White Sox fans have seen a lot of faces on NBC Sports Chicago over the years talking about the White Sox before, during, and after games. Since 2005, however, there has been one face that they’ve been guaranteed to see almost every game: Chuck Garfien.
Garfien is a local White Sox fan, graduating from Homewood-Flossmoor High School before attending the University of Southern California. He graduated with a degree in communications and began a long journey that took him across the country before ending up at NBC Sports Chicago:
- Anchor/Reporter for Fox Sports Net in Denver
- ESPN/ESPNEWS original anchor
- Sports Director at CPS and UPN affiliates in Detroit
- Sports anchor/reporter for WABC-TV in New York City
- Sports anchor/reporter for WHTM-TV in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
- Sportscaster with WPBN-TV in Traverse City, Michigan
It’s been a long road for Garfien, but he finally finds himself home, reporting on his hometown team.
Our Nico Andrade recently had the chance to talk to Garfien, covering a range of topics including his start in sportscasting, the adversity he’s faced along the way, some of his favorite memories from covering the 2005 White Sox, and many more awesome stories he’s gathered through years in the business.
The interview is available for you to watch, but it is also transcribed below. Enjoy!
Nico Andrade: All right, Chuck. So thank you for taking the time. I really appreciate it. So, I mean, I would like to start off by asking, you know, who is Chuck Garfien? Who are you as a person, where did you grow up, and where did the passion of being a journalist and being a broadcaster really stem from?
Chuck Garfien: Wow. So who is Chuck Garfien? I got to think about this. Who am I? Well, you know what? I’m someone who developed a big passion for sports at a young age. I just could not get enough of it. If I grew up today, with the amount of sports that’s on television, on radio, and social media, I wouldn’t leave the house. I had just a massive passion for Chicago sports.
I grew up in Flossmoor in the south suburbs, and [had the] White Sox, Bulls, Blackhawks, Bears – a little bit of the Cubs, a little bit of the Cubs. I didn’t hate the Cubs. I just liked baseball, but I was more of a White Sox fan. I even loved the Chicago Sting, which was a professional soccer team in Chicago. I can probably talk about the Sting for like an hour and a half. It’s actually something that Rick Hahn and I share: our love for the Chicago Sting, the defunct soccer team from the early 80s. But one thing that happened was when I came back to Chicago to work here in late 2004: I was finally able to tell a lot of the stories of the teams that I grew up with, and one of them was the Chicago Sting.
But I was really lucky to go to a high school – and this has been discussed a little bit before – all the people that have come through my high school (Homewood-Flossmoor) who are in the broadcasting business, it didn’t exactly happen on accident because there was a high school radio station and TV station at my high school public school that fed into my curiosity and my interest in broadcasting. So by just getting that foundation at a young age of being a sportscaster, when I was 14 and 15 years old, that really was the big jumping off point for me; I was able to learn so much about calling games and doing sportscasts at that age. It gave me a head start, and I think that had a lot to do with it, of me being able to do something. This is a very challenging career to navigate, to stay in, but I think having a base at a young age really helped me along the way.
NA: So I know you mentioned you started off at HF and they had plenty of broadcasting. I went to Marian Catholic – I graduated from Marian Catholic. Did you broadcast, like, football games, basketball games in high school?
CG: Yes. It was funny. So when I was a little kid, I would pretend like I was the host of a sports talk show.
NA: Like your own podcast?
CG: Yeah. I’m glad these tapes no longer exist because I was terrible. I used to call into radio shows. There weren’t that many sports talk radio shows, just a couple, and they were on the weekends. But I would call in with my questions, and when I got to Homewood-Flossmoor for orientation, I vividly remember – I didn’t know I wanted to do this for a living – but I vividly remember showing up freshman year for orientation and I heard there was a radio station and that they do sportscasts and they call games, and it just felt right. I just connected with that immediately.
So I was a DJ – my first year I was a DJ – and it was a three hour shift. I knew like twelve songs, and I think they were all like Beatles songs and maybe a little bit of David Bowie. And that was it. I somehow got through that. But really, for sportscasting, I was doing sportscasts. I was calling Homewood-Flossmoor football and basketball games by sophomore year. And then junior year and senior year I called varsity games and I hosted a talk show that actually was started, believe it or not, by Scott Merkin of mlb.com, who covers the White Sox. He started the sports talk show called Sports Mania… [I’m] pretty sure he started it. I hope he did. If I’m wrong, my apologies to whoever did it, and Scott, I’m giving you way too much credit. But it was handed down and I became the host of that show.
So yes, to give you an idea of how much experience I got in high school: I ended up going to the University of Southern California for college. I was very fortunate to get in and be able to go to school there. They had a radio station there. It was a PAC 10 school – now a PAC 12. And not only was my high school radio station WHFH more powerful in terms of Watts than this PAC 10’s school’s radio station – but I showed up freshman year with a resume. I showed my resume to the guy who was the student who was running the radio station at USC, and he looked at me and he said, “You have more experience than I do.” So that’s another reason why you see so many people from our high school that we went to in the business, because we just had a head start over everybody else.
