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Andy the Clown circa 1983

Andy the Clown circa 1983 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I first heard Andy the Clown from many miles away during White Sox radio broadcasts that I’d pick up from my home in Indiana. Later, I’d hear his distinct yell of Go…you…White Sox!” from far away in Ashland, Ohio, where we’d moved the summer I was fourteen. There was no doubt about Andy’s presence at any Sox home game, as his high-volume, stretched-out scream of “Come…on…(player’s name)!” His piercing yell would last and last, changing several octaves along the way. And it didn’t matter from what part of the large, old Comiskey Park he’d yell, there was no missing him.

His voice was as much a part of the Comiskey Park crowd noise during broadcasts as was the exploding scoreboard after each Sox’ homerun. I never really knew who the person was with the leather lungs that I’d hear during every game, but I’d eventually learn about Andy the Clown and come face-to-face with him over the next several years.

It must have been the summer of ’68, after I’d graduated from high school and had moved to Chicago, when I met Andy the Clown, up close and personal! My dad and I had just entered the park and were making our way down the crowded, narrow concourse below the stands. Just as we were about to climb the short flight of steps that would take us to our seats behind home plate, we were approached by a clown wearing a bowler hat and a polka-dotted clown suit with a nose that would light up whenever someone would shake Andy’s hand.

And once he had our attention, he couldn’t wait to pull a favorite trick on me, one that I’d see him do over and over again through the years. I was the unsuspecting victim this time as he excitedly pointed to the ground where there lay a five-dollar bill just waiting to be picked up by some eager person. Thinking that it was going to be my lucky night at the ballgame, I bent to pick up the money, but I was not quick enough as it snapped straight up into the clown’s hand. He chuckled, his nose blinking on and off, and I think he muttered something like “Gotcha!” before laughing loudly and sauntering off to see if he could fool some other rube.

From that moment, I always looked for Andy the Clown whenever I’d enter the park and actually keep an eye on him throughout the ballgame. There wasn’t a section in Comiskey that he didn’t roam to and spend some time yelling and directing the various sections in his trademarked “Go…You…White Sox!”

Andy the Clown’s real name was Andrew Rozdilsky, Jr. He was never really an “official” employee of the White Sox, but owner Bill Veeck, was never one to turn away a character who entertained and added some more quirkiness to the Comiskey Park experience. When Veeck sold the team to the Allyn brothers in 1961, Andy continued right on course, and remained the same after Veeck re-purchased the Sox in 1975. According to Wikipedia, despite his unofficial employee status, Andy did receive free admission, and he was well-known for unofficial appearances at hospitals and charity events.

Andy was there during the heyday years of “fun out at the old ballpark.” Harry Caray and Jimmy Piersall, as well as organist Nancy Faust, were oftentimes more entertaining than the team itself! And Andy added lots of flavor to the fun and frolic of Comiskey Park.

The beginning of the end came in 1981 when Veeck sold the Sox to Jerry Reinsdorf and Eddie Einhorn, who had their sights set on a new image and direction for the team. Sadly, Andy the Clown had no place in the plans that were going forward. Eventually, he was prohibited from appearing at games in his clown costume when the White Sox moved into the New Comiskey Park in 1991. The team “retired” Andy the Clown and presented him with a plaque for all his years of service, their way of shuffling him out the door! Every now and then, Andy would attend games and pose for pictures with fans and accept their tips, much to the consternation of ownership. Andy’s thirty-year run cheering and yelling for the White Sox was over.

On September 21, 1995, at the age of 77, Andy suffered a heart attack at his home on Chicago’s South Side. Andy’s famous ear-shattering voice was finally silenced for good, but through the many days and nights I sit and listen to White Sox games, I know that he’s out there cheering and directing and imploring the Sox to get a move on and win the game. And, perhaps, he’s lining up one more unsuspecting Sox fan with his “money trick.”

See you at the ballpark!