The 108 Interview Series – Rob Hart
Here at the 108, it is our job….our duty to bring to you the great personalities of White Sox twitter, either via tweet / photo / video or blog post. Today’s interview is a local boy made good, you’ve probably heard him on many radio frequencies in this fine town across the last 20 years, that is Rob Hart…..enjoy!!
Favorite Game That You Were At
Mark Buerhle’s perfect game on July 23, 2009. I was the early morning reporter at WGN Radio at the time and I lived on the other side of the railroad viaduct on 37th street, so I would leave the station around 12:45 and hit the Thursday afternoon 1:05 getaway game. I met a friend and watched the Sox tee off Scott Kazmir. In the sixth inning my friend turned to me and asked if Buerhle walked anyone yet. The answer, of course, was no. My lasting memory of that afternoon was of the entire lower concourse hitting the bathroom in the bottom of the 8th inning in order to be in the seats to witness history. That’s the smart play because the following April I missed Buerhle’s through the legs toss to Konerko because I was waiting in a bathroom line.
Favorite All Time Player That Doesn’t Have a Statue On the Concourse
Either Carlos Quentin or Dick Allen. Quentin’s 2008 was one of the most enjoyable baseball seasons I can remember. Allen’s MVP campaign in 1972 revived the White Sox and saved them from moving to Milwaukee.
Favorite Drink and Dinner at the Park
Two kosher hot dogs and a beer.
Favorite Place to Sit
Before kids I would buy the cheapest ticket on the lower level and just hang out on the center field fan deck.
I have several. I like the 1971-75 red pinstripes with the red shoes and belt. It was a very 70s interpretation of a classic style. I’m also a sucker for the 1987-1990 uniforms with the curly “C.” My memories of Comiskey Park are wrapped up in that uniform. Oddly enough, the 1982-86 uniforms now have a longer life as a throwback. They were originally in use for four seasons. The Sunday throwbacks have been in use for seven.
From a purely practical standpoint I have to attend opening week just to get a schedule magnet. You can never have enough.
Favorite Theme Night
Halfway to St. Patrick’s Day is only fun if they’re still in the hunt in mid-to-late September. It’s not an annual theme night but I liked the tribute to Disco Demolition last June.
What irks you the most about White Sox fans?
I do think there’s this belief among the fanbase that Bridgeport would be Wrigleyville if not for SportsVision and New Comiskey Park, which is untrue. First off, I lived in Bridgeport from 2006 through 2011 and I learned very early on that families have deep roots in the neighborhood. My first place was a coach house at 36th and Parnell. Three generations of the same family lived on the block, and that included the grandfather who slept in the car because his wife threw him out. In other words, it’s not a neighborhood where developers can buy up all the apartment buildings and market to 20-somethings who have just graduated from college.
SportsVision, for those of you who may be too young to remember, was the Marquee of its era. A pay-TV sports channel that was built around the White Sox, Blackhawks, Bulls, and Chicago Sting. Since Chicago wasn’t wired for cable in 1982, it was part of a service called ON-TV, which used a decoder box to unlock a scrambled over-the-air signal. Other teams had pay-TV deals in place, and new owner Eddie Einhorn had extensive TV sports experience. He sold syndicated play-by-play events and he was an executive with CBS Sports.
The only problem was the in-market competition was still giving away their product for free on Channel 9. To add insult to injury the Cubs and WGN poached Harry Caray and turned him into a national figure. It made business sense at the time, but the unique circumstances that were in place in Chicago turned it into a PR disaster.
As for Comiskey Park, there’s nothing I would love more than to see the ballpark celebrate its 110th anniversary in July. The old pictures look beautiful. I can’t even imagine what Comiskey would look like after a Fenway Park-style renovation. But the people who worked in Comiskey Park in the 80s said the place was falling down. The opportunity to save the ballpark came and went in the 60s. The threat to move to Tampa created a lot of bad blood, but public financing of sports facilities is now the norm. New Comiskey Park made business sense in the late 80s. Royals Stadium was considered state of the art and that’s what the White Sox were shooting for when they designed the ballpark in 1985. New Comiskey opened to generally positive reviews in 1991. Fan reaction didn’t turn sour until Camden Yard opened the following year. New Comiskey Park was fine Camden Yard was revolutionary.
What is the worst part of being a Sox fan?