NA: I mean, that must have been pretty cool to even have opportunities like that.
CG: Yeah, it’s crazy. I mean, it’s almost like we were given this golden ticket just because our parents decided to move to Flossmoor. That being said, I do want to say that just because we had this great start to our careers – and I kind of mentioned it before – this is not an easy business to get into. It took me…let’s see, so after college, I sent tapes of my work all over the country. I got to know the people at the post office very well. It took me a year to get a job in this business. It was in Traverse City, Michigan. Just to get on the air was very challenging. Even with the start that I had, it takes a lot of hard work, blood, sweat, and tears.
But what I tell people who want to get in the industry: you have to feel it deep inside your bones – like your calling to some respects. Because you think about how many lawyers there are in a city like Chicago. How many sportscasters there are. The odds are not in your favor. And you’re going to have to make a lot of sacrifices. Live in towns you would never want to visit, let alone live in. Although I was lucky I got to work in Traverse City, Michigan. That’s not a bad first city, first town. And you’re going to make very little money, and there’s no guarantee you’re ever going to advance in the business. You have to really work at it and get breaks along the way. And a lot of people end up falling by the wayside just because of that. They want to start a family. They’re not making enough money. They’re living in towns they don’t want to live in. And over time, it’s the people who are really just like, ” I’ve got nothing else.”
What kept me going is there was nothing else I would rather do. I’m from Chicago. I would come back to Chicago in my twenties, and all my friends were living here and having the greatest time of their lives. And then I would go back to these towns that I was living in, having days off on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, not having much of a social life. But since I loved what I did so much, I wouldn’t have traded it for anything else.
NA: That’s awesome. Doing what you love to do is basically what every parent says – whatever you like to do, you do it. I know my mom and dad told me: it’s a job, you got to love what you do. It’s what you do when you get up every day in the morning. You have to love it no matter what. I think that’s great. So the next one we had was – I know you touched on a little bit – but what was your first professional job in the media?
CG: So my first professional job was in Traverse City. And this shows you how small of a business this is.
So I find out that this job in Springfield, Illinois is available, so I apply for it. Actually, I called them. I called this TV station in Springfield. I’m thinking, “Okay, I’m able to work close to Chicago. This is going to be my jumping off point. I work in Springfield for two years and then boom, I’m in Chicago and I’m having this great career.” That’s the dreamer in me. There’s dreaming and then there’s reality. In reality was I called this TV station, and they said, “Oh, we already filled the position.” Now I don’t know where this came from. And I try to pass this little kernel of wisdom to everybody whenever I can. When I was told this job was filled, I had this follow up question, and this is the point I’m trying to make. The follow up question was, “The person that you hired, where did he come from? Or where did she come from?” Because all of a sudden, there’s a job opening somewhere else. And so they said, “I think he’s from Traverse City, Michigan. He was working at a TV station.”
So I called the two stations in Traverse City, Michigan. I said, “Hey, you looking for a sportscaster?” And the guy on the phone is like, “Yeah, I just found out this guy is leaving.” They hadn’t posted a job yet because it took a while for the information to go through. So the person who left Traverse City and took this job in Springfield, Illinois, is a guy by the name of Scott Hanson from NFL Network – he does Red Zone. So, I replaced him. So if you ever hear about a job that you don’t get, find out who got the job, where that person was working before, and apply for that job. That’s my point.
NA: I’ve never heard that one before. So that one’s pretty new. Other than not getting the job, was there any other adversity that you faced personally coming up in this business?
CG: Yeah, lots. Where to begin? Let’s see. I was working in Detroit. I was the sports director for the UPN and CBS affiliates… well, you know, so I can go back even further. Live adversity. Are you ready for this?
NA: Let’s go.
CG: Here we go. Okay, so the great thing about the start of my career was as I was in Traverse City, Michigan, working at the NBC affiliate, and I’m there for a year and a half from 25. I got a job anchoring at ESPN for the launch of ESPN News in 1996. What happened was – this had never been done before, like Sports Center 24 hours a day, that’s basically what ESPN News was. Back then, this was just not a thing. And my job for the first year on the air was to solo anchor from 1 PM to 4 PM, Monday through Friday. Keep in mind, I have only been a sportscaster for about a year and a half in Traverse City, Michigan. I have been doing two and three or maybe four minute sportscasts. I’m now solo anchoring for three hours, covering everything in sports nationally. Was I ready for this? No, I was not ready for this. But I got an opportunity to work at ESPN, so I’m taking it. I learned so much, and so much of what I can do on the air right now stems from what I learned by making all sorts of mistakes at ESPN, and the key with starting out in this business is you’re going to make a lot of mistakes.
