Lester: Sox pitcher key to '59 pennant dies as modestly as he lived

 
 
Posted7/29/2016 5:03 AM
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  • Turk Lown, a pitcher for the White Sox in the 1950s and '60s, "played for the love of it, not the money," his son Terry says. Lown died earlier this month at age 92.

    Turk Lown, a pitcher for the White Sox in the 1950s and '60s, "played for the love of it, not the money," his son Terry says. Lown died earlier this month at age 92. Courtesy of Lown Family

Decades before Chris Sale was suspended for cutting up throwback jerseys before a scheduled start, the White Sox had another standout pitcher, who led the American League in saves and games finished to help the team clinch the 1959 pennant.

But Omar "Turk" Lown -- who received his nickname as a kid for his love of turkey -- is remembered for his modesty and pragmatism, in both the way he lived and the way he died.

When I called Lown's Pueblo, Colorado, home to ask his perspective on the Sale incident, I found I was weeks too late.

Son Terry told me his dad died July 8 of leukemia, with only a quiet funeral attended by a handful of friends.

Online baseball databases tracking the oldest players have yet to catch on that Lown died. And letters from autograph seekers still arrive at the family home, his children say.

"He didn't want anything but a Mass," Terry Lown said.

Turk Lown, a record-breaking White Sox pitcher key to the team's 1959 pennant, died earlier this month at age 92.
Turk Lown, a record-breaking White Sox pitcher key to the team's 1959 pennant, died earlier this month at age 92. - courtesy of Lown Family

'For the love of it'

Terry Lown was just a small boy when his dad played for the White Sox from 1958 to 1962, capping off his 11 total seasons in the major leagues. Before the Sox, Turk played for the Cubs and the Cincinnati Reds. Terry remembers the little things about that time -- staying at Chicago's old Piccadilly Hotel, racing to the newsstands with a dime each morning to see the latest write-ups and occasionally getting to play on the field in "father-son" games. When Turk Lown retired from professional baseball, he became a letter carrier for the next 23 years. "He never really bragged about baseball," Terry Lown said. "A lot of people have said, 'I didn't know your dad played that long.' They didn't know he fought in the Battle of the Bulge and received the Purple Heart, either."

As to what his dad would have thought of Sale, Terry Lown noted, "back in his day, they played for the love of it, not for the money."

Those jerseys ...

Daily Herald sports columnist Mike Imrem wrote earlier this week that White Sox owner Bill Veeck, affectionately known as "Baseball's Barnum," would have found a creative way to market the Sale incident, perhaps inviting tailors to the team's next game for free. A little known fact is Veeck's widow, Mary Frances Veeck, designed the jerseys. Mrs. Veeck is approaching her 96th birthday and is still sharp as a tack, daughter Marya told me this week. While Mrs. Veeck is out of town and missed the Sale incident, she spent 40 minutes on the phone dissecting the Democratic National Convention with her daughter.

'For you, Hill'

"My sweet friend, I know you're watching. This one's for you, Hill," a joyful and tearful Betsy Ebeling told Democratic convention delegates as she cast Illinois' 98 votes for her childhood best friend, Hillary Clinton. Ebeling, of Arlington Heights, has been a constant at campaign events over the last year. But it's only in recent weeks that we connected the dots that she was the high school Spanish teacher of Daily Herald Fox Valley Editor Mike Smith when he was a student at Glenbard West High School.

Crucial votes

Elsewhere at the convention, you may have noticed, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle was seated in the same box as former President Bill Clinton Monday night. Preckwinkle -- a delegate for Hillary Clinton -- got the invite, aide Scott Cisek tells me, because of her help delivering a wide margin of victory for the former first lady and secretary of state in the March 15 primary. It was obviously noticed by Bill Clinton -- who paid a visit to Preckwinkle's south side ward on election day.

Crew members of the Sail Monkey recorded a personal best in the Chicago Yacht Club's Race to Mackinac.
Crew members of the Sail Monkey recorded a personal best in the Chicago Yacht Club's Race to Mackinac. - courtesy of Gary Kochanek

Personal best

"44 hours, 40 minutes -- personal record!" was the text I got Monday morning from Naperville's Gary Kochanek, upon his arrival on Mackinac Island, Michigan, after a 333-mile boat race. It was Kochanek's 25th year sailing in the Chicago Yacht Club's race -- a course that's the oldest freshwater distance race in the world. The retired Allstate executive has been sailing since the 1980s, carrying on the tradition of a close friend who taught him to sail and died young of leukemia. He, and the rest of the eight-man Sail Monkey crew, headed to the bar shortly thereafter.

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