Thursday, May 13, 2010
By Chuck Garfien
The calendar might say it's 2010, but if you're watching or listening to White Sox games this weekend, they will both have a 1990s flare to them.
No, I'm not talking about the return of Mike Caruso or the "Deacon" Warren Newson.
Not sure if we could handle that.
Instead, calling the three games in Kansas City with Hawk Harrelson will be Sox legend and my CSN buddy Frank Thomas, who will be subbing for Steve Stone.
Meanwhile on the radio side, coming back after an 11-year absence, will be former Sox player, broadcaster, and eternal comedian Tom Paciorek, who will be filling in for Darrin Jackson for both the Kansas City and Detroit series.
Before he hopped on a plane for KC, I caught up with the man we all know as "Wimpy", to talk about the White Sox, his broadcasting career, maybe the greatest draft class in the history of sports (his in 1968), and why his baseball cards are only going for one dollar on eBay. Okay I lied. 1.25.
Chuck Garfien: How excited are you to be coming back, calling games with Ed Farmer in the White Sox radio booth?
Tom Paciorek: Im really excited, Chuck. It came out of the blue to be honest. Bob Grim (Sox Senior Director of Business Development and Broadcasting) called me a couple days ago and asked if Id be interested in subbing for Darrin Jackson. I really jumped at the opportunity to do those games in Kansas city and Detroit. The biggest thrill for me this week is to be able to work with my old friend Ed Farmer. You know Farmio didnt invent the curveball he just perfected it. Im really stoked about this whole thing.
CG: In the back of your mind, have you wanted to get back into broadcasting?
TP: Well, the last time I did any broadcasting work was in 2006 with the Washington Nationals. We didnt have a real good year (71-91) and I didnt think they should blame the whole year on me! I had a lot of fun doing it, and I wanted to get back into it. I tried in a couple different areas. Tampa Bay had an opening and MLB Network, but I didnt really get much of a response from them so I was pretty content to sit back and coach the Pine Crest Academy Middle School team (here in Cumming, Georgia) to a last place finish. We had five teams in our division and four of them made the playoffs. You can guess which team didnt make it. But we did have four wins this year which is one more than we had last year.
CG: From what you have seen from the White Sox, are you surprised that theyve struggled like they have out of the gate?
TP: I really am surprised that theyre struggling because I look at their starting rotation and I really like the guys. When you have guys like Peavy and Buehrle at the top of the rotation, you got to figure youre not going to go into an extended losing streak.
As for the hitting, Im really surprised especially since U.S. Cellular is one of the better hitters ballparks that the team hasnt hit the ball well. But they will. Theyll get it going. Ozzie will get them fired up. I think it will be a three-team race in that AL Central before its over.
CG: But when you see a team eight games back in the middle of May, it can be difficult to feel confident that a team can turn it around.
TP: Heck no. Thats nothing. The White Sox are a team that is really capable, when you combine their pitching power and defensive abilities, they could go on a 10-game winning streak and that wouldnt surprise me one bit.There are a lot of good teams out there. I dont think there are a lot of great ones. Theres no 1927 Yankees out there. So once a team gets a hot, and puts a good winning streak together, theyll get back right into the thick of things. The Sox have much more talent than their record would indicate.
CG: So I want to bring up the 1968 baseball draft. You were picked in the fifth round by the Dodgers.
TP: That was a pretty good draft.
CG: Yeah, Id say so. Im looking at it right now on the computer. Can you name the guys who were drafted in your class?
TP: It was amazing. Bobby Valentine, Bill Buckner, Steve Garvey, Ron Cey, Joe Ferguson, Davey Lopes. A pitcher named Sandy Vance.
CG: There was also Doyle Alexander, Ed Ott, Geoff Zahn. An amazing 14 players ended up making it to the major leagues.
TP: It was a great draft and fortunately for all of us, we got to play for Tommy Lasorda in Rookie Ball in Ogden, Utah. It was funny. The first thing we did when we got there, he told us to get a piece of paper and pencil out and write a letter to the guy who was playing our position at Dodgers Stadium. So we all got down and wrote to Maury Wills, Willie Davis, Wes Parker, I hope you enjoyed your stay with the Dodgers because Im coming to take your job real soon.
No wonder everybody hated us when we got to spring training the next year. So here are guys in the lowest form of Rookie Ball, writing to the guys in the major leagues telling them theyre going to be unemployed shortly. Thats the kind of attitude we had, and the kind of thing Lasorda instilled in us from 1968 on.
CG: I also found some interesting stuff on eBay. Did you know youve got a lot of stuff selling on eBay.
CG: They range in many prices. You can buy a 1979 Topps Tom Paciorek card for 1.00. If its autographed from 1978, its going for 5.00.
TP: Get out.
CG: Theres a Tom Paciorek autographed 3-by-5 notecard going for 6 bucks. Theres not even a picture. Its just a 3-by-5 notecard.
TP: Ill tell you what. Thats a bargain. Ive always said that my autograph isnt worth much right now. But five years from now, its going to be worth much less.
CG: And theres a Tom Pacoriek game-used Louisville Slugger going for 185. How about that?
TP: Is it cracked? Thats how I used to order mine back then. As (former major leaguer) Art Kusnyer once said, I used to throw my bat and helmet before I hit.
CG: Meanwhile, its like Old Home Week, because Frank Thomas is going to be in the TV booth with Hawk this weekend in Kansas City.
TP: Yeah, hes my Pick-to-Click!! Im glad to see Frank is back, and doing Pre and Postgame shows with you guys. I think he should be with the Sox, because he did so many great things for them. I was there for his first six or seven years, every at-bat. And he was the best hitter in baseball at that time. No matter who the pitcher was, the better Frank was. He always got 2 hits off the ace of the other team, drove in a run, scored a run, got a walk. Things like that.
CG: After all these years, I still dont know how you became known as Wimpy. Im guessing its after the character from the Popeye cartoon who loved hamburgers.
TP: It is. In fact, it goes back to 1968 and that Dodgers draft. It was a family atmosphere that Lasorda created. We all ate and drank together. The first day we went out for dinner. Everybody ordered steaks, but I decided to order these big double cheeseburgers. From that day oncan you imagine that from June 1968 to today Im still known for ordering two double cheeseburgers instead of a steak?
CG: And one more question, is it going to be deja-vu for you, being in the booth, calling White Sox games?
TP: I think its going to be really cool. I know Im a little older. I havent changed much over the years, Chuck. Ive gained some weight, Ive dyed my hair white. But other than that, Im pretty much the same. I think its going to be a lot of fun. Ive always been a high-energy kind of a guy when Im doing this type of stuff, and I know Im going to be able to muster it up this weekend.
Chuck Garfien hosts White Sox Pregame and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet with former Sox slugger Bill Melton. Follow Chuck @ChuckGarfien on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox news and views.