You think it looks easy watching us on TV? The secret is we try to make it look easy because it’s not as easy as it looks. So when you start off in this business, you want to go small where no one’s watching. And I got this break [with ESPN], so I’m taking it. But was I ready for it? No. And I learned a lot, and I was there for about two years, but instead of me making my mistakes more mistakes in small towns, I’m making my mistakes in the bigs. Yeah. I was like, a Double-A – no, I wouldn’t say Double-A – I was a Single-A prospect who was promoted to the major leagues with not much of a foundation to work on. The people I was working with at the time, you’ll know these names: Mike Greenberg, John Butchigross, Dave Revsine, Jason Jackson… I’m forgetting a few… Brian Kenny, David Lloyd. And we developed a very strong bond with each other, and we were there for each other because we were all going through it, because no one ever done this before. But I had by far the least amount of experience. And I was good. I wasn’t great. I batted about .220, struck out a lot. My on base percentage was terrible, and instead of signing a multi year extension, I was essentially sent back down to the minor leagues, and I had to basically start over. And so that was adversity there.
You’ve seen me in Chicago, somewhat of a finished product, but what it took to get to Chicago, I mean, there was a lot of adversity. I started off by saying when I was in Detroit, I was the sports director at the UPN and CBS affiliates in Detroit. We actually on UPN, which was an affiliate, once upon a time, we carried the Tigers, Pistons and Red Wings games. This is a big sports station. And then one day they decided to lay everybody off and not do news anymore. So we all lost our jobs. To this day, I don’t think – I haven’t been to Detroit in a long time – but I’m pretty sure to this day, if you turn on CBS in Detroit, there’s no news. They just haven’t replaced it. They just don’t have news there. So that was adversity. The road is bumpy along the way, and even in Chicago, it’s not like it’s been the easiest.
I’ve had my share of struggles, but I didn’t flip a switch and all of a sudden become a the sports caster you know, today. It took a lot of adversity to get here.
NA: I know you mentioned working at ESPN, and you said you batted, what, .220?
CG: On my good days.
NA: Were there any points while doing that that you thought, hey, maybe this isn’t for me? Maybe I’m going to be out of this business. Did any of those points come up
CG: Yeah. I was not extended at ESPN, so I was unemployed – and I was unemployed for a year. And how old was that at this point? 28? Like, this is a great time to quit, to cash in my chips, and do something else. When I was at ESPN, I never felt like, “This is not for me,” even though I knew I was doing SportsCenters every once in a while and getting some opportunities. But I would say the lowest point was when I was sending out tapes for a year after working at ESPN and not getting jobs anywhere. And I finally got one in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and that was really what turned things around for me. I learned so much that made me a better reporter, because when I was in at ESPN, I was just anchoring. I learned in Harrisburg how to find stories, how to write stories, how to edit them, and what I learned was what I like to do when I go cover a story. I do this to this day, and I learned this in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I like to say this. When everyone is zigging, I like to zag. So you go to cover a story, the flock goes here, I’m going there. Now, I might miss something and take a little bit of a gamble by not doing what everyone else is doing, but everyone else is doing that. I want to do something different. And so I learned that in Harrisburg, but before I got there, before I got to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania – the ABC affiliate there. I knew there was a lot more in me. It’s like a baseball player, right, who loses his job and knows there’s a lot more in the tank. And I’m not giving up and there’s no way I was going to give up. And I’m so glad I didn’t.
NA: I mean, I’m glad you didn’t either – you’re the voice of the Sox.
CG: That didn’t happen like, you know… how I started. Covering the White Sox is just crazy.
NA: So that kind of goes into the next thing. I mean, I believe your first year with the Sox was in 2005.
CG: It was.
NA: Yes, it was in 2005, and it was Comcast SportsNet at the time. Was there any pressure heading into that, like, you’re coming back home, covering the Sox because you’re back in Chicago?
CG: Well, it’s funny. So when I was unemployed for that one year, a job opening became available at the Fox affiliate here in town. And I was a finalist for that. I didn’t get it and I was heartbroken. And I’m like, “Here’s the thing. How often do sportcasting jobs become available in Chicago? Very infrequently. And when they do, if you’re under contract somewhere else, the timing has to work out.”
When I didn’t get the job at Fox 32, I’m like, wow, this might have been my only chance. So I go to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. From there I went to Detroit, then to New York, then to Denver, all in a span of like five years. I’m working in Denver at Fox Sports Net. FSN at the time. So I get this job in Chicago working at Comcast Sports Net for the launch. And so this was like July of 2004 when I started working there. We launched in October. I did not know what I was going to specifically do. I just knew I was covering Chicago sports and I was ready at that point. I knew it. Anyway, this wasn’t High-A, Double-A Chuck Garfien. This is Chuck Garfien, who has been spending a lot of time in Charlotte. He’s been working on his swing. The fundamentals are strong. He just needs the opportunity, and I got it. He’s promoted to the big league, so to speak, working in Chicago.
