near the end of one seminar, La Russa described his work founding the Animal Rescue Foundation, a cause near and dear to his heart. They are expanding a program that provides dogs to returning veterans.
“All the dogs are named Harold,” Kittle joked.
Much was made of Luzinski’s two stolen bases in 1983. Kittle said that compared to Bull, he rarely saw a green light.
“I went to Jim Leyland, our third base coach, and asked him ‘What’s my go sign?’”
“When I jump up in the air and don’t come down,” Leyland answered. “You can go.”
A Little RV
Talking to Robin Ventura about his classic performance on July 31, 1991 – two home runs, including a game-winning grand slam of HOF Goose Gossage – he reminded me that it almost didn’t happen.
“I had a great month (.357-12-33), and when I got to the ballpark I wasn’t in the lineup. Jeff (Torborg) said he was giving me a day off. I went into his office and said, ‘Give me a different day off but not this month!’”