White Sox Faithful Smell World Series Victory The White Sox are one game away from their first World Series victory since 1917. The organist for the White Sox and Alan Schwarz, a writer for Baseball America talk about the commanding Sox lead in the World Series.
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White Sox Faithful Smell World Series Victory

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White Sox Faithful Smell World Series Victory

White Sox Faithful Smell World Series Victory

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This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

And here are some of the other stories NPR News is following today. For the second time, Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers has returned a questionnaire to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Her first answers were deemed by the committee chair to be inadequate and incomplete. And Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for a suicide bomb that killed at least five people today in a market in the Israeli city of Hadera. The Palestinian Authority condemned the attack. You can hear details of those stories and, of course, much more later today on "All Things Considered" from NPR News.

Tomorrow on TALK OF THE NATION, a merger for The Village Voice with another giant in the alternative newspaper business. Is consolidation striking alternative weeklies? That's tomorrow on TALK OF THE NATION.

Earlier, we were talking about a new biography of Ludwig van Beethoven. I wonder what symphony he might have crafted from this theme?

(Soundbite of organ music)

CONAN: That is Nancy Faust, the organist for the Chicago White Sox, at the organ in her home in Mundelein, Illinois. The White Sox could win the championship of the world as soon as tonight in Houston, Texas. They've won all the first three games against the Houston Astros, including a 14-inning thriller last night in what turned out to be the longest game in World Series history. Nancy Faust, not surprisingly, would be thrilled if the White Sox win their first World Series since 1917. For the past 36 years, Faust's organ has belted out "Charge!" and other inspirational tunes during Sox home games. Nancy Faust joins us now by phone.

Good to have you on TALK OF THE NATION.

Ms. NANCY FAUST (Organist, Chicago White Sox): Well, thank you for including me. It was--I'm quite honored to be following your segment about Beethoven. I'm feeling like I'm picking very good company.

CONAN: Well, last night--after last night, you must be exhausted.

Ms. FAUST: I am exhausted. When the Sox have been playing out of town, in Houston, I've performed at various restaurants simulating a game and--because last night's game went so late, by the time we packed up our equipment and got home, it was 3 this morning.

CONAN: So you were in Harry Caray's Restaurant in Chicago last night. So in other words--during the game, during strategic moments, you would go, `Dah, da, da, da, da, dah.'

Ms. FAUST: That's correct. And I played for each batter as he came up to bat, played happy music when Houston struck out and "Na, Na, Goodbye" at that last homer and seventh-inning stretch "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" and it was quite fun. The place was packed. Although, I have to say, by 1:00 this morning, many of those had cleared out because today is a working day.

CONAN: Well, even in Chicago, I suppose.

Ms. FAUST: Even in Chicago. However, tonight could be a different story. I believe that people will be walking zombies tomorrow should the game go late.

CONAN: But does Harry Caray's Restaurant have the right kind of organ?

Ms. FAUST: Well, we pro--I provide an organ when I play outside of the ballpark, and it's a Hammond B3 with a Leslie speaker. I include my synthesizer-slash-sequencer and a drum unit. My husband is also--on the side, he rents organs. He rents B3s.


Ms. FAUST: So it's second nature for us. We do it all the time. Tonight I'll be at the official pub of the White Sox, which is Cork & Kerry on the South Side of Chicago.

CONAN: Doing the same thing.

Ms. FAUST: Yes.

CONAN: And hopefully for only nine innings.

Ms. FAUST: Hopefully. Hopefully for nine complete innings.

CONAN: I wonder--complete because that would mean the home team had to bat at the bottom of the ninth, meaning a good possibility they would have lose the--lost the game.

Ms. FAUST: That's correct. That's correct. But I have to tell you, because I'm sure your listeners would appreciate this, that the highlight of my career has been--was this last Friday night when I was asked to play at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Hall before their regular concert. There was a tribute paid to the White Sox and I was asked to come there and play a couple of songs. And I was so well received. It was very heartwarming because, let's face it, ballpark music isn't exactly symphony orchestra music, but the crowd is just starved for a championship here in Chicago. It has been 88 years.

CONAN: It has been a long time. I wonder, were you--we were talking about Beethoven. Were you classically trained?