And the first year I was mainly anchoring doing- remember the show Sports Night, Sports Rise? I was anchoring those shows and I felt like that was the key to success at the time: don’t cover a team beyond the set because it’s more visible. That’s what I was thinking in my head. But when it came time to baseball season, the word got out that I grew up a Sox fan. And they put me on to cover the White Sox. Not full time, but just every once in a while do that because everyone was still kind of learning their roles and getting into roles like, hey, let’s try him here and her there and see what fits. And the Sox were really good in 2005. And I had the foundation, I had all of that White Sox DNA because I grew up with the White Sox and I got it. I just knew the team. I knew White Sox fans because I was one of them growing up, and I just started covering the team more and more, and then they keep winning more and more. Then they won the World Series. I was covering them along the way and here we are all these years later and nothing’s changed. I’m still covering the White Sox.
NA: I mean, your first year covering the Sox is just the year they win the World Series. Like you can’t write scripts any better than that.
CG: No, and the way I got this job is out of thin air because I’m working in Denver and I’m randomly doing a story on the Hanson brothers, who are the characters from the movie Slap Shot, the hockey movie with Paul Newman. I spent a day with them and I needed some video. I’ve told the story a few times – and I do believe in the “sliding doors” aspect of life, the coincidences. I don’t know if things happen for a reason, but it does feel like our paths – I don’t want to say they’re predetermined, but it does feel like some of these things that happen in life, especially when you live long enough and you can look back at how things happen in life, it does seem like there’s something more than just coincidence. So, I’ve been trying to get to Chicago for years. For years, for years. Ten years. I’m in this business, haven’t gotten a job in Chicago, and I am working in Denver. I’ve only been there for like, six months, and I’m doing a story on the Hanson brothers, and I randomly called Comcast SportsNet in Philadelphia because the Hanson brothers were randomly in Philadelphia making a public appearance. And I was putting together my story, and I needed some video of them from current times. I just call the station. I go, “Hey, this is Chuck Garfien from some Fox Sports Net in Denver. Were you guys possibly at a Philadelphia Phantoms game when the Hanson brothers appeared there a few weeks ago?” That was it. This should not lead me to getting a job in Chicago in any way. The guy says, “Hold on a second.” Puts me on hold. Another person comes on the phone. He says, “Hey, this is Joe Riley. Is this Chuck Garfien who used to work at ESPN?” And I said, “Yeah. Hey, Joe, what’s going on?” And he says, “Yeah, you may not remember me, but I used to operate your teleprompter at ESPN. Well, I’m now the coordinating producer at Comcast Sports Net here in Philadelphia. You’re from Chicago, right?” And I said yes. And he said, “Well, we’re starting Comcast SportsNet in Chicago. I’m going to be the assistant news director. If you’re interested in applying for the job, let me know.” And I’m like, “Yeah, I’ve been trying to get back to Chicago for years. I would love to work for Comcast Sports Net in Chicago.”
I applied, got the job, and a year later, Joe became my boss.
NA: I mean, you can’t write things any better than that.C
CG: No. How does that happen? It’s just crazy. So that’s how it all started for me here.
NA: So covering the Sox in 2005, you were in the clubhouse and on the field. And as the season progressed, was the vibe around the team and in the clubhouse like, “Hey. We got what we need here. And we could win this all.”
CG: I’ve though a lot about that season in the years that have passed. And I felt like a rookie on that team. And what I mean by that is that was my first year covering them. So everything was so new for me, and they were winning and winning and winning, and I knew there was something special with them. But as I look back on it, they just had something going on there.
NA: That was what it was – something, yeah.
CG: But it was something underneath the surface – they had the right mix in the clubhouse. And ever since that time, I tried to look for that in every team that the White Sox have had to see if they have that. And we get caught up in the numbers a lot. And what I try to tell people – or at least I don’t tell people, but I try to explain to people – is that stats are important. But when you cover a baseball team and you see on the inside what goes on on a day to day basis, there is something to be said about leadership. There is something to be said about chemistry in baseball, more so than any other sport, because there are so many games and little things, minute things, that people do or say behind the scenes during a game – a little bit of information someone will see on the field, pass along to this hitter, and boom, he hits a home run. And they win a game because of that. If there’s an energy, kind of a competitive energy that goes on in a clubhouse, that equates to wins. There’s so much that goes into a winning season and a losing season beyond the stats, beyond slugging, everything, WAR, you name it.
And that 2005 team just had stuff. They were just winning games because they had fire. It sounds like a cliche. They were playing with grit. What does that mean in a baseball season? It means a lot. Are they pulling from the same rope? Do they all get along? No, but they all are pulling from the same rope. Are they doing that? In 2005, they were doing that. Was there a trust?
They had a guy named Kevin Hickey who was a batting practice pitcher, a former White Sox pitcher. Kevin Hickey saw everything. He would literally be in the dugout and just see if guys were tipping pitches. He would know how to say something to Paul Konerko to get him going. He just saw through the trees, and he was doing that in 2005, and 2006, and 2007, and 2008. And one thing that never gets talked about, and I’m going back to this: he was on the staff for Robin Ventura’s first season and in the team hotel right before the season started for Robin Ventura’s first game, Kevin Hickey passed away in the team hotel. And that was a guy who won the White Sox games by just sitting there in the dugout and just getting guys revved up at batting practice. Is his name on the World Series trophy? No, but it’s that kind of stuff that wins championships – players like that, coaches like that.
