How appropriate Tommy John and Nancy Faust get inducted into the Baseball Reliquary’s Shrine of the Eternals together in Pasadena, California on July 22.
Lefty John was the savvy White Sox starting rotation veteran for whom rookie team organist Faust played appropriate theme music in 1970, trying to provide some entertainment for a lost 106-defeat season.
And even 48 years later, Faust — who always ad-libbed theme songs for her players — came up with John-oriented songs that she likely would have played for the tiny crowds at her center-field organ at old Comiskey Park.
“I probably played ‘Big Bad John’ or the theme for ‘Tommy,'” said Faust, the latter for the then-recent rock opera from “The Who.” “Or maybe ‘Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooley.'”
“I couldn’t be more honored to be on the same (induction) ceremony with Tommy John.”
The West Coast audience likely will associate John much more with his groundbreaking elbow ligament reconstruction surgery by Dr. Frank Jobe in 1974 instead of his original Sox tenure. But they’ll sure know about Faust, whom the Baseball Reliquary described as “the most famous ballpark organist in the last half century.”
Still blonde, perky, and youthful, the far north suburban Mundelein resident at nearly the same time originated the seventh-inning singalong with Harry Caray and the playing of “Na Na Na, Hey Hey, Kiss Them Good-Bye” when a Sox opposing pitcher was pulled from the game. Her 41 seasons at the organ at two ballparks, ranging from that horrible ’70 season to the World Series champions in 2005, was a true pinpoint of joy in Chicago baseball history.
Dave “Baby” Cortez crafted “The Happy Organ,” the first instrumental to hit No. 1 on the Billboard Top 100 charts in 1959. But “Baby” still had nothing on Faust in full keyboard throttle.
Faust was so popular she was the No. 3 vote-getter in the Reliquary’s version of the Hall of Fame. The top three gain entry into the Shrine of the Eternals. John got 44 percent, the recently deceased Rusty Staub 29 percent, and Faust 26.5 percent. And how delicious was it that the cheery Faust beat out the second runner-up: Leo Durocher at 25 percent. At 23 years-old Faust was up-and-coming in 1970 while Durocher should have still been going at 64, his sclerotic managing eight miles north wasting a fine collection of future Hall of Fame Cubs.
Baseball honors should not be limited to just the Hall of Fame or post-season writers’ awards votes. The Baseball Reliquary is a nonprofit, educational organization http://www.baseballreliquary.org dedicated to fostering an appreciation of American art and culture through the context of baseball history. The West Coast-based Reliquary gladly accepts the donation of artworks and objects of historic content, provided their authenticity is well-documented.
A grant from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission supports the Reliquary, which is affiliated with the Whittier College Institute for Baseball Studies. The Institute, the first humanities-based research center of its kind associated with a college or university in the United States, is a partnership between Pasadena-based Baseball Reliquary and Whittier College.
Thus honored by this prestigious academic institution, Faust joins some fellow White Sox eternals with whom she was associated in her long career.
John was traded at the 1971 winter meetings for Dick Allen, an enshrinee. She had no shortage of inspiring songs to play for the 1972 American League MVP. She would play “Jesus Christ Superstar” when Allen came to bat. Faust also played for fellow Eternal Minnie Minoso in his brief comebacks in 1976 and 1980. Ditto for Bo Jackson when he played for the Sox despite hip-replacement surgery in the early 1990s. Bill Veeck, who masterminded the Caray-Faust seventh-inning combo, is a member. Jimmy Piersall, Caray’s partner in their guerilla-theater-of-the-air presentation under Veeck, has been inducted.
Amazingly, a second Veeck drew votes in this year’s balloting. Mike Veeck, Bill’s son and instigator of the famed Disco Demolition promotion-gone-bad, drew 17.5 percent of the votes.
Our own CBM Founder, Dr. David Fletcher was the winner in 2005 of the Baseball Reliquary’s Hilda Award for his work trying to get MLB to reinstate banned Sox third baseman Buck Weaver. Named in memory of legendary Brooklyn Dodgers baseball fan Hilda Chester, the Hilda Award was established in 2001 by the Baseball Reliquary to recognize distinguished service to the game by a baseball fan.
You wish Faust could play at the Pasadena ceremony. But at 70, she likely hits the keyboard only for her family these days. She is mostly retired, only playing for specific events that suit her. In 2006, she began cutting back her South Side schedule to day games only before leaving the Guaranteed Rate Field organ booth for good in 2010.
