Musical selfies

August 5, 2015 • Posted in baseball, blindness, Mike Knezovich, Uncategorized by

In case you missed it, my friend Nancy Faust was featured in an article in last Sunday’s New York Times. Wow. What a fantastic lead sentence to this blog post. What is astounding about that sentence is not that the retired White Sox organist was featured in The Times, but that I can honestly and sincerely call a famous and talented woman like her my friend.

Nancy graciously took time out on her last day at White Sox Park to talk with me (and Hanni, of course).

Nancy comes to my book events when she can. These days I go to hear her play at venues outside of White Sox Park and spend time between tunes talking politics with her husband Joe. She and I keep in touch via email, and she follows our Safe & Sound blog, too – hi, Nancy!

Nancy Faust retired from the White Sox in 2010, and after 41 years, 13 managers and a World Series title, it’s a well-deserved retirement. Still, I gotta say, visits to the ballpark the past five years just haven’t been as fun as they used to be. It’s not that the team is doing poorly – a baseball fan gets used to that – I just miss the way Nancy played the organ during games.

My relationship with Nancy Faust started on that summer day in 1985 when my eye surgeon told Mike and me that none of the surgeries they tried had worked. The two of us were uncharacteristically silent as we started home, until we got to Comiskey Park and Mike noticed the White Sox were playing. “Wanna go?”

Going to a ballgame after learning I’d be blind for the rest of my life might sound like a strange thing to do, but it beat heading home and sitting on our pitiful second-hand couch and wondering where to turn next. “Between bites and gulps and giving me play by play, Mike bantered with other fans, cursing the underachievers on the team,” I wrote in my memoir, Long Time, No See. “I laughed at the tunes selected by Nancy Faust, the Sox organist-she’s famous for picking songs that play on player’s names.”
I stopped by Nancy Faust’s booth at White Sox Park in 2003 after Long Time, No See was published to sign a copy for her. She was tickled to see her name right there in print in my memoir, and I was tickled to have the opportunity to thank her personally for helping me track what was happening on the field. A friendship was born. Now, a dozen years later, Sunday’s New York Times article credited Nancy Faust for reinventing the role of a ballpark organist by incorporating rock and pop songs into her repertoire:

Faust played songs for the fans, for the moment. She did not think players found her music helpful; they had enough to worry about, she thought.

“I didn’t do it for the player; I was there for the enjoyment of the fans,” Faust said.

And boy oh boy, did I enjoy it. When Nancy Faust was at the organ and played Johnny Cash’s “I Walk the Line,” I knew it was ball four. When she played Michael Jackson’s “Somebody’s Watching me,” I knew there’d been a pickoff throw. If she played The Kinks “You Really Got me,” I knew the pick-off play was a success.

Nancy helped me identify who was batting by teasing the player’s name with a tune. Mike’s all-time favorite was the one for Gary Disarcina. No, it wasn’t “Gary, Indiana” from the Music Man. That is wayyyy too obvious. It was “Have you Seen Her?” by the Chi-Lites. As for me, I always loved it when Travis Hafner was in town. At the last Cleveland Indians game I went to, she played “Bunny Hop” for his first at bat, and then J. Geils “Centerfold” “his next time up.

Now this Sunday New York Times story tells me we have Hafner’s Cleveland Indians to blame for the obnoxious loud rock music we hear over the speakers during ballgames – Cleveland was the first MLB team to let their players choose their own walk-up songs. Nancy Faust was still playing for the White Sox when that started happening, and from that point on they had her play walk-up music on the organ only for opposing players. A stadium D.J. controlled the songs for White Sox players from then on. The Sunday New York Times article was about the “surprisingly long, intricate history of walk-up music,” and I absolutely loved this part where Nancy Faust likens the DJ recorded versions as Musical Selfies:

This new approach, she said, eliminated spontaneity, and maybe enthusiasm. “If you have momentum going, and you’ve got three guys on base and the next guy comes up to bat, and you’ve got the fans going crazy — and it all stops to listen to what I might liken to a musical selfie?” Faust said. “It just stops the momentum. And then you’ve got to hope you can get it going again.”

I know what she means. I sure have had trouble getting my Major League Baseball momentum going again since Nancy Faust left in 2010. The article reports on how she retired to fanfare — the White Sox unveiled a plaque for her at a ceremony before one of her final games, and Nancy Faust bobbleheads were handed out the same day. The New York Times said, “Faust, who grew up in Chicago and still lives there, had become a White Sox icon.”

I’m glad the New York Times had the wisdom to interview her for Sunday’s story, and I can only imagine the tune she is playing in her head as she reads this blog post of mine. Rolling Stones “Miss you,” perhaps?

lydiahoover12 On August 5, 2015 at 6:59 pm

That’s awesome and I admire Nancy’s ideas. She sounds like a great person.

bethfinke On August 5, 2015 at 7:17 pm

You’re right. She is! A nnice person, I mean. and here is another idea she used that I think you’ll like, Lydia: a player named Jason Giambi used to play for the Yankees, and when he was in town Nancy Faust would play the theme from “Pee-Wee’s Playhouse” any time he came to bat. The reason she played Pee Wee’s Playhouse theme song for Giambi? A character on the show is named “Jambi.”


