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Go to an inauguration and a White Sox game breaks out
By Burt Constable | Associated Press

In 2005, Sen. Barack Obama threw out the first pitch before a White Sox playoff game. Now, as president, he's pitching the Sox to the nation.

 

Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

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Published: 1/22/2009 12:05 AM

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As if he were just another roughed-up Texas Rangers pitcher slinking off the mound at U.S. Cellular Field, President George W. Bush left the White House with the derisive refrain of "Na-Na-Na-Na, Na-Na-Na-Na, Hey, Hey, Hey, Goodbye" accompanying him.

The whirring of the helicopter blades probably kept the former president from hearing the parting shot. But White Sox fans recognized the taunt. They've been singing it to jeer departing opposing pitchers ever since 1977 when White Sox organist Nancy Faust first played Steam's "Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)," and started a tradition that spread across the sports world.

The always respectful Faust, who lives in rural Mundelein, was disappointed to see her fun creation used to heckle the departing leader of the free world.

"It's meant to be a little more lighthearted than you would take it in the presidential setting," Faust says. "It's supposed to be more lighthearted fun for the fans. But I think there were things even a little more harsh being said."

Bush, a former owner of baseball's Rangers who is a friend of White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, might have understood the emotions behind the serenade.

"It's somewhat appropriate because Obama is such a White Sox fan," Faust says.

Boy, oh, boy is Obama a Sox fan.

During the Commander-In-Chief Inaugural Ball, the new president used a satellite hookup with seven members of the Illinois Army National Guard in Afghanistan to promote his Sox.

"This is an important test," Obama told the soldiers. "White Sox or Cubs?"

Staff Sgt. Eric Olvera of Chicago, replied, "Cubs fan, Mr. President." Obama feigned (I think) disgust and said, "Go to the next guy. Let's see if we can find a White Sox fan."

When Sgt. Bernardo Guillen of North Lake (I'm guessing not related to Sox Manager Ozzie) also confessed to being a Cubs fan, Obama said, "This is terrible."

Specialist Melisa Krueger, 29, a department of corrections guard from Naperville, showed the Army's trademark courage when she added "Go, Cubs!" at the end of her chat with Obama.

"Hey!" Obama shouted when Specialist Geovanna Guerra from his home neighborhood of Hyde Park proclaimed her Sox love. "Finally. It's about time."

The time has come for the Sox, too. Having already beaten their crosstown rivals to a World Series championship, some Sox fans still whine about the Cubs being Chicago's favored team. That might change with Obama working to make the Sox America's Team.

Check out Sox beat writer Scot Gregor's story in today's sports section about how the team might ride that Obama wave. As a Cubs fan, I'm a little jealous that the Sox boast Obama as their best-known fan, while North Siders are stuck with the criminally charged Gov. Rod Blagojevich. That has to help the Sox.

"I'm told White Sox hats are selling like hot cakes," says Faust, who is in her 40th season with the Sox and on pace to play for her 3,000th game in 2010. Sales of Sox hats are up 25 percent since the election.

Faust, who grew up in a house across the street from Blagojevich's current Chicago home, is a fan of our new president. And Obama is a fan of Faust.

"I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your talents and artistic contributions as the White Sox organist," Obama wrote in a letter he sent Faust on Dec. 4, 2006, when he was our U.S. senator. "I am one of your many fans, and look forward to catching a game - and enjoying some of your music - next year."

When Obama threw out a ceremonial first pitch at Game 2 of the 2005 American League Championship Series against the Angels, his Sox were down one game to nothing in the best-of-seven series. The Sox won that game 2-1 "and never lost again" on the way to the championship, says Lou Hernandez, director of public relations for the Sox. "That's a heck of a good luck charm."

If the planets align, maybe President Obama could throw out a first pitch for the White Sox home opener on April 6, or, as Faust is quick to add, a playoff game or a World Series game.

"Now I can play my 'Hail to the Chief,'" notes Faust, who played "We're Loyal to You, Illinois" when welcoming Sen. Obama to the ballpark. "On a lighter note, I would somehow try to fit in 'Solid as a Rock' from that 'Solid as Barack' parody on 'Saturday Night Live.'"

While Faust enjoys the rivalries between Cubs fans and Sox fans, she says patriotism is different from fandom. Echoing Obama, she says the nation most come together to solve our problems as one nation of united Americans.

"We like to think we are more unified than baseball fans," Faust says, "because we're going to need it."