“I wanted to quit when I was still good,” she said. “I want the memories to be good. Forty-one years was a long time.”
Faust played Sunday home games for the Class-A Kane County Cougars for a couple of years, but even that gig is in the rear-view mirror as she wanted her Sundays free.
Now she travels around the Midwest and winters in Arizona with husband Joe Jenkins. She played at the Cactus League kickoff luncheon at a Phoenix hotel in February. At home in Lake County, the animal-lover tends to beloved full-sized female donkey Mandy and miniature donkey Gigi on the couple’s five-acre spread.
It’s always great to be remembered,” Faust said. “You like to think you made a difference in people’s lives. I am most humbled and pinch myself to have had the career I did. I feel fortunate my life took me in the direction it did. If I had any notoriety, it’s because I’m a good musician. Hopefully my fingers spoke for themselves.
Now ballpark organists play second fiddle to players’ recorded, personally-requested “walkup music.” Before that “modernization” of the game, Faust and her fellow organists like the Cubs’ Gary Pressy (an ironman having not missed a game since he was hired in 1987) figured out the matchup between player and music. If you paid attention, you could tell which organist and which ballpark just by tuning in a game — none were copycats.
“I never planned for games, and I wanted to be spontaneous enough,” Faust said. “You hear a name and match a song on the spur of the moment.
Faust even donated her home practice organ —-The Hammond Elegante Model 340100—complete with original bench and owner’s manual—to White Sox Charities and in December 2015 it sold for $1,400 to Josh Kantor, who’s been the Boston Red Sox organist since 2003 and grew up as a fan of Faust.
Give Faust even more credit for breaking another barrier in the firm man’s world of baseball of 1970. Top Sox official Stu Holcomb hired the Chicago Roosevelt High alum right out of North Park University. “When I was hired, there was a petition this was the wrong place for a woman,” Faust recalled. In 1972, Holcomb physically removed sportswriter Linda Morstadt from the pressbox. But Faust was so good, so young, she couldn’t be touched.
“Most organists read music. I didn’t,” she said. “Other organists had greater degrees, but I had the ear (for music).”
Veeck was more progressive, thank goodness. He noticed Caray had sung to himself in the seventh inning. Veeck piped Caray’s voice over the PA system with Faust’s accompaniment in 1977.
“Thankfully, I was in eye contact with Harry,” Faust said of her organ loft, by then re-located to the Comiskey Park upper deck left of the broadcast booth. “Harry probably sang more in cadence with me.”
The same season, Faust began using the Steam’s “Na Na Na Hey Hey” one-hit wonder from 1969 to lead the crowd in taunting pulled pitchers during an emotionally memorable four-game series in late July against the Kansas City Royals.
She couldn’t stop the flood of humanity that engulfed the field for Disco Demolition on July 12, 1979. Faust does admit to revving up what was essentially a riotous rock concert.
“I was encouraging chants (‘Disco Sucks’) til’ it got out of hand. “Steve (Dahl) planned to have me play for him, ‘Do You Think I’m Sexy?’ But I never played it.”
Old Comiskey Park had other benefits for Faust. Son Eric, now 35 and a percussion purveyor in his spare time, took his first steps in center-field as part of an employee picnic. She got Mandy as part of a promotion where the door prize was a swayback donkey. Ron Kittle gave her a baby chick. Faust persuaded management to abandon setting off fireworks during their Dog Day promotion since similar explosions on July 4 scared some canines.
More recently, Faust acquired the diminutive Gigi as a companion for the older Mandy. The established donkey is set in her ways, but tolerates Gigi.
No one is suggesting the four-legged friends attend the induction ceremony in Pasadena. But the idea is so logical for The Baseball Reliquary. Obtain an organ — surely there are a few in the LA area — and let Faust play “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” at her own enshrinement.” She had the perfect talent for player or entertainer:
“I had the ability to capitalize on the moment.” That she did…
Now, the legendary Nancy Faust, who provided the soundtrack to our summers playing at White Sox games for 41 seasons before she finally retired in 2010, gets some national attention. She fittingly belongs in The Shrine of Eternals.
Category Baseball Under Glass Blog Tags Baseball Reliquary's Shrine of the Eternals, Bill Veeck, Bo Jackson, Chicago Baseball History, Chicago White Sox, Comiskey Park, Dick Allen, Harry Caray, Hilda Award, Jimmy Piersall, Nancy Faust, Ron Kittle, Tommy John, Whittier College Institute for Baseball Studies