The best and worst part of being a White Sox fan is that people don’t really know we exist. And if people do acknowledge our existence they assume the team plays deep in the heart of Thunderdome. That said, introducing people to the real White Sox experience is a lot of fun. I have taken White Sox newbies to the ballpark followed by post game festivities at a real corner tavern like Shinnick’s and they are pleasantly surprised. They didn’t know it was there.
Worst part of the game day experience?
I can’t think of one. The White Sox have been awful since mid-September of 2012. But the ballpark experience has been exceptional. Of course if everything goes as designed we will find out if larger crowds change the GRF experience.
What really grinds your gears?
Enjoy the good times. The Edwin Encarnacion signing broke on Christmas night, and despite great news on the most joyous day of the year some people were inclined to talk about Manny Machado.
The failed pursuit of Manny Machado in early 2019 should not diminish the fact that the White Sox had an off season that exceeded most expectations. Manny Machado wasn’t some sort of intergalactic failure. The White Sox made a play for a top shelf free agent and whiffed. It happens.
I was upset at the time. I remember where I was. I was sitting in the parking lot of the Costco in Glenview when I saw the news break on Twitter. This was after he facetimed with the crowd at SoxFest and introduced the line of custom made gloves that were in White Sox colors. It seemed like the White Sox were on the verge of landing their big fish.
My theory, which is not based on any insider information, is that the White Sox were the only serious bidder for Machado’s services last winter. The agent kept the bidding open until another team offered what they wanted. But if Machado was facing a hard deadline of February 1st he’s on the White Sox. They signed Jon Jay and Yonder Alonso to make him feel better about playing for a team that lost 100 games the year before. He was coming off of a World Series appearance, after all.
If a team is aggressive in free agency, it’s going to miss. Manny Machado is in San Diego, and by his own admission the first year of his ten year contract was underwhelming. I hope the White Sox turn the corner on the rebuild and we can leave disappointment in the past.
Least Favorite White Sox player of all time
Jeff Samardzija. I loved the storyline. White Sox fan from Northwest Indiana pitches for his favorite team and tries to channel his hero Jack McDowell. He was one of the main reasons why 2015 turned south. To make matters worse, the A’s turned Marcus Semien into an MVP candidate. That deal is as bad as the decision to launch Nick Swisher.
Most memorable experience as a White Sox fan
Games 162 and 163 in 2008. Game 162 was the makeup of a Saturday afternoon game against Detroit that had been rained out. I had the tickets, waited through another rain delay, and watched Alexei’s grand slam in person. I asked the management at WGN if I could cover Game 163 as a news story and they said yes. I managed to snag an MLB credential and watched the game from the outfield concourse.
Ballpark experience, how could it be better?
The ballpark experience has been pretty easy for me. Put me down as a fan of Family Sundays. My two older girls have gone several times and they really enjoyed it. They like the Fundamentals deck as well. After several decades worth of White Sox games, it’s interesting to experience the ballpark through their eyes.
Best Sox Park hack?
The Scout Seats. Don’t let the $200 price tag scare you away. If you enjoy eating and drinking your way through the park you will make back the money you spend and then some.
What brings you back for every game?
This is a question I ask myself every year. There are worse hobbies, the team is on the upswing, and thanks to Twitter there’s a fun little community of Sox fans that is on the same emotional journey.
Feelings on the wave?
Depends on the situation. If Dylan Covey is being shelled you can do whatever you want.
Which Gate is your favorite to enter the park from?
- The shortest security line.
How Early Do You Get To Games?
I try to get there 10-15 minutes before the first pitch. You know you have arrived too early when the only stadium announcements are asking White Sox employees to pick up the phone.
What Do You Bring To Games?
How Many Games Do You Go To Each Year?
My high point was 2007 when I attended 28. Now I’m lucky if I can get to 4.
Section 108 Questions
What is your favorite baseball word?
What is your least favorite baseball word?
What get’s you excited about the White Sox?
The 2020 team has the fewest question marks going into a season of any White Sox team in a long time.
What makes you sad about the White Sox?
They didn’t truly capitalize on Sale/Quintana/Abreu/Eaton after 2014. They had a championship caliber core but then surrounded them with replacement-level players or bench guys who overachieved on a losing team. It also didn’t help that Alexei Ramirez disappeared into the ether in 2015.
What sound or noise at the ballpark do you love?
The crowd erupting when they know the ball is leaving the yard.
What sound or noise at the ballpark do you hate?
