Andre Dawson hardly could believe the sound. What kind of person made that kind of racket? Did it ever shut off? Did that mouth ever stop moving?
It was during batting practice at Comiskey Park on May 18, 1987 — Dawson’s first “Windy City Classic” since signing with the Cubs — that he first laid eyes and ears on young, chirpy and sometimes hilarious Sox shortstop Ozzie Guillen.
“I thought, ‘Who is this clown?’ ” Dawson says. “But he came up to me and introduced himself, and I liked that.”
If there’s such a thing as the loudest person in the history of the Cubs-Sox rivalry, it only can be Guillen. He played when the Sox almost always won, even though the games didn’t count in the standings. He later managed the South Siders for 11 seasons, during which the rivalry was at its fiery best. He talked, swore, insulted, swore some more — and that was before he got around to ripping the hell out of a not-yet-renovated Wrigley Field.
“It’s 1000% better now,” says Guillen, 58.
Yeah, well, everybody knows that by now. But not everybody knows these five things about Ozzie:
1. He wasted no time humiliating himself: Guillen was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1985, but on April 29 of that year, he was still a relative nobody. And then he spotted the reigning National League MVP — none other than the Cubs’ Ryne Sandberg — in the visitors’ dugout at Comiskey.
The Cubs were about to take the field for batting practice. Guillen, a really big fan, couldn’t pass up the chance to say hello.
“Hey, Jim!” Guillen yelled as he approached. “Jim Sundberg!”
Sandberg looked at him as though he had two heads. Sundberg was a longtime AL catcher who, ironically, would become Sandberg’s Cubs teammate in 1987.
“I just got so excited, so nervous to meet him,” Guillen says. “I said, ‘Oh, I’m sorry — Ryno!’ That was one of my most embarrassing moments in baseball.”
2. Home cooking could be a very bad thing: It’s possible no Cubs manager has wanted to beat the Sox as much as Guillen wanted to beat the Cubs. With Dusty Baker and then Lou Piniella in the other dugout — and working on the side of town Guillen swore got more love and attention from the media — Guillen, even after winning the 2005 World Series, wanted to be recognized.
“I wanted to be the best [bleeping] manager in town,” he says, “at least for a week or a weekend.”
Guillen was 23-23 against the Cubs as manager. Oh, well. Win some, lose some?
“Man, that series was huge,” he says. “I liked to win, especially against the Cubs.
“We had rules in my house: If we beat the Cubs, we eat at a restaurant; if we lose, Mom has to cook. Because I don’t want to go out and be around people if we lose. We lose to anybody else, I’m a miserable man. We lose to the Cubs, you can triple it.”
3. He has a regret … kind of: Guillen really blew it in the bottom of the eighth inning at Wrigley on May 19, 2007. With the bases loaded, he went to the bullpen and got lefty Boone Logan. Piniella responded by sending in righty slugger Derrek Lee — who wasn’t expected to be available — to pinch-hit.
Bye-bye, baseball. Grand slam. The Cubs scored six in the frame for a comeback victory.
Guillen isn’t proud of the answer he gave a reporter who asked after the game why he’d made the move to Logan.
“Do I remember what I said? Yeah, I remember,” he says. “I said, ‘Because I’m the [bleeping] manager, that’s why I made it.’ That was not the best answer. Maybe I shouldn’t have said that.”
4. He has no regrets about this: On one rainy day at Wrigley, Guillen’s criticisms of the ballpark had blown up into a bit of a controversy. Guillen thought local media were full of it by not agreeing with him publicly. When it was time for his daily pregame briefing — the rain picking up — he insisted on doing it in the dugout, even though it wasn’t big enough to provide cover for all the reporters and cameras.
“I say to the media, ‘You want to say the same thing as me, but you don’t have the guts,’ ” he says. “It was a terrible place for them to work.
“Half of them were soaking wet. I told them, ‘See? If this happens at another place, you’re not so wet.’ Some guys laughed, some guys hated it, but I made my point.”
5. The best part of the rivalry: Believe it or not, Guillen says he looks back most fondly on all the truly ridiculous commercials he did with Piniella. Recalling the ads — fishing, rapping, pretending to race cars — still cracks him up.
“All the commercials I did with Lou, all of it was amazing,” he says. “It was the funniest part of being a manager in town. I would just show up and look at Lou’s face and just die, man. He made the funniest faces when he tried to act. I love Lou Piniella.”