And am I seeing that right now from this team? I’m not. I’m seeing a little bit of it, some more of it last year. I want to say this year’s team is capable of doing special things, but we’re not seeing a translate on the field at the same time. How many injuries did we see in 2005?
NA: Not too many.
CG: Frank Thomas?
NA: That was, I think, the only big one that was out majority of the year.
CG: Right. So I am giving this team a whole lot of rope because they’re having just crazy stuff happening to them in terms of injuries and just like, all of a sudden, okay, Jake Burger, Gavin Sheets. I know you’re maybe not ready or possibly ready or getting an opportunity. Go do it. They’ve had to lean on a lot of guys, whereas in 2005, the guys who they were leaning on were ready. All of them. All of them. And it was their moment, and they could not be stopped. You go back to 2005, they just had the baseball gods looking out for them from April all the way through. I mean, I looked at this a few weeks ago, I’m trying to remember the exact number, but the White Sox starting rotation in 2005 had the most innings by far in the major leagues, and Ozzie Guillen was blessed. I could have probably managed that team and won 90 games. Nothing against Ozzie Guillen, but all it took for Ozzie was, okay, Freddie, Buehrle, Contreras, Garland, go out there. They’re going to give me six or seven. All right. Neil Cotts. Cliff Politte. Bobby Jenks, or Dustin Hermanson when he was the closer. I mean, that was easy managing. Not every night, but for the most part. Tony La Russa is like, “okay, I got four and two thirds out of Dylan Cease, Bummer’s hurt. Let’s try this. Let’s go to Ruiz now. Matt Foster, what do you got? Graveman is unavailable. Okay, Liam Hendriks, can you give me two endings? Oh, Liam Henriks is injured right now.”
And I’m not defending Tony, but this season is much different from 2005.
NA: I know 2005, the thing that speaks to me the most is on Opening Day, they won 1-0. They beat Cleveland 1-0. And then the last game of the season was 1-0. They beat Houston. I mean, to me, as a baseball fan and as a Sox fan, it just shows that team could win close games.
CG: They won a lot of them.
NA: They won a lot of one run games that year.
CG: They did, and they did it – this is the other thing about the baseball gods. Remember who the closer was to start that season?
NA: Shingo Takatsu.
CG: Takatsu. Okay. Then they get to bring in Dustin Hermanson. He was great as a closer. Then he goes down and there’s a AA pitcher named Bobby Jenks who had a checkered past, and they bring him up and he’s throwing 99 and 100, which was rare back then, and was unheard of.
NA: Yeah, unheard of.
CG: I know. And he was on the mound for game four at the end of the World Series. Like, how does that happen? It doesn’t. It’s rare. And if they don’t find him, are they winning the World Series?
NA: I really don’t know. I honestly don’t know.
CG: Yeah, I mean, they probably still win the division. They might have [won the World Series], because obviously in the ALCS, they didn’t need Bobby Jenks. It was the whole starting rotation. But there’s a lot that goes into it. Scott Podsednik stayed healthy in 2005. If he’s not healthy the whole year, because he battled injuries after that.
I really like this year’s team, but they can’t stay healthy. And here’s another thing – I’m kind of going off track here a little bit. We looked at this the other day. I don’t know when this is going to air, but a week ago or a few days ago, I was looking at all the teams around baseball and looking at the White Sox in terms of health and how many players on each team had position players who had played 60 or more games? We were at 70 games, roughly around Major League Baseball. How many players on each team had played 60 or more games? The Yankees had seven. The Red Sox had seven. The Dodgers had eight. The Blue Jays had eight. The White Sox had one. Jose Abreu, the only player is your oldest position player, the only player to play 60 games. And then it was a big drop-off after that. It was Adam Engel and Luis Robert in second. And when I say that, they played 15 fewer games than Jose Abreu. Engel has been on the injured list, and Luis Robert had COVID and was dealing with a groin issue and missed a bunch of games. And these are the guys who have played the second-most games on your team. Tough to have a successful season when that’s going on.
NA: It is. I think that’s when you go back to the 2005 team with them winning so many one run games and not being hurt. I mean, that definitely goes to winning a season or having a championship season, let alone when winning a division is hard enough. I mean, the 2005 team struggled at the end. They almost lost it to Cleveland, but they didn’t.
CG: Yeah, I mean, do this to the 2005 team, give them all these injuries. Okay. And why the Sox are getting so hurt is a whole other topic. So who’s been hurt on this team? So have Joe Crede miss about 50 games, right? Because Moncada has been out. Have Aaron Rowand miss all these games. We can go all around the diamond with all the Sox injuries. How many games are they winning? And it just adds up. It adds up. And then when guys get hurt and it takes them a while to get back, so you might miss two weeks, but you’re really not getting your timing back for three. It’s a problem. Like AJ. Pierzynski – have A.J. Pierzynski have the Grandal season. This team’s not having a winning record in 2005 with all of this going on.