Ms. FAUST: No, I wasn't. I think the closest I come to doing is--Beethoven is `Dah, da, da, dah.' Isn't that Beethoven?

CONAN: That...

Ms. FAUST: That would be when you strike out.

CONAN: Maybe you need a ballplayer named Ludwig so you can get something a little more elaborate, maybe.

Ms. FAUST: Very good. OK. You're thinking right now. Because what I normally do is play songs associated, somehow, by very long stretches, at times, with players' names.

CONAN: I wonder, how did you get the job playing for the White Sox?

Ms. FAUST: Well, I was raised in a musical family. My mother is a graduate of Chicago Musical College here in Chicago and she performed on WLS radio "Barn Dance" years and years ago when live entertainment was king in radio. And so I always had to help my mother at home, although I had no formal training. But my parents bought an organ--although my mother's principal instrument was piano and she studied, by the way, with Rudolph Ganz here in Chicago but--her principal instrument, piano. But then they bought an organ because that became popular and that enabled my mother to diversify, musically, and it captured my fancy. I was four years old at the time and I loved the instrument. I realized I could pick out simple tunes. And I think my whole life all I've done is enhance my ability to play by ear, and that's what I do at the ballpark.

CONAN: But you do read music.

Ms. FAUST: I read music, but I'm a lousy sight reader.

CONAN: Aha. So whenever you're playing something at the ballpark, it's by ear?

Ms. FAUST: Strictly by ear.


Ms. FAUST: And I play an hour before game time as people come into the park. That's the only time I'm able to complete a song and those songs are those that I work out at home with the aids of my supplemental instruments, the synthesizer, sequencer. What I do is I select the song and I--I guess I isolate--I take two measures or four measures at a time and I isolate the instruments and put them into my computer and then at the ballgame, after I get it all put together, the arrangement, I will play the whole thing. And then I have a masterpiece.

CONAN: I have to ask, now you've played for many, many years at the old Comiskey Park and the White Sox moved across the street to what was originally New Comiskey Park and now is, I guess, called Cellular Field. Which do you prefer?

Ms. FAUST: Well, it was quite an adjustment, like anything. It takes time to adjust to new situations. But now I'm very comfortable at the new field. Our sound system is wonderful. We're very fan-friendly; we've very family-friendly. It's a clean park. It's almost like going to Disney World or something like that and I think we've really cleaned up our act there.

The difference for me, personally, was that at the old park, I was located outside with the people and the fans that surrounded me were season ticket holders. And so I got to know them very well over the years. It was the same fans that surrounded me year after year. And I have to give credit to Bill Veck for placing the organist outside with the people. He was quite innovative. And rather than place the organist in a booth isolated, the organist was moved outside, so we're very accessible, and I really enjoy the interaction with the fans. That also added to my--the fact that I guess I'm somewhat recognizable and familiar here in the city because I see literally thousands of people each game. Well, I was a little more accessible in the old park; however, this park I'm directly behind home plate in a booth, so I do have heat but I have a door that's always open and I literally have people in and out of my booth the whole game.

CONAN: Well, we--I guess you would not be too disappointed if the White Sox won it there on the road in Houston and never played another game in Chicago this year?

Ms. FAUST: Well, you are correct. I would love to just take it in four tonight because that would be just another paragraph in what's got to be a best-seller book for this season in baseball.

CONAN: Nancy Faust is the organist for the Chicago White Sox. Thanks very much for joining us today and good luck in your gig tonight at the Cork & Kerry Pub.

Ms. FAUST: Oh, thank you so much. It's been a pleasure and an honor.

CONAN: OK. Nancy Faust joined us from her home in Illinois.

Like many on the East Coast, I woke up last night at 3:00 in the morning with the TV set still on and wondered who had won the game last night. The 14-inning epic ended shortly after 2. The White Sox won it 7-to-5 and hold a commanding lead in the World Series, three games to none. Our baseball pal Alan Schwarz joins us now. He's a senior writer for Baseball America and author of "The Numbers Game."

And, well, Alan Schwarz, is Nancy Faust, do you think, going to be playing, `Na, na, na, na, goodbye' at the end of the ninth inning tonight?

Mr. ALAN SCHWARZ (Writer, Baseball America; Author, "The Numbers Game"): It certainly doesn't look like it, at least--I mean, at least for--she's not going to be doing it again in Chicago. I don't think the Astros are going to be getting back to Chicago.

