Sox always a good fit for Crestwood woman, 92
BY STEVE METSCH firstname.lastname@example.org April 17, 2013 3:48PM
Updated: May 19, 2013 6:25AM
Two years ago, Ell Lackovic saw something wrong with the batting stance of White Sox outfielder Alex Rios.
He had a down year that season, batting .227 with just 13 homers and 44 RBI, and the Crestwood woman — a White Sox devotee if ever there were one — wasn’t happy.
“When he had that crazy stance two years ago, I told my nephew, ‘He’s got to change that stance to get any place.’ He changed, and look what he did,” she said.
Rios rebounded to bat .304 with 25 homers and 91 RBI in 2012.
Hmm. Maybe Lackovic should be on speed dial on Rios’ cell phone?
And back more than a half-century ago, when slow-running catcher Sherm Lollar was gunned down at home in a turning point of the 1959 World Series, Lackovic told friends that then-Manager Al Lopez would blame Lollar, not third-base coach Tony Cuccinello.
“And that’s what Lopez did in the papers the next day,” she said. “Lollar was rounding second when the outfielder threw the ball in. You knew he was going to be out by a ton. And they’re blaming Lollar for that? No, no, it was Cuccinello’s fault.”
Yes, this spry 92-year-old fan knows her White Sox.
On April 1, she attended her 63rd consecutive home opener on the South Side.
Great teams. Bad teams. Beautiful weather. Bears weather. She has been at every home opener since 1951, when Harry Truman was in the White House.
Why such dedication? Simple.
“I’m a Sox fan,” she said during a visit at The Pointe at Kilpatrick, the senior citizens center where she resides.
Although family recently convinced her to move from her home in Chicago’s Pilsen community to Crestwood, her heart remains on 35th Street.
“I grew up a Sox fan. My whole family was,” she said.
She was one of five kids. She and younger brother George, 91, survive.
He lives in Omaha and still cheers for the Sox. But it’s Ella who makes the journey every Opening Day.
She gave up her season tickets this season because she has no convenient way to get to and from U.S. Cellular Field. But nephew Fred Lukasik, of Rock Island, came to the rescue and took her to this year’s 1-0 win over Kansas City on Opening Day earlier this month.
“I like when they introduce players on both teams. The Sox didn’t always win (on Opening Day), but I’ve had fun,” she said.
This year was a payback of sorts. Fred had joined her for many games over the years, and she took “every kid in the neighborhood, at one time or another, to the ballgame,” she said.
“I started when they were in last place. I used to rush home from grammar school to listen to them on the radio. The games started at 3 o’clock back then,” she said.
Later, she’d take vacation days from her job as a keypunch operator at International Harvester to attend Opening Days. On those rare days or nights she could not attend home games, she gave tickets to neighbors, family, friends or coworkers.
Lackovic has no children and never married.
“I’m married to the White Sox,” she said with a laugh.
Billy Pierce and Lollar are among her favorite players, along with Nellie Fox, Luke Appling, Bob Kennedy, Jackie Hayes, Wilbur Wood, Bobby Thigpen, Carlton Fisk, Mark Buehrle, Paul Konerko and Robin Ventura.
“Then there’s Alexei (Ramirez). Sometimes he’s with it, sometimes he’s not. I feel sorry for Gordon Beckham. He was starting to hit and now he’s out six weeks,” she said. “I liked A.J. (Pierzynski). I was surprised when they let him leave. After he retires, he’ll be a manager. He knows the game.”
Lackovic was there when the new Comiskey Park opened in 1991 to see Detroit destroy the Sox, and she was there when thousands of young fans nearly destroyed the old Comiskey Park on the ill-fated Disco Demolition Night in July 1979. A riot forced cancellation of the nightcap of a doubleheader.
“I was so mad I could have hit someone, honest to God. They made me miss a game,” she said with a look that said event promoter and disc jockey Steve Dahl would be wise to never cross her path.
Like any Sox fan, the 2005 World Series will always be her highlight.
And the 2013 Sox?
“They got off to that good start, then they lost all three in Washington. Now? I’m skeptical,” she said, adding that Konerko’s slow start is cause for concern.
She doesn’t hate the Cubs, but has set foot in Wrigley Field “only when they play the Sox,” she said.
Oh, and she’s still steamed that Lopez started a tired Early Wynn instead of a rested Pierce in the must-win sixth game of the ’59 Series.
“That’s my only vice,” she said. “Being a Sox fan.”