NA: No. And it’s hard to play. I always believe that baseball is about consistency. It’s hard to play and get your timing back when you’re out for so long. I think that people overlook that. It’s, like, so easy that you just go in the box and you just swing it’s much more to that.
NA: With you being with the team in 2005, what were some of your favorite memories from inside that clubhouse? Favorite guys to talk to after the games, before the games, like, stuff like that?
CG: Well, I learned early on about what it’s like to cover Ozzie Guillen. And I recognized early on, “This is a gift. I need to appreciate the fact that I get to be around this man and hear all the nonsense and genius things that come out of his mouth.” But I didn’t really get to know him until later. Again, I was like a rookie, so to speak, covering the team.
The good sound bites. There were so many good sound bites around that team, whether it was Aaron Rowand, Mark Buehrle when he would speak. AJ. I hated AJ. Pierzynski, hated him, because he was such a prick to all of us. But then I got to know him, and I’m like, well, I understand why he was prick, because he had to do his thing and be his way for him to be that way and be that great player in the field, and that sometimes would mean being an A-hole to members of the media. But over time, I grew to really respect him, like him, and understand him. But the cool thing for me was being able to cover them in the playoffs.
I was in Boston. The Sox had won the first two games. The Red Sox were defending champs, and they were loaded. I mean, Manny and Ortiz were Manny and Ortiz still. And Fenway Park was just electric. And for the Sox to go in there and El Duque to do that with bases loaded and nobody out, and there was a five-game series, so, like, the Sox once they win that game, boom, it’s over. It’s over. And they did. And just knock out the defending champs like that. That was such a statement that they made. And honestly, the postseason went by in a flash. It’s a blur in many respects because after they eliminated Boston, it was five games against the Angels, and then they sweep – they sweep – the Astros. It was just crazy. But I have a lot of memories, and I cherish them. That was a special time, for sure.
NA: This is a personal question for me. It’s totally off the script, but I don’t believe the four complete games in a row will ever be done before. Do you think that will ever be done? I don’t think that’ll ever be done.
CG: Never again unless something in technology and human beings changes. What I mean by that is, unless they can have some kind of technology in the future where you can put a ligament or something in someone’s shoulder and you will not get hurt throwing a baseball, because why are there so many injuries in baseball? Well, the body wasn’t made to throw a baseball like these guys throw baseballs. If they make a rule all of a sudden that you cannot throw the ball faster than 90 mph, then maybe you’ll be able to throw four complete games in an ALCS in the future. So I cannot see that happening again.
NA: I personally don’t believe that let alone in the postseason at the highest stage to get your team to the World Series. I don’t believe that will ever be done.
CG: Yeah, it was a special time. We’re in different times right now, very different times.
NA: Were you in Houston when the Sox won the World Series?
CG: I was. So I’m trying to go back to that and what stories I can tell.
Here’s what’s funny. Talking about Zigging and Zagging. So it’s game three and there’s media everywhere and I’m like, “I want to tell a story before game three that isn’t being told.” And I was thinking about Geoff Blum and Willie Harris and how they had barely played in the postseason and what happens if they’re called upon. So before game three, I’m interviewing Geoff Blum and Willie Harris about, “Are you ready? You’ve got to be rusty. What happens if you play all of a sudden when you come off the bench? Can you do the job?” Five and a half hours later, Geoff Blum is called upon in the 14th inning and he hits the pinch-hit home run to win the game, and gets his freaking face on the trophy outside of Guaranteed Rate Field. And Willie Harris in game four scored the only run of that game. Or did he drive it in? No, he scored it. That’s one White Sox story that I’m most proud of – the fact that I had the thought of doing this story and sure enough ended up in some way some large way coming to fruition on the field.And that’s what I try to always do, is look ahead, think ahead, and try to come up with a story that people may not be thinking about. And it doesn’t always work, but that one sure did.
So I was there. It’s still a blur. It’s just crazy. I still can’t believe it happened. And I got great pictures. This is before phones, like cell phone cameras and stuff like that. So some people actually brought a camera and were taking pictures of us on the field. And you know what? I was spoiled because my first year covering the team, they won the World Series. I’m thinking, “Oh, we’re going to be doing this again.” Now, we haven’t done it since. So that’s the way it goes.
NA: I don’t know how you came back to Chicago. I don’t know if you were on the team plane or whatever.
NA: How was it coming back into the city after the Sox won a World Series? I mean, that was the first World Series that they’ve seen in a long time.
CG: Yeah. So I don’t always make the best decisions for myself or the right decisions. But we’re flying back – and this has been a grind, a great grind. But, I mean, I’m like, okay, this was like living in the middle of a hurricane for the last two weeks or three, working every day, loved every minute of it. I land in Chicago, and my boss says to me, “Hey, Chuck, don’t worry about covering the parade. It’s okay. We got it.” I’m like, “Great. I don’t want to cover the parade. I’m good. I got to experience them winning a World Series. I was there. How could that be topped?”
