Clubhouse Chatter ... a change of perception

What our columnists and sports writers have to say as they wait for the games to resume.

We had heard so much about George Bell and how difficult he could be, but when he arrived in Mesa for Cubs spring training in 1991, he couldn't have been more polite and available. He was nothing like what we had heard about him.

- Barry Rozner

Michael Jordan and I were rookies in the spring of 1994. It was his first year as a baseball player and my first year as a baseball writer for The Daily Herald. Jordan was bombarded by media from all over the world every day of spring training in White Sox camp, everyone wanted his autograph, and he couldn't even go out for dinner in Sarasota, Florida, without drawing a disruptive crowd. There were, however, some days when the clubhouse wasn't Crazy Town. That's when Jordan, who knew the Chicago writers at that point, would show he was a regular kind of guy and ask personal questions rather than have to answer them.

- Scot Gregor

There was one time I was at a Hawks-Pistons playoff game at the Palace, because the winner was going to play the Bulls in the next round. I sat near Bill Cartwright, who was there scouting. I felt really reluctant to go over and talk to him, not because I had any preconceived notion of his personality. It was more that I didn't know what to expect. Anyway, I found out he's one of the friendliest people you could ever meet. That was reinforced during the years he was Bulls head coach. He didn't last long as a head coach, unfortunately, but I haven't met many better people in the pro sports world.

- Mike McGraw

Frank Thomas. And it's not even close. Late in the 2000 season, I was working on a story about how Thomas and Sammy Sosa could lead their respective leagues in home runs. While the rest of the White Sox were warming up for the game, I sat with Thomas on the clubhouse couch. He was thoughtful, polite and eloquent during our 10-minute talk. Sure, the subject matter was easy to talk about, and despite never meeting me, Thomas let his guard down and completely changed all perceptions I had of him. For the record, Sosa ended up leading the NL with 50 home runs, while Thomas (43) fell short of beating out Troy Glaus (47).

- John Dietz

I arranged to have a family friend meet Hulk Hogan. The young boy, a WWF fanatic, was in a wheelchair and unable to speak. The boy didn't know he was to meet his hero. We were backstage at Allstate Arena, and Hogan, in character, burst through the curtain and ordered me out of the way so he could "talk to his buddy." For 10 minutes Hulk showered his wide-eyed pal with attention and gifts.

- Mike Smith

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