'The Duke' Reinsdorf's lucky charm
Statue of American icon helped turn team's fortunes
CHICAGO -- John Wayne passed away in June 1979, but according to White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, the world-famous star of Westerns known as "The Duke" is playing a role in his team's current success.
This story begins on Sept. 23, when Reinsdorf received a gift from his friend Jim Watson, a state representative based in Jacksonville, Ill. The present was a ceramic John Wayne doll, which Watson said already had brought him good look. Watson told Reinsdorf that if he brought Wayne to the games, it would bring the South Side franchise luck as well.
So, Reinsdorf gave it a try. It couldn't hurt, at that point, with the White Sox having lost to Minnesota in extra innings the night before, and their American League Central lead down to a 1 1/2 games after it stood at 15 on Aug. 1.
The statue was a bit smashed up, as Reinsdorf quipped that Watson "didn't pack it well." But during its first night in attendance, the White Sox beat Minnesota, 3-1. The White Sox actually took the final three regular-season home games from the Twins.
Since the point John Wayne arrived back in Chicago, the White Sox have an 8-1 record. Reinsdorf didn't use the Wayne statue for the three-game sweep of Cleveland, and he left it at U.S. Cellular Field during the White Sox first loss in Detroit to start the final week of the regular season. But how does Wayne support the White Sox when they are on the road?
Reinsdorf leaves him in his office at home, with the television turned to the game.
"I've either had him at the game or he's watching on TV," Reinsdorf said. "For the clinching game in Detroit, I had him propped up in front of the television set, and when I went to Detroit, I left the TV on so he could watch it.
If John Wayne really does hold some sort of magical baseball powers, then the White Sox could be in trouble this weekend. The airport in Orange County, just minutes away from where the Angels play their home games, is called John Wayne Airport.
In this particular airport stands a huge statue of none other than John Wayne. But Reinsdorf believes there's a clear difference in the Wayne forces that won't hurt the White Sox.
"They have a statue of John Wayne, but that statue can't watch the game," Reinsdorf said. "My John Wayne will be watching the game."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.