CONAN: Now those of us who fell asleep in front of the TV sets last night, as I understand it, you watched last night's game in Montclair, New Jersey, with Yogi Berra.

Mr. SCHWARZ: Yup. Yup. I spent the evening with Yogi, with 80 other fans who got--you know, who played a little money to support his museum and learning center in Montclair, New Jersey, and I was there as fans hung out with Yogi, asked him questions, watched the game. It was really fun.

CONAN: What was the most interesting thing that he said?

Mr. SCHWARZ: Well, you know, he isn't--you know, he isn't just a jukebox of these sayings. You know, the question is, of course, whether he actually did say everything he said, as he put it.

CONAN: Yeah.

Mr. SCHWARZ: But, I mean, I think what happened was a lot of the kids asked him great questions. They said, `Hey, Yog, why'd you always swing at the first pitch?' And he would say, `Well, I didn't always swing at the first pitch, especially in my first at bat. I would want to see what the pitcher had. So I would take some extra pitches.' And some people--you know, when Nolan Ryan went on the screen--'cause he is a consultant for the Astros, of course, a legend in Houston, Yogi talked about how he was a coach with the 1969 Mets. Many people forget that Nolan Ryan was on the amazing Mets in 1969. So Yogi is just this treasure trove of stories and he shared many of them with, you know, just absolutely delighted fans last evening.

CONAN: Mets fans do not forget that they traded Nolan Ryan for Jim Fregosi, one of those trades the Mets will long be hated for by their own fans.

Mr. SCHWARZ: Well, they did trade Ed Hearn for David Cone, so I guess everything evens out over time.

CONAN: Let me ask you, though, that ballgame last night, I think, in fact, all three of these games in the series--you know, three games to none, the White Sox ahead, but all really good games.

Mr. SCHWARZ: Oh, absolutely. It's been a wonderful series. I mean, any real baseball fan can appreciate what's going on. You know, some of the cynics are talking about how the ratings are down because there isn't a Yankee or Red Sox team there. I think that's just silly. You know, a real fan watches these games, stays up a little late to watch them. You know, even though the White Sox are, of course, up three-nothing, it isn't like last year where the Red Sox just splattered the Cardinals. These have been really good games, lots of intrigue. Game two got tied in the ninth inning and then Scott Podsednik, who never hit one home run in the regular season, hits a home run to win it. Last night's game goes 14 innings. You know, it's just wonderful stuff; two pretty even teams playing pretty even baseball, even if the scoring games doesn't necessarily indicate it.

CONAN: And the great thing about games like the one last night, all the stars in the game, in a 14-inning contest, you're going deep into your bullpen, and the last guy on your bench--in this case it was Jeff Blum for the Chicago White Sox gets up in the 14th inning and hits a home run.

Mr. SCHWARZ: Yeah. I have to give some credit to my friend John Thorn, a fellow baseball author who said `the Blum is off the Astros, man.'


Mr. SCHWARZ: So, sorry, John. But, yeah, it's a wonderful--you know, National League Baseball, of course, is definitely more intricate than American League Baseball and for people who don't know, games that are played in National League parks do not have a designated hitter, whereas games in Chicago and other American League parks do have a designated hitter. So there was a lot of talk about how the Astros were going back to sort of a familiar environment where their manager Phil Garner could make all sorts of moves, all sorts of changes, double switches, moving Chris Burke all over the place like a chess piece. But it didn't quite work out for them last night. I mean, I hope the Astros win tonight and maybe even tomorrow night 'cause, you know, you want to see the series go on. Everyone forgets, hey, if there's a sweep, we don't have any baseball until the middle of February when pitchers and catchers report.

CONAN: We're talking with Alan Schwarz, senior writer for Baseball America and also a columnist for the Sunday New York Times sports section. His book is also "The Numbers Game."

You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And, Alan, I did want to ask, a lot of people thought neither of these teams are offensive juggernauts and a lot of people thought, `Well, World Series, everybody manages differently in the World Series. You're getting great pitching from both sides. We're going to have a lot of small-ball, low-scoring games with sacrifice bunts, hit-and-runs, real tactics of the game.' And we're seeing a lot of solo home runs.

