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Oesterle: Book on Sox memories benefits local charity

Published: Friday, June 20, 2014 8:51 p.m. CST • Updated: Friday, June 20, 2014 8:56 p.m. CST

A couple of weeks ago, I got a call from Joe Schmitz. It seems the area’s biggest White Sox fan had been cajoled by his kids into writing down his best Sox memories and making a book of them. It started out as just something to give to his kids and grandkids, but, like so many other things in Schmitz’s life, turned into something bigger and better.

Yes, the kids and grandkids will get to read the book, titled “My Lifetime Love Affair with the White Sox!” But, now the general public can as well. They are on sale for $15 at Standard Bank locations in the area, namely Morris, Coal City and Gardner. And, in typical Schmitz fashion, all proceeds will go directly to Operation St. Nick, the foundation he and his wife, Carol, started and have been a part of since 1979 that gives food and other neccesities to area families in need.

Operation St. Nick always has been and always will be a great cause. It started out helping children whose families had fallen on financial difficulties by providing Christmas gifts for the children from their own wish lists. St. Nick also provided food for the families’ holiday seasons. Since then, it has expanded to 150 families during the Christmas season and also provides new bikes for up to 50 children in need each Memorial Day weekend. Operation St. Nick has also intiated a back-to-school program, which provides children with new clothes and school supplies, a literacy program and a military family and veterans program, in addition to assisting food pantries throughout Grundy County. All told, Operation St. Nick has assisted more than 4,000 families and donated more than $1.5 million to help those in need in Grundy County since 1979.

Second, it’s a great read, and this is coming from a lifelong Cubs fan. What comes across in Schmitz’s book is not just a love of the Sox. The love of the game of baseball is underneath, and that’s what resonates. From driving from his childhood home in Streator to Comiskey Park with his father before interstates in the early 1950s to the White Sox’s tough loss in the ’59 World Series to the Dodgers to Joe’s business dealings with legendary Sox owner Bill Veeck to his elation at the 2005 Series championship to being on the field during All-Star Game festivities in St. Louis with Mark Buehrle in 2009 when he was named one of People Magazine’s All-Stars Among Us for his work with Operation St. Nick and then witnessing Buehrle’s perfect game a few days later, there’s a lifetime of baseball between the covers and you have the feeling there’s more where that came from.

And, for good measure, in the center of the book is a collection of pictures that will verify almost every story he tells, lest anyone think he is making things up.

“I was with the kids in 2012, and they told me to write down the stories so they and the grandkids could read them when I am gone,” Schmitz said. “I thought about my good friend, the late Jim Feeney, and how quickly he left us, and I thought there’s no time like the present. I am glad the kids and grandkids will have a chance to read it.

“The game has changed so much. You look at a guy like Bill Veeck. I don’t know what his net worth was when he passed, but I bet it was not much. Now look at Jerry Reinsdorf, who bought the White Sox for $20 million. They are probably worth $600 million or more now. It’s a business, now. A huge business, but the game is still the same. I still like going to the games and thinking along with it. Should they bunt here or try a hit-and-run? Is the pitcher getting tired? I love to analyze the game.”

And anyone who analyzes his book will love it.

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