Hard times make White Sox warmer

Last Friday, Kenny Williams tried his hand at improv comedy in a Second City show benefiting Gilda’s Club.  Scott Reifert said he was trying to track down the video, but nothing has turned up thus far.
On the surface, Williams and comedy is a fairly unusual combination. However, something hit me after reading this line by Scott Merkin:

But how about Ken Williams, Improv comedian or Improv actor?
Well, I would put that description right up there with the likelihood of ‘Ken Williams, lover of blogs.’

Williams might be the last person you’d associate with light-hearted laughs, but it’s not that foreign a concept when tying it to a number of other events and developments concerning the White Sox organization. Maybe it’s just me, but it seemed like they made a conspicuously strenuous attempt to make customers feel good. If 2005’s Journey song was “Don’t Stop Believin’,” 2009’s song was “Open Arms.”
Actually, you could say Williams started the warm and fuzzies at SoxFest when he invited a 12-year-old on stage after he engaged in an entertaining back-and-forth with Ozzie Guillen, so it’s fitting to see Williams cap off the season by stepping out of character for charity.
The Sox extended fan outreach in a number of other ways thereafter:
*The “White Sox traditions” ad campaign, which began with a caricaturish approach similar to the South Side Tourism Board campaign a few years ago, ended up incorporating average fan stories accompanied by a gentle piano.
*They ramped up their social media efforts. Reifert and Southpaw were all over Twitter. Hawk Harrelson routinely asked Steve Stone about “the Twitter,” although Stone is more for preaching than interacting. Even Joey Cora and Oney Guillen allowed fans to see them spar verbally and criticize members of the team before their toys were taken away.
The Sox PR department went so far as to organize an outing for their Tweeps, one of two group outings dedicated to its online community.
*They invited bloggers to a ballgame. Williams may not care for blogs, but the Sox made their first effort to embrace the independent media in May, inviting about a dozen of us to talk to Rick Hahn, Brooks Boyer and Moose Skowron, then watch a ballgame from a suite.
Hahn also made an appearance for Baseball Prospectus night, another group with which the Sox had a formerly cold relationship.
Throw in a lot of charity work and small gestures, as well as a couple stories I’ve heard about tremendous customer service, and the Sox front office definitely gave off a different vibe this season, compared to previous years.
Of course, it’s not by coincidence that this all took place in the worst economy in decades, and with a baseball team that often left fans wondering why they bothered paying to watch.
Would the Sox have arranged a big group hug for Mark Buehrle if the Sox weren’t struggling to fill the lower bowl for a series against the Royals?
Would the Sox acknowledge lowly bloggers if newspapers weren’t facing steep declines in ad revenue, with the Daily Herald unable to send reporters on the road and the Tribune and Sun-Times racing each other to oblivion?
While we’ll never know for sure, I’d venture to say, “probably not.” The Sox reverted to their old ways a few times this year, whether it was Jerry Reinsdorf acting surprised that fans weren’t eager to pay twice as much as they used to for exhibition games at spring training, or Williams bemoaning the turnout for a midsummer series against the Dodgers when the marketing department grossly mispriced it.
Not that anybody could expect tigers to change their stripes that easily.  Williams’ bristly exterior and Reinsdorf’s reclusiveness serves as an effective combination more often than not, as it allows the former to make ballsy moves, and the latter to trust them.
Given their desire to run the tightest ship in the big leagues, it’s surprising the marketing folks have made any headway in making the White Sox a more inclusive brand.
The question is whether these efforts will remain when the economy rebounds.  The bad news is that it’ll probably be another year before anybody has to address that issue. Reinsdorf braced for a rough 2010 before the 2009 season started, and if the current state is any indication, the Sox marketing department will have to continue extending itself to bring Sox fans to the park.
You won’t even have to wait ’til next season to try to spot further changes. If this economy continues to suck, the SoxFest Q&A session should tell us a lot about attitudes on both sides come January.
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Arizona Fall League:

  • Peoria Javelinas 17, Peoria Saguaros 9
    • Big day for Dayan Viciedo, who went 3-for-5 with a homer, a walk and two RBI. He struck out once.
    • Rough day for Jacob Rasner, who allowed four runs on four hits and a walk while just retiring one batter.
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Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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pander

But I just read somewhere that Viciedo was cold and bound to be cut from the team after his shameful 0-3 start…
I hated the over-the-top “Traditions” commercials. Ha ha it’s a 20-something wearing a child’s top, ha ha ha ha shoot me.

blah

The one with A.J. was hilarious though.

blah

As was the Sodfather one…

The rest were really, really stupid. They still weren’t as bad as seeing Swish doing the worm in the outfield.

grinderintraining

This may explain their poor season.

whitesoxcards

If the economy doesn’t rebound, maybe the “fringe” White Sox bloggers with almost daily content will get an invite in 2010.
Eh, probably not.

bigsether

Jim!!! It’s good to be back. I took some time off of reading sports things while I was at work, but I’m back at it and hooked on Sox Machine again. With Jim Thome gone, I’m not sure I’ll have too much to say. I guess I kind of hate Alex Rios and Bobby Jenks. Maybe I’ll bitch and moan about them? Who knows?

sophist

I haven’t twittered Stoney, but somebody needs to put his website out of its misery.

duke

Do you mean that 2009’s song was “Open Arms”?

knoxfire30

the 2009 song was also beckhams, “your love” by the outfield

conor

I just heard Stone say that 48% of the 2009 playoff teams are comprised of successful Arizona Fall League players. Maybe Kenny wasn’t so silly?