Mr. SCHWARZ: Absolutely. And you know, you've let me compliment myself here. I wish you had done it instead of making me do it. But I wrote an article in The New York Times that talked about how the White Sox are a home-run-hitting team. They are not a small-ball team, even though they have a little speed and Ozzie Guillen likes to mix things up a bit. They win games on home runs. You know, the White Sox made the World Series because Paul Konerko hit a couple of long home runs in the championship series, the...

(Soundbite of crashing noise)

Mr. SCHWARZ: Excuse me. I guess there's a little noise on the line here. But...

CONAN: Are they throwing garbage cans or something behind you?

Mr. SCHWARZ: Yeah. Unfortunately, they decided to do that right next to me here. Excuse me, folks. But anyway, Paul Konerko hit, you know, a grand slam in game two and then Scott Podsednik hit a home run to win game two and then Joe Crede hit a home run yesterday. They were always a home run team. They had 200 homers in the regular season. That's about all they do. And that's how they win games is pitching, defense and three-run homers. Sounds a bit like Earl Weaver to me.

CONAN: Yeah. And the odd thing was, again, the--in the series they played against the Red Sox, the White Sox actually hit more home runs this year than the Red Sox. The Red Sox scored a lot more runs, but in terms of homers, the White Sox had just a tiny edge.

Mr. SCHWARZ: Yeah. I mean, a lot of people make such a big deal about small ball in the postseason and that's because small ball's very interesting to second-guess. There's not a whole lot of strategy when you just swing from the heels and either hit a home run or don't. There's not much to parse there. But the fact is that home runs win ballgames. Home runs win ballgames even more in the postseason than they do in the regular season. Small ball is less important, believe it or not, in the postseason than it is in the regular season. That's very counterintuitive to people who listen to Joe Morgan incessantly, but it's really--if you look at the data, if you look at the experience that postseason baseball has, it's undeniably true. And that's why the White Sox are winning right now is they're hitting more home runs than the other team.

CONAN: Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan doing color commentary on ESPN Radio as they follow the game and does, I think, the Sunday night game through most of the year with John Miller.

I did want to ask you, Alan, Bobby Valentine, the former manager of the New York Mets, now the manager of the Chiba Lotte Marines in Japan, and his team just completed a four-game sweep of the Japan series on Wednesday. And he says Japanese professional baseball has closed the gap with the majors. `Watching our guys all season and the World Series on TV, I can tell you the level of play is equal,' Valentine said, and he called for a series between the World Series champion and the Japan series champion. `Such a competition would be great and it's time to do battle,' he said. Any chance of that ever coming to pass?

Mr. SCHWARZ: Well, I mean, what we're going to see next spring is the first of major-league baseball's long awaited series called the World Baseball Classic. We're going to have all-star teams from different countries, the United States, Japan, Dominican Republic, Venezuela and so on, play against each other in the spring. Major-league baseball, I don't think, wants to take the risk of having its world champion getting beaten by the Japanese. Bobby loves to mix things up. Bobby's in Japan right now. Feels very loyal to those folks.

I think Bobby's a great manager and, you know, everyone talked about how when he said back in, I guess it would have been 2000--the end of 2000, when Ichiro Suzuki was coming over to the United States, had not yet played a major-league game, Bobby Valentine went on the record and said, `He's one of the top five players in the world.' Everyone scoffed at him. But as it turns out, the guy was pretty darn good and I think Bobby was vindicated by that. I think if he says that the level of play has gotten a lot higher than the last time he was there, we better take him pretty seriously.

CONAN: He also said they'd make a fortune from the TV, would be the biggest contract ever.

Mr. SCHWARZ: I don't know enough about TV to comment on that. I think it would be a little anti-climactic, personally. I think there's a heck of a lot of intrigue over in Japan that Bobby's assessing. But here in the United States, I'm not sure if it would fall on very interested ears.

CONAN: Alan Schwarz, I hope you don't have to stay up quite so late this evening.

Mr. SCHWARZ: Oh, I hope so, too.

CONAN: Alan Schwarz is a senior writer for Baseball America and the author of "The Numbers Game." And he called us from a--well, apparently an alley in Philadelphia where they're throwing garbage cans around him. He's going to be making a speech at the Wharton School of Business in Pennsylvania this evening.

This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan.

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