White Sox Organist Retires After 41 Years | WBEZ
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Eight Forty-Eight

White Sox Organist Retires After 41 Years

Since the 1940s the ballpark organ has been one of the louder fans at the game. But that's changing. This season only about half of the 30 major league teams still had live organists. The real-deals are gradually being replaced by DJs and canned music. The Chicago Cubs and the White Sox still have organists. But one long time legend of the pipes is retiring. For WBEZ, Philip Graitcer has this tribute to Nancy Faust, who's spent 41 seasons with the White Sox.

Announcer: White sox fans, it's time to play ball! [organ fanfare]

Nancy Faust planned to be a school teacher. But she knew how to play the organ and she knew how to play baseball songs. So, her college friends – some of whom were avid baseball fans – encouraged her to apply for a job as a ballpark organist. They wrote letters – to both the Cubs and the Sox – on her behalf. And in 1970, Sox manager Stu Holcomb called Faust up and told her the job was hers.

Up until then, she'd only attended one game in her whole life.

FAUST: So I came in no knowing what to do exactly, but the organ was located in center field bleachers. What I did then was mainly play songs that reflected the towns that the ballplayers were from, the states. If Bill Melton was from California, I'd play, "California, Here I come." But since then, I've branched out and I do more crazy, far out things...

[organ]

FAUST: That's the Yanks are coming over there, because the Yanks are coming up to bat. [crowd ohs...organ begins playing Batman] He just threw his bat [Norwegian wood] Maybe a bat is made out of Norwegian wood, maybe it isn't but today it will be.

Faust, blonde and diminutive sits in the organ booth located right behind home plate. As an official member of the team, she owns a World Series ring and it's displayed prominently on her right hand. Dozens of fans are lined up to say hello and suggest songs to play when the visiting players come up to bat. Today, the Sox are playing the Yankees.

FAN: Can you play Mrs. Robinson for Canoe Robinson, er, Robinson Canoe? And also Inagagdavida for Gardner.

announcer: Robinson Cano [organ plays Mrs. Robinson]

FAUST: I hope that fan was listening, heh, heh.

After 41 seasons, Faust knows a lot of fans.

FAN: My name's Paul Gustilise, Nancy knows me. I say 'hi' to her all the time, she knows my family Christina and Kerstin and my nephew Steven. My dad, even though he's a Cubs fan, we'd go up on the third base side, stand in line and say high to Nancy. Hearing her play, it's just....it reminds me of baseball, its like old school baseball, it's just... and the crowd's always more into it for her compared to the piped in music, I just...definitely going to miss her.

[organ plays Zorba the Greek] For the past four decades, Faust's life has revolved around baseball and the Sox. She set her wedding date to coincide with a White Sox road trip. Until just recently, she'd only missed five games when she gave birth to her son, Eric, who's now 27. Eric even took his first steps at the old Cominisky Park.

The fans' lives have revolved around Faust, too.

FAUST: I'm working on my third generation here. Like I say, it is mind-boggling. I've followed generations in terms of births and deaths and marriages and divorces. You know you see it all happen, and the sad thing is that I'll come back in the spring and I'll find that some of the old timers are no longer with us, but then I am greeted by the new babies too. You see life happening right before your eyes. I'm the constant. I think there's a comfort in having a constant in life, and I provide that for some at the ballpark.

But the baseball experience is changing, she thinks her time is up.

FAUST: When I started playing here back in 1970, the entertainment consisted solely of the organ music, but I always made time for the PA announcer to announce the next batter. Things have changed drastically since then. It's been an evolution, it's for the better because more people can be entertained with a variety of tools out there. We have the scoreboard games, the razes, quizzes, dancing, just a myriad of entertainment that wasn't available in those days. And the sounds that you hear eventually at the park could be the sounds you are hearing at any sport, any mall, any nightclub. It's just kind of lost its individuality.

[organ – happy trails]

FAUST: The guy, I think he tried to steal a base, they got him. So its happy trails to you, because he's a bad guy. He's a yankee. …

But still, Faust will miss coming to the ball park

FAUST: What I will miss most is the fan interaction, the identity I have here being surrounded by people that are enjoying themselves, all passionate, all loving the White Sox, all making wonderful memories, that's a great atmosphere. I kinda laugh to myself, my husband Joe, and my son Eric have endured countless days and nights of my practicing at home so that I could come here with my best act, so that I could go to work, and I think, I really wasn't going to work. I had them fooled. What I really did, I wasn't going to work, I was leaving the house and going straight to a grand party. This is a grand party.

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