Some guy in a Twins/Tigers shirt cheering because THEIR team did something well.
What is your favorite Hawkism?
“He couldn’t pull a greased tee out of his behind with a pair of pliers.”
Do you get residuals from SoxMachine for voicing their Open?
No, but I’m in discussions to have Pnoles issue offseason grades for my own life.
According to legend, back in the year 2004, you won the Milwaukee Brewers Sausage Race, what type of Sausage were you dressed like?
I was the bratwurst. The costume smelled like a gym shoe. I went into the race with one goal: don’t fall down. The problem with running in the sausage costume is that your center of gravity is located in your chest. As soon as you figure out how to adapt to that, you’re good to go.
I understand you are a graduate of St. Ignatius College Prep, as a fellow graduate of a Catholic League school, I’d like you to name the top 3 Catholic League schools you hate the most.
1- The former Gordon Tech. Kicked our ass in basketball.
2- Mother McCauley. A school full of girls who were not interested in me.
3- Loyola Academy for no other reason than they were the other Jesuit high school. At least we were close to downtown.
Rob, we see you went to Marquette around the same time BeefLoaf and Chorizy would visit their friends for the St. Pat’s parties up there. Two questions. 1. Your best #108ing story from Marquette? 2. Are we eskimo brothers?
St. Patrick’s Day was a big deal on campus. The bars opened at 6:00 AM and everyone lined up for green beer and a t-shirt. My friends and I were determined that we were going to open Murphy’s (a campus bar) on our last St. Patrick’s Day before graduation. The festivities started at 5:00 in the evening. We closed Murph’s at 2:00 AM, took a four hour breather, and reopened the joint at 6. St. Patrick’s Day was a Sunday in 2002 and watching “Meet the Press” in a bar is a surreal experience. By the time our group went home we had been “celebrating” St. Patrick’s Day for 15 hours. An endurance run that wasn’t quite on on the level of completing a marathon.
Tell us something about doing Radio that not many people know.
Most broadcasters are rather shy. We talk to tens of thousands of people on a daily basis but talking to one person is difficult.
Just judging from your twitter account, you are a bit of a media historian. Who are some influences or some inspirations for your career in media?
I have a million of ‘em. On the news broadcasting side I have admired or tried to emulate Tom Brokaw,
former NBC News anchor John Chancellor, Walter Cronkite, Bill Kurtis, Ron Magers, and former Channel 5 anchor Jim Ruddle.
Other broadcasters who pushed me into this business include David Letterman, Johnny Carson, Steve Dahl, Garry Meier, Larry Lujack, and Kevin Matthews. I was an intern for Kevin at the late, great CD-94.7 in 1999. His show was a master class in theater of the mind. Watching Kev conduct an entertaining conversation between three different characters was a sight to behold.
Give us some dirt. Which radio personality that you have worked with is much sweeter off-air than people would imagine?
The great thing about working with the people I used to admire as a listener is that they tend to be good people off-air. Dan McNeil went out of his way to publicly praise the morning show I was on when I worked at The Loop. I exchange texts with Garry Meier from time to time. One of the highlights of my broadcasting life was getting a note from former WLS-AM morning DJ Fred Winston saying that he liked my work. That was nine years ago and I still can’t believe it.
Name your 3 favorite local sports broadcasters of your lifetime.
90s Hawk Harrelson
White Sox Harry Caray (I was born in 1980, so that counts!)
Jeff Joniak. I’m biased because I work with Jeff but he has done a great job of making mediocre Bears games sound like the Super Bowl.
What’s your greatest fear about the “rebuild”?
That they don’t conduct the finishing move. They need to grab a top tier free agent next offseason to consider the rebuild complete.
What is there about this team that excites you the most?
As far as raw talent is concerned, this is the most promising White Sox team since 1990.
Give us a #HotTake about the rebuild.
I really hope Moncada and Giolito are for real and not Gordon Beckham 2.0
Favorite White Sox Twitter Account (Besides @fromthe108) and why?
I came into White Sox blogging/social media through SouthSideSox and SoxMachine, so they are top of the list. James Fegan at The Athletic is a must read.
SoxNerd, which is run by fellow Marquette Alum Dave Marran is right up my alley. His White Sox history and trivia nuggets are well done.
Person from White Sox Twitter that you’d most like to meet and why?
I’ve met most of them! That said, I need to go to more social media outings.
