Serenading the Sox
When Nancy (Peterson) Faust C’69 retires as the organist of the Chicago White Sox at the end of her 41st season with the team this year, she will leave behind a legacy that should earn her a spot in the Hall of Fame.
It was she who inspired the tradition of Harry Caray singing, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” during the seventh-inning stretch. The playing of, “Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye),” when a pitcher is pulled from a game—she started that, too.
Faust has been called the “Sweetheart of Comiskey Park,” and Sports Illustrated once named her the Most Valuable Organist. Some maintain that she was the first ballpark organist to play pop songs at the games. She has Cal Ripken numbers for game appearances, performing at more than 3,000 and missing only five—when her son was born.
She even has a World Series ring from when the team swept the Houston Astros in 2005. Faust wears it on occasion, but adds, “It’s very big and very heavy.” Playing during the series was a thrill, and Faust’s only regret from the season was that the Sox won the final game in Houston.
Faust was a psychology major at North Park but started playing for the Sox in 1970, shortly after she graduated. She was hired when she filled in playing organ for her mother at a banquet. The general manager Stu Holcomb heard Faust and offered her a job. Until then, she had only attended one ball game in her life.
It was in the late 1970s when Caray first started to lead the fans in “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” Most people associate the tradition with Caray and the Cubs, but it began during his days with the White Sox. Faust, whose organ was located behind center field at the time, played a rousing rendition. An inspired Caray would belt out the words to himself in the broadcast booth.
One day, owner and master promoter Bill Veeck heard Caray bellowing the tune and put the public address microphone in front of him, telling the broadcaster to sing for the crowd. Until the day he left the team, Caray began every seventh-inning stretch by leaning out the booth, waving his arms to Faust, and yelling, “Okay, Nancy!” A YouTube video featuring a collection of these moments can be found on the site by searching for Faust and Caray.
Faust is famous for applying her wit and spontaneously playing songs as the situation dictates. She tries to apply certain songs to specific visiting batters when they come to the plate. In the offseason, Faust works up arrangements of pop songs. She learns by ear, which is a good thing because there are no arrangements for organ. Fans can expect to hear Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift selections at some point this year.
Fans have come to adore her and often stop by her booth directly behind home plate on the 100-level concourse at U.S. Cellular field, and she loves to take time to talk with them. The fans will sometimes suggest songs. Some even mounted a “Get Nancy a Driver” campaign when she began playing only day games following the World Series season. Faust said she made the switch because the drive was too long from her home in Mundelein, and travel to the park could take up to two hours depending on traffic.
Playing the last game at the old Comiskey Park was “very emotional,” Faust says. She is sure that will be true when she plays her last notes at the end of this season.
There’s something about hearing the organ that is part of being at the ballpark. Faust has already imagined what her last day will look like. The White Sox players will be celebrating their World Series-winning game—at home.