So I wake up the next morning, turn on the parade that I’m not covering, and I’m like, “Fuck, what am I thinking? I need to be there. What was I thinking? I should be covering the parade. It looks amazing.” So I made the wrong decision there. I should have covered the parade.
NA: So far, is that the biggest regret that you’ve had in your White Sox journalism history?
CG: Probably. I’m always trying to get stories, [and] interviews fall through, so I can’t regret those. But, yeah, not covering the parade, not being there. Yeah, that’s a pretty big one. I don’t think I’m topping that one anytime soon.
NA: So the next set of questions are just some general questions for you. Who’s probably the best hitter you’ve ever seen with your own two eyes? It’s a pretty big question.
CG: On the White Sox?
NA: White Sox. You get White Sox and then all of baseball. But whichever.
CG: I mean, I’m going Frank Thomas on that one just because he was such a special hitter. A physical specimen with an eye of, like, a Tony Gwynn. Right. Like, he can hit and take pitches and draw walks. He was the complete package. So I would say Frank Thomas is number one. But I like the unique guys, too, the random players who come and go, and there are so many. I’m trying to think of some guys… Juan Uribe. I love watching him play. I put him up there just because he was so entertaining to watch, especially in the field. But, yeah, Frank Thomas is number one.
NA: Best pitcher? For the Sox or in all of baseball?
CG: I’m trying to think about this. Chris Sale is up there.
NA: I would think so. I would say Sale and maybe Buehrle is definitely up there. I think Buehrle’s the right off the top of that answer that everybody would give, I would imagine.
CG: Yeah… Chris Sale, just because of the stuff and how would just make guys look foolish. Great hitters. Righties and lefties. That was what he made the baseball do. And Buehrle, he was an artist. He was not just pitching. He had so much more going on there. The games were quick, which I liked, that there was a pace. I remember I covered a game of his in 2005. You can look it up, like April or May of 2005. I think they’re playing the Mariners. And the game took like an hour and 38 minutes, and he was starting – are you looking it up, by the way?
NA: No, I can. But, I remember going to a game with mom and dad when I was smaller. We would always go out to Sox games. And it was Buehrle coming back when he was on Toronto facing Chris Sale – that game flew by.
CG: Oh, yeah. Hold on a second. I’m going to get this game for you. Thank you, Baseball-Reference. I will provide this in literally 10 seconds. It’s amazing, I can do that. By the way, when I started in this business, there was no internet. It shows you how old I am. You had to save all of your newspapers from the last year to gain access to this information that I’m pulling up on my phone so easily here.
NA: No media guide or one giant book with all the stats?
CG: Yeah. It’s a whole different world right now. All right, so this was against… this is April 16 against the Mariners. Mark Buehrle pitched. They won two to one. The time of the game: an hour and 39 minutes. And Buehrle obviously went the distance, and he gave up three hits, one walk, and twelve strikeouts. How about that? And all three hits that he gave up were to Ichiro Suzuki.
NA: What a hitter Ichiro was. He was quite a unicorn at the time.
CG: Yes, he was special.
NA: Best defender you’ve ever seen in the infield/outfield? A guy could cover the most ground in the infield and in the outfield?
CG: It’s too early in the morning for me to come up with all these answers here. I covered a White Sox-Angels game last night. I got home at 2 am… Let’s see here. I’m a little foggy. There’s just so many. I can’t even think of one guy right now off the top of my head. Who is the best defender I ever saw? Let’s keep it to White Sox. I’ll go. Joe Crede at third base.
NA: Okay. Pretty good.
CG: Torii Hunter in CF with the Twins. Yeah. Ken Griffey Jr.
NA: I wish I got to see Griffey play.
NA: When this is all said and done, when your career is, like, all over, who is one guy or one person, you’re happiest that you got to talk to them or interview them or write a story about them?
CG: Wow. With the White Sox? I’ve been really fortunate. I’ve been able to interview so many people from the White Sox from today, from yesterday, from years past. I wish I was coming up with a better answer right now, honestly, Hawk Harrelson? I mean, come on. He’s up there. I’m having a tough time giving you an answer here, which is really just awful, just because I can go big with frank Thomas and Ozzie Guillen. Two of the greatest players of all time with the White Sox and the manager that won a World Series, and I work with them. I don’t know. I mean, I’ve had some special interviews. I sat down with A.J. and Hawk together and did an interview with them together. That one was fun. I did an interview with Ozzie Guillen and Joe Torre when Torre was the manager of the Dodgers and Ozzie was managing the White Sox. I like those kinds of special interviews. My favorite player growing up was Chet Lemon, and he was at Sox Fest in, like, 2008, and I got to interview him. That’s up there.