Favorite Non-White Sox Twitter Account and why?
NBC’s Steve Kornacki. He covers politics with an eye for data and history.
What do you like best about @fromthe108 ?
It follows the White Sox with the proper amount of joy and cynicism. The last decade has been crap, but it’s still baseball and it’s supposed to be fun.
Favorite White Sox related blog or podcast and why?
SoxMachine, because I’m on it.
What is your favorite alcoholic drink for #108ing? Be specific and feel free to go with more than one if you need to. What about your favorite beer style?
I have turned into a Whiskey Guy. Basil Haden’s for unwinding at the end of the week. Lagavulin for special occasions.
Favorite cut of Steak? Prepared?
New York Strip. Coat both sides with olive oil, add salt and pepper or a steak rub, then cook on extremely high heat for 4 minutes per side. Good crust on the outside, rare on the inside.
Gimme an “Uncle Rico” moment from your prior sports playing past.
The summer of 2001 was the second summer I lived on campus at Marquette. I was a part time anchor at WTMJ Radio in Milwaukee
and during my off hours I would go to a driving range on the south side of town. Outside of a couple of lessons at Ridge Country Club I never really played golf. But I decided to devote that summer to hitting balls to see if I could develop a game. A giant aluminum golf ball at the end of the range marked 300 yards. By late August I was getting close to the golf ball. One afternoon I heard that magical sound.
My drive hit the golf ball. That was my high point and I haven’t picked up a golf club since.
Where would you take @ChiPartyAunt out on a date?
Connie’s Pizza for some Deep Dish and White Zin.
Favorite performance enhancing drug?
Who do you hate more Jim Belushi or John Cusack?
I’m on the “Jim Belushi is good, actually” bandwagon. The SNL sketch where he was the high school chess coach is in my personal top ten.
What Other Chicago Teams Do You Enjoy
Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks
Favorite Chicago Sports History Moment
Favorite All-Time Sox Broadcaster
Any Stories About Running Into or Meeting White Sox Players? Other Chicago Athletes?
I ran into White Sox bullpen coach Art Kusnyer at Lizzie McNeill’s one afternoon in 2007.
Anything Yacht Rock
What is your favorite song?
Anything off of Steely Dan’s Gaucho album.
Favorite TV Show (or Netflix or HBO or whatever the fuck)?
Currently watching “Picard” and enjoying every minute of it.
Married or Single? Looking for a GF?
Married for nine years as of October. We have three girls and I’m working as hard as I can to turn them into little White Sox fans.
Do you remember your first Sox game?
Yep. June 22, 1985. A 6-3 loss to the California Angels. It was the NBC Game of the Week and it was on YouTube for a little while.
What Player had the greatest impact on you?
White Sox? Frank Thomas. In all of professional sports? Michael Jordan.
What was the happiest day watching the Sox?
October 26, 2005
What was the saddest day watching the Sox?
The day they were eliminated from postseason contention in 2006. They looked like a playoff team in the first half of 2006. The second half of that season was a slow bleed.
What do you do for work? If you could be or do anything else – what?
I’m an anchor and reporter at WBBM Newsradio. I’m lucky to say that I have my dream job.
If you could live in any other time, when might that be?
I would love to set the wayback machine to 1964 to watch the White Sox win 98 games. Joe Horlen threw over 200 innings and had a 1.88 ERA! It was a golden age of White Sox pitching but the Yankees were always one or two games better.
If you could have dinner with five White Sox Players, past and present, who would they be?
Billy Pierce, Minnie, Luke Appling, Moose Skowron, Ed Walsh.
If you could change one thing in your past, what might that be?
Nothing. We are the sum total of our experiences. Good and bad.
What are you most proud of?
What were your best/worst subjects in school?
Worst? Math. It’s the reason why I’m in broadcasting.
What do you like doing in your spare time?
I’m no Shane Riordan, but I do enjoy grilling and barbecue. My goal this summer is to do a brisket with a first class smoke ring.
Who is your celebrity crush?
(extreme Chet Coppock voice)
“For my money the most beautiful woman in the showbusiness is Taylor Alison Swift.”
What is your favorite movie?
Star Trek II – Wrath of Khan
What is your favorite baseball movie?
Major League. Filmed at Milwaukee County Stadium. You can see the WTMJ RADIO 62 sign in the background.
What would be your one super power?
Seeing the future.
What ballpark would you like to visit?