White Sox chairman Reinsdorf not slowing down
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Slowing down with age is a natural, normal process.
Jerry Reinsdorf is neither.
With his 75th birthday coming Friday, the longtime White Sox and Bulls chairman actually seems to be gaining speed.
"I don't know how he stays in shape," Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said of Reinsdorf. "This man, he has to worry about so many things … his business, the Bulls, the White Sox, dealing with Ozzie, dealing with (general manager) Kenny (Williams), dealing with the players, dealing with everybody.
"To stay in shape the way he has … look at the way he looks. I was with (Florida Marlins manager) Jack McKeon when Jack McKeon was 70. There's a big difference between Jack and Jerry, the way they look.
"When you have to worry about so much stuff, when you have so many meetings, his agenda is pretty tough. To take care of yourself that way, it's amazing."
Even at his advanced age, Reinsdorf remains amazing on multiple levels.
Last year Reinsdorf often wore a pedometer to keep track of his daily walking distance, and he was a regular on the back steps at U.S. Cellular Field that lead up and down to his suite on the fourth level.
Reinsdorf also sticks to a stringent diet, and he no longer regularly puffs on cigars as he once did.
On the mental side, Williams often talks about how sharp Reinsdorf is during face-to-face meetings, and the White Sox' GM has to make sure he is thoroughly prepared on even the most minute detail before making any type of proposal to the big boss.
Since Reinsdorf doesn't talk to the media much, a habit that started more than a decade ago when he was frequently misquoted or taken out of context, his razor-sharp sense of humor rarely comes out in public.
But it is there.
"He's just a fun guy to be around," said catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who quickly formed a tight bond with Reinsdorf after signing with the Sox in 2005. "He always has a smile on his face; he always has a nice wisecrack for me."
Reinsdorf, a Brooklyn native who has a law degree from Northwestern and has lived in Chicago since 1957, has been White Sox chairman for 30 years and is most proud of the 2005 World Series championship.
He also purchased controlling interest in the Bulls in 1985 and has six NBA championship rings.
"Obviously, 2005 was far and away the highlight," Reinsdorf recently said on WMVP 1000-AM. "But I think what I'm most proud of is the way people inside and outside of Chicago look at the White Sox franchise.
"With all due respect to prior ownership, which was operating under very severe handicaps, during my lifetime as I was growing up in another city and even after I moved to Chicago, there wasn't much respect for the White Sox.
"The White Sox were really the Rodney Dangerfield of baseball. I remember when we signed Carlton Fisk in 1981, nobody believed the Chicago White Sox could attract a player of Carlton Fisk's caliber.
"Over the last 30 years, I think we've shaken that image. We are perennial contenders. We haven't won as much as we'd like to win, but everybody knows the White Sox are trying to win and we will have a contending team virtually every year."
Winning championships and breaking even financially have long been Reinsdorf's two primary goals as a sports owner.
He has been successful, mostly on the basketball side, thanks to Michael Jordan.
"He's one of the great owners that I've encountered in my career," said Roland Hemond, who was the White Sox' GM under Reinsdorf from 1981-85. "He excels in his leadership of the organization in a manner where he shows great respect to all of the employees no matter what role they play. And they all rise to the occasion to do the best job they possibly can because of him and the way he conducts himself.
"As an owner, he's part of the family. He's not looking for credit at any time; it's just what's good for the whole group."
The White Sox are Reinsdorf's extended family. Guillen and Williams both played for the Sox, as did coaches Greg Walker, Joey Cora, Harold Baines and Mark Salas.
"I love him like a father," said Walker, who was in private business for 12 years after retiring as a player before Reinsdorf came calling when looking for a hitting coach in 2002. "He's been a father figure to a lot of us in this organization and, better than that, he's a friend.
"There are a lot of people in this organization that owe him a lot and we'd basically run through a wall for him, a brick wall. He's one of those people in my life that's done a lot more for me than I have for him. I don't know if I'll ever be able to repay him for that."