I spent time with Mark Buehrle – while Mark Buehrle was still with the White Sox, we went into a room and we queued up all the great moments of his White Sox career and put them up all on this big screen. We actually made a show out of it. It used to be the show called Inside Look, and we showed it to him, and I got his reaction to all these moments. The perfect game, the save in the World Series, him diving on the tarp during a rain delay. That one stands out. If you would have told the ten-year-old version of myself that I would be able to do this later in life and get to know and interview these White Sox heroes and bring their lives to life, I wouldn’t A) believe it, and B) I’d be like, “I’m the luckiest guy to get to do that”.
When Jim Thome came to Chicago, played for the White Sox. He’s from Peoria. We went down, I asked him, “Hey, can we go to where you grew up in Peoria and spend the day with you?” And we took him around to where he grew up, the house he lived in as a kid, to the Little League field that he played in. We’re driving down the street, and he goes, “Hey.” His mom had just passed away, like, a year or two before. He goes, “You want to go see mom?” He literally said that to me, “You want to go see mom?” And I’m like, “Yeah.” So we went to the cemetery where his mom is buried, and he went to the grave site, and I was there with him. I pinched myself that I was able to do that with Jim Thome. So when you ask me that question, it takes a while to come up with an answer because there’s just so many of them. And you cover a team for 17/18 years, and I’m always digging, digging for stories, and there are so many great people and players and personalities who have come through that clubhouse, and I’ve been lucky to be there, to be able to bring those stories to life.
NA: This might pertain to maybe like a younger you or maybe like an older version of you later in your career, but was there ever a time that you were just like, I don’t want to say starstruck, but just in awe? Like this person sitting in front of me right now, I am talking to this person? Because I remember I felt that way when I was a few years old and I went to a baseball camp and Bo Jackson was just standing there, and that’s the guy that ran up walls in Kansas City and played at Auburn. My dad was like, “What did he say?” And I was like, “I have no idea, I was just in awe.”
CG: Yeah, Bo is one of those guys. He is. And I actually interviewed him. I wish we could have recorded this, but I did a charity function with him last year and kind of interviewed him about his life and his career and he has a lot to say and he doesn’t do a lot of interviews. He’s definitely one where I’m like, wow, this is Bo frickin Jackson. And I do feel a little intimidated when I’m around, for sure. So yeah, that’s a good one. That’s one that I feel for sure.
NA: So we have just a few more. But I believe, if I remember correctly, if memory serves, that you did some coverage for NBC on New Year’s Eve. Was it?
CG: Oh, you mean with the Chicago Fire?
NA: I believe you did something on New Year’s Eve for NBC.
CG: I taped something with the guys from the TV show Chicago Fire.
NA: Yeah, stuff like that. Is there something you’d ever want to do, like outside of sports in media and broadcasting?
CG: Yeah, for sure. I’m not a one-trick pony, even though I do so much in sports. But yeah, if I didn’t do sports, I just want to tell stories. Like CBS Sunday Morning – there’s a show, I would watch it since I was a kid. If I could just tell feature stories, that would be fine with me. And I haven’t been doing that a lot. Human interest stories, the big things that happen in life, and the small things, I love to uncover that kind of stuff. So I can do other stuff, but I love covering the White Sox and it takes up a lot of my time, so I haven’t found time to do the other stuff for a while.
NA: So to touch on the last one here. It’s a pretty general one, and I know you touched on it a little bit earlier. But what is your general advice for anyone really trying to break into media?
CG: Yeah, like I said before, if you’re wavering, if you’re kind of on the fence, it’s not worth it. You need to go all in, all in, all the time. And say you do have that in your bones and you really want to do this for a living, I would say: never give up, have patience – that you have to have those opportunities come and they’re not going to come when you want them to all the time – and work your butt off every single day and always try to be better. I never take this job for granted; every single day I walk into the office or every day that I’m working, I try to give my best all the time.
It’s a very competitive business. If you don’t do a good job or don’t try or work hard enough, someone else will and will potentially take your job. I’m always trying to get better. The amount of focus and work that I do today is the same amount I had when I was 23 years old and starting out in this business. And so if you love it, jump in and do it, and you’ll be very satisfied with it. But if you’re kind of like, “I don’t know,” it’s not worth it. So that’s my advice, is that give all of yourself to it every single day and don’t give up and the opportunities will come.
NA: Thank you. I mean, that goes to me, too, and to anybody else that will listen to this and wants a job in the media. I kind of get it from my parents where they say, like I said earlier, you have to love what you want to do and you have to work hard, and you have to work like it’s your first day on the job almost.
NA: It’s really competitive. There aren’t many jobs. The other thing is, there’s no policy manual, there’s no book that says, “This is how you get a job in this business and keep a job in this business.” You have to figure it out for yourself. And everyone’s got their own path. And my path took me to Traverse City, Michigan, and I zigzagged all over the place. And there’s other people who got jobs in Chicago right out of the gate and worked their way up and stayed here. That was not the path that I had.
NA: So thanks, Chuck. I really appreciate your time. So thank you.
Follow us @SoxOn35th for more throughout the season!
Featured Image: Chuck Garfien / Twitter