In the “you can’t change your history, so let’s embrace it, especially when it makes fantastic experiences” vein, I’d like to share something from our past that yesterday brought perhaps the single greatest joy I’ve experienced in Florida from being a participant of Jim Margalus’ fun. For you newbies and memory care unit residents like Jimmy and gibster, 10 years ago Alexei Ramirez, with the help of fellow Cubano Jose Contreras, joined the White Sox as a skinny rookie. Once he settled in as a regular shortstop after a failed CF experiment he quickly became my favorite Sox on our 2008 playoff team. His streakiness, his ability to make sensational plays followed by absolute brain farts endeared him to many of us.
One night during a gamethread we participants (we used to have hundreds of comments a night, especially during a playoff run, front-runners we Sox fans tend to be) were discussing the Cuban side of this equation and were brainstorming nicknames for Alexei. “The Cuban Missile” had already been picked out by the Sox PR department but it seemed entirely unsatisfying. Alexei weighed a good 160 lbs soaking wet after a swim to Miami, so how “missile-y” could he be? Plus it seemed insensitive to the folks mentioned earlier in the memory care units who experienced the actual Cuban Missile crisis in 1962, probably triggering the “duck and cover” routine we were all taught in school those years. (I still use that during arguments with my wife these very days.)
The ideas were flowing like Old Style in 1977 Comiskey Park, fast, furious, and sloppily, as many of us were trashed. I don’t recall who brought it up, but the name “Che”, for the Bernie Sanders hero Che Guevara, seemed to resonate. As quickly as you can say “Photoshop”, our Boss, Jim Margalus, superimposed Alexei’s goofy PR picture (smiling like a short-bussed Corky) with Che Guevara’s hair and hat outline, with the Sox ballcap logo on it. I literally spit whatever I was drinking and laughed so hard I had tears coming out of my eyes. The funniest thing ever on SSS at that time, and for me perhaps ever.
There seemed to be no time to lose. Feverishly, with entrerpreneurial elan (and without billyok’s help, strangely enough) a t-shirt was fashioned. It was perfect. I ended up buying 20 and distributing all but one – it helped me recognize larry at a Rays-Sox playoff game later that year in Tampa, as he was proudly wearing it as a means of identification and cult membership to a nutball group (Sox fans and Soxmachine/SSS).
Roll forward to this week. Wednesday I played hooky and took my kid to a Tiggers-Spanks game and wore the shirt. A guy who just moved from Mundelein to Tampa a month ago and whose gal pal worked at John Crane packing in Niles, where I spent a summer back in college 40+ years ago, made comment – a fellow Sox fan in the midst of all these Spanks/Rays idiots. So the cosmic tumblers are starting to click into place for something even greater, right?
Right. Yesterday I returned to George Fucking Steinbrenner field to see the Spanks-Rays game with 6 other buddies. I wore the freshly washed shirt again. Because that’s how I roll. As my carload of knuckleheads waited for the main knucklhead who had our tickets at the will-call window we’re hanging out at the end of the overpass above Dale Mabry Blvd. A fairly inebriated guy staggers up to me and says “WHERE THE FUCK DID YOU GET THAT SHIRT?”, emphasis on the all caps. I told him the story (with greater brevity than here) and he drunkenly exclaimed again “WHERE THE FUCK DID YOU GET THAT SHIRT?” He than asked to take a picture of me and the shirt. “I’M GOING TO PUT YOUR FACE IN THE PICTURE. NO, I’M NOT. WAIT, TURN AROUND SO I CAN GET THE BACK. WAIT, TURN A LITTLE TO THE SIDE SO I CAN GET A GOOD ANGLE.” My buddies are looking a bit uncomfortable, unsure as to whether or not this guy will be posting pictures under a fetish Website (as they told me later), but the guy was about my age, well dressed, and not a threat.
After humoring/modeling for about 45 seconds I was finished with the display. he then takes his phone and says “this is why I wanted to take the pictures”. He pages through his album and lo and behold, a picture of him, flanked by Alexei and Jose Contreras, pops up. All are in tuxedos, the drunk guy has his arms around both of them in that familiar way, and they are all beaming. Turns out it was at Che’s WEDDING. The guy happens to be a pediatrician in Chicago and has delivered Alexei’s American-born kids (he now has a 5th child, I’m told).
Wear Soxmachine stuff proudly. You never know what stories you’ll influence.