If you went to a White Sox home game between 1970 and 2010, or if you’re currently a Kane County Cougars fan, chances are good you’ve heard Nancy Faust doing her thing on the organ.
Now, the Mundelein resident, who introduced rock songs to the ball park and received a letter from Sox fan President Obama when she retired, has shared her memories as part of the commemorative book “Old Comiskey Park” — along with recollections from the like of Sox star Ron Kittle.
She will also perform at a launch party for the book Aug. 20 at the 19th Century Charitable Association building in Oak Park, and recently spoke about music, baseball and 41 seasons at Comiskey.
Q. For some people, being paid to be at Comiskey Park year after year would be a dream come true. How did you feel when you got the job?
A. Ironically, I wasn’t even a baseball fan at the time. My father was from Sweden, so he was into soccer, but we weren’t a sports-oriented family. I remember, when they turned on the air-raid sirens in 1959 to celebrate the White Sox winning the pennant, we thought it was the Russians attacking, because of the Cold War.
So, it was just a job for me in the beginning. I looked at it as a way to make a living, though there were many aspects of it that I came to love. Eventually, I realized it was quite a luxury to be able to make a living from something I enjoyed so much.
Q. Had you originally to do something else? Become a church organist, perhaps?
A. No, I don’t read music much and I don’t play classical music. Only popular music. Anything I hear, I can play. I was actually planning to become a teacher.
I got the job because my mother was a musician and I used to fill in for her sometimes. And on one of those jobs, Stu Holcomb (White Sox general manager at the time, ed.) saw me and encouraged me to apply.
Q. What did the job consist of? Were you given specific musical cues to play whenever certain things happened?
A. No, I was free to be as creative as I wanted, as long as it didn’t interfere with the game, and I really enjoyed that. I played for about an hour while people entered the park. Then I played the national anthem and I played anytime there wasn’t activity on the field. It was just me, the announcer and the ball game.
I played whatever was popular at the time, songs like “Alleycat,” “Copacabana,” whatever was on the radio. I introduced a lot of rock music into ball games — Aerosmith, Mick Jagger, anything people were listening to. That was unusual at the time. I even got a gold record from Mercury Records for helping to re-popularize the ‘Na Na Hey Hey Goodbye” song. (Laughs) Yes, that was me.
Q. Did you enjoy it?
A. Oh yes. It was a challenge and it was a good showcase for my particular talents. It was right up my alley.
I especially enjoyed interacting with the fans. That really took off when the organ was moved to behind home plate from the center field stands and I was surrounded by so many people. A lot of them were season ticket holders, so they became people I’d see and talk with regularly, year after year. It was like a family.
Q. Do you have memories of any particular games?
A. I remember big ones like all-star games and, of course, the World Series, but otherwise I mainly remember things that happened during games, like Mark Buehrle pitching a no-hitter. Things like that stand out.
When they won the World Series, that was a highlight, of course. The thing I remember most about it, though, was the victory parade and the swarms of people who showed up — Sox fans and Cub fans. And I played organ at the ceremony. I was so proud to be a Chicagoan that day, and to be affiliated with the White Sox.
I do remember Disco Demolition, though, that Steve Dahl thing. That was really something. I remember a group of nuns sitting near the organ thinking everybody was yelling “Let’s go Sox” when they were yelling “disco sucks.” (Laughs) So they started yelling, “Let’s go Sox!”
At “Old Comiskey Park” book launch
19th Century Charitable Association, 178 Forest Ave., Oak Park
6 to 9 p.m. Aug. 20
Admission is free; $10 donation requested