Since the beginning of my White Sox allegiance (circa 1958), it seems that there has always been the distinctive and energizing sound of organ music as part of the soundtrack of every game—enjoyed in person or, most often, across the many miles via radio and/or TV.
However, my research has led me to discover that it was the 1960 season when the inimitable owner, Bill Veeck, “installed” the first organ at Comiskey Park, one year after the Sox pennant-winning season. According to an article in the Hammond Times (Vol. 22, No. 3 1960), Veeck had the Comiskey Park technicians build a platform way out in the center field bleachers just in front of his “fabulous scoreboard” and rig all of the wiring for the new Hammond organ in a single night and have it ready for the next day’s game. The brand new organ was dedicated at a special ceremony during the White Sox-Kansas City double-header the next day, Sunday, August 14, 1960.
That first organist was a virtuoso performer, Shay Torrent, who would remain the Sox organist through 1964 when he moved on to become the California Angels’ organist. Torrent was replaced by Bob Creed, who served in that capacity until the 1970 season. And that’s when the legendary Nancy Faust entered the picture and remained there until “retiring” following the 2010 season.
I remember seeing Nancy during that first season in 1970. She was a tiny speck way out there in her little booth in the center field bleachers, alone, mostly because of the meager attendance the Sox managed to draw. The Sox weren’t very good, but Nancy Faust always provided the backdrop and an upbeat tempo from beginning to end.
The magic Nancy’s music seemed to create began early on, and it wasn’t long before Nancy’s organ perch was moved closer to civilization, just below and to the left of the broadcast booth where it would remain until the park’s demolition in 1991.
Soon, legendary Sox announcer Harry Caray began to work with Nancy during games—especially with the routine of her playing and his “singing” of Take Me Out to the Ballgame during the 7th inning stretch. It became an instant hit, one that would become a staple for years to come. Nancy became as much a feature at Comiskey Park (old and new) as any of the players, coaches, or managers. Often, Nancy was the best thing about going to a game!
As far as I’m concerned, there was nothing better than the music that accompanied batting practice and in between innings, providing so many golden moments throughout the course of game after game—whether I was at the ballpark or tuned in somewhere distant. Hearing the fabulous organ in the background was comforting and something that was uniquely White Sox. There was never any doubt where the game was being played when I heard that beautiful Comiskey Park organ!
Thank you Shay Torrent, Bob Creed, and Nancy Faust.
See you at the ballpark….CortlandWriter