When the Chicago White Sox clinched their first flag of any sort since the Eisenhower administration, designated hitter Greg Luzinski, a born-and-bred Chicagoan, had an inspiration.
"After 24 years," he said, "let's give the fans something."
So, on a bright, blustery Sunday afternoon, the White Sox took the Bull's advice and held a flag-raising ceremony, hoisting the American League West banner over the right-center field roof.
Next, each of the 25 Sox was announced individually. As each player jogged to the third base foul line, he received an ovation as the crowd stood and cheered for 10 minutes.
Luzinski sat in the Sox dugout recently, recalling the goosebumps on that glorious day of celebration. "We always did that when we won the division in Philadelphia," said Luzinski, who was the cleanup heart of three such Phillies winners. "It seemed like a good thing to do for your home town."
"Got any more ideas, Bull?" asked White Sox President Eddie Einhorn.
"Yeah, I do," said Luzinski, recognizing a hot streak. "When we win the (American League) pennant, put the flag on the roof in left field, just like the one in right field."
Luzinski thought for a moment. The roof in center field is already full of flags and exploding scoreboards; one more banner wouldn't even be noticed. "Then," concluded the Bull, solving his dilemma, "we can put the world championship flag on a pole in the (center field) bullpen."
"We can build the flagpoles," Einhorn told Luzinski. "All you gotta do is win the games."
Aided greatly by Luzinski's 31 home runs and 93 RBI this season, the White Sox are doing exactly that. If the White Sox team, and perhaps the sporting city of Chicago, has an obvious and undeniable symbol, it is Luzinski.
He's Polish, grew up in nearby Prospect Heights, loved the Cubs as a kid and always dreamed of playing major league ball in his home town. The bearded, ample-bellied, 230-pound Luzinski with his massive upper body and his dainty, twinkle-toes running style seems the perfect emblem for the city of broad shoulders. If Chicago is hog butcher to the world, then Luzinski did his fair share of the bacon eating.
Carlton Fisk says that when he tries to pat Luzinski on the back after a home run, his hand gets lost. Luzinski is such a whale-like mountain of a man that, as Fisk puts it, "sometimes you can't tell the front from the back."
No one in a Sox uniform, however, draws more smiles and warm nods than Luzinski, who has come home to rule the roost in the town where he was meant to play.
During his 13 seasons in the Phillies organization, Luzinski felt welcomed and appreciated, but his whole personality never seemed to come into play. He hit home runs, he looked immense and powerful, he tried to keep from getting himself killed in left field and he had a warm civic sense, giving $20,000 a year to charity so that poor children could sit in the Bull Ring seats in the bleachers near his position.
Nonetheless, in the hostile-to-the-world Phillies clubhouse, Luzinski never seemed to have the proper me-first snarl, the disdain for his fellow man, the stab-a-teammate-in-the-back touch that other veteran Phillies mastered.
The White Sox locker room is as open and congenial as any in baseball. "This is a relaxed, good clubhouse. It's been that way all year," said Luzinski. "It's nothin' new. Tony (LaRussa) has come in and turned up the radio after we've lost. There's tomorrow.
"Maybe in football, it's different. But in baseball, it's a routine-type thing. Tonight's over. Twelve hours after you're the hero or the goat you play again. You read a headline, then you have to do it again."
In the past, Luzinski was often nettled by the way "you're always judged by yourself." Meaning that, because he hit 34, 35 and 39 homers and drove in 101, 120 and 130 runs in his best years as a Phillie, everybody expects him to do it now at age 32 with a rehabilitated right knee.
However, being home in Chicago has done wonders for the Bull's disposition, his ability to ignore such aggravations. "I grew up here. I'm basically the only one who moved away," he said.
His trip to the big leagues has had its rough spots. Luzinski was practically booed out of Philadelphia after a pair of seasons, 1979 and 1980, that wouldn't have been too bad for a normal player. This spring, when he went one for 34, the hoots returned, along with the wisecracks about his physique.
Now, Chicago is his pork chop.
The whole town is moaning about how, if the Sox reach the Series, the team will have to play without its beloved DH. Should the invaluable Luzinski play left field or be given a tryout at first base?
Luzinski's wife, Jean, vows that if her husband is put in the outfield, "I'll hide under the seat."
At any rate, Chicago and The Bull are this season's dream marriage. Three times this season, Luzinski has clobbered homers onto the Comiskey roof, exactly the kind of ostentation that Chicago likes. Following his example, rookie Ron Kittle has reached the roof twice, although Luzinski grins and says, "Kittle hasn't hit one far yet."
Last week, Luzinski was on that roof for a photograph session for a "Bull on the Roof" poster.
In a typical Chicago wind, the camera gang was worried. Luzinski, reports have it, was not concerned. "I don't think I'll be blown away," he said.
Men of such substance seldom are.