Elliott Goodman On August 5, 2015 at 7:16 pm

It sounds like your friend, Nancy Faust, has had a very interesting life. I hope that she continues to enjoy life’s challenges.

bethfinke On August 5, 2015 at 10:21 pm

Yes, let’s hope Nancy’s biggest challenge these days is fighting the urge to run to her keyboard at home and play “Batman” anytime White Sox players Adam La Roche or Adam Eaton are mentioned on TV.!


Sue Doyle On August 5, 2015 at 8:25 pm

One of your all-time best, Beth!! Almost makes me feel like I know Nancy. Like you, she’s one of the best!! Kudos…

Sue Doyle

bethfinke On August 5, 2015 at 10:32 pm

Aw, shucks. I’ll never forget our tailgate with bartnder Billy Balducci before a Sox game — that’s where I got ot know you, Sue, and we have the White Sox to thank for that. Keep on reading (and responding) to our blog, it makes Mike and me feel good —

Mel Theobald On August 5, 2015 at 8:43 pm

Beth, what a wonderful inside story. I never knew that about Nancy’s song selections. Nor did I know how much you know about baseball. No wonder you keep going back. Loved reading this.

bethfinke On August 5, 2015 at 10:36 pm

Thanks, Mel. A lot of what I know about baseball has to do with Nancy Faust

Cheryl On August 5, 2015 at 9:07 pm

Thank you, “Nancy, With The Laughing Face”. You’ve brought many smiles to you’re fans:)

bethfinke On August 5, 2015 at 11:07 pm

What a privilege to have a private concert with Nancy Faust at that Cougar game last year. Such an appropriate thing to do when we were adjusting to the new reality of Life without Flo. Thanks to Nancy I felt like Flo was there with us at that game last year, enjoying it and laughing as much as we were. FloFest ’96!


Nancy B On August 6, 2015 at 6:44 am

What a nice article about her, I was lucky to see her with you and Mike during that last year of the Sox gigs. Nice letter from Mr. Obama too! Makes me kinda sad that all the tunes are ‘canned’ now.

bethfinke On August 6, 2015 at 8:00 am

Truth is, the White Sox *do* still have an organist (I think her name is Laurie something?) but fans rarely get to hear her play,

Most of it coverd up by canned music. Never do you hear something akin to, say, Nancy Faust’s rendering of “A Whiter Shade of Pale” for a player named Henry Blanco!


Robert Ringwald On August 6, 2015 at 9:50 am

Hi Beth,

I deplore the terrible, loud Rock music that is played over the P.A. system at Dodger stadium these days. Sometimes I wonder if the organist is really there.

I presume the only reason a ball park still has an organist is the musician’s union probably requires that the team hire one musician.

The organist at Dodger Stadium has so little to do these days that they could just record the National Anthem and the various fanfares and let the organist stay at home.

Another thing that bothers me is the constant booms, clicks, clack, enticements to get the fans to clap, cheer, etc. The constant noise is really distracting and annoying to me.

However, I do realize that times are changing, I’m an ol’ fart and baseball is trying to create the excitement that other faster moving sports already have built in.

But, baseball has so many subtle things going on all of the time that most fans are not even aware of. It is a shame we can’t just sit and watch the game and not have to be bombarded by all that racket.

To me, baseball is the best entertainment you can have with yur clothes on.

-Bob Ringwald

bethfinke On August 6, 2015 at 12:05 pm

Maybe if you threaten to Take your clothes off at the next Dodgers game they Will listen to you

Sent from my iPhone, aren’t you impressed?


nancyfaustjenkins On August 17, 2015 at 8:32 am

Beth- Yes we do follow your blog, tho clearly let it slide too long as I did not acknowledge your piece that ranks up there with the very most rewarding and meaningful of my entire career. Joe and Eric totally understand that after having heard me talk of you and then finally being able to spend time with you and your family. You exude the qualities that make all feel so privileged to be your friend .
I can not tell you a better career moment than having you enter my booth with your dog ( which was my tipoff that I finally actually could be meeting the person responsible for making the most complimentary statements to a Trib reporter years before that live encounter.) I so wanted to meet and thank you for your positive comments. .
Well now I know our friendship has gone beyond a “thank you” . As they say. trrue friendships don”t happen over night . It was worth the wait and will continue far beyond retirement.
Nancy Faust

nancyfaustjenkins On August 17, 2015 at 12:35 pm

Oh, and anohther thing Beth. The New York Times reporter had originally called me only for a couple of quotes for a profile he was writing on the Mets dee jay. When I told you that there were more things I could have said , it was your encouragement that convinced me to call him BACK with my addiditonal thoughts. You told me a reporter would appreciate that. I followed your advice and that resulted in the separate article . Just had it framed and we ultimately have you to thank.
So friends, when in doubt, ASK BETH !

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