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In honor of actor Andy Garcia and his (unintentionally) hilarious reaction to Sofia (Mary Corleone) Coppola's death scene in "The Godfather, Part III."
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Fan fiction again

Posted 04-15-2009 at 09:20 PM by TommyJohn
Updated 03-20-2011 at 02:03 PM by TommyJohn

I wrote in an earlier entry that my mind is swimming with the possiblities of what to write in this blog. My head is crammed full of 30 years worth of imagination that I never wrote down. I don't know why. Laziness, I guess. Plus a feeling that it wasn't good, or I should be doing other things and not whittling my life away with stupid daydreams. Still, I came up with a lot of stuff-I created my own baseball and football teams, along with a bevy of fictional baseball players that I placed on real teams. I wrote down their "stats" but never any "career" moments, those stayed in my head. Most of those players I have taken and put on the "New Orleans Knights" my team. Most of them, when I first created them, played the majority of their careers with the White Sox.

One such guy I created in early spring 1985. I was walking by old Comiskey Park, which was empty and silent. I became overwhelmed with nostalgia-I imagined the lingering echoes of cheers from long-dead fans who had sat in the park in the 1920s and 30s and cheered on the Sox and watched opponents like Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb spray hits all over the field. I imagined a player for the White Sox who played in that era-the Roaring Twenties and into the 30s-and faced those guys. He also lived and partied in the Chicago of that time, and rode the trains to each destination, and stayed in the hotels of the era.

And so was born, out of my head, Daniel Edward Walsh Nichols, who played with the White Sox from 1927-38.

First a little background. Daniel's father was a Russian immigrant who came over to the US with his family in 1885 at the age of 5 (the family name came from his first name-Nicolai). He was introduced to baseball at a young age by a family friend and became interested in it. Eventually Nichols, Sr. would have a brief major league career-five games as a pitcher for the 1901 Baltimore Orioles-before a collision at home plate separated his shoulder and ended his career. So he moved back to Chicago (his family settled on the south side) and opened a tavern at 38th and Wentworth, to be close to baseball and the fans that came to see the Sox and give him business. In 1904 he met and married his wife Katrina, and they would have five children, of whom Daniel would be the first.

Daniel Edward Walsh Nichols was born October 11, 1906, the same day that Ed Walsh fired a 2-hit shutout at the Cubs in Game 3 of the World Series. Nichols, Sr. ever the devoted fan, named his son after his favorite White Sox player. (The Daniel came from Katrina's side of the family).

By 1910 they had two more kids and Sr., not wanting to lose his business after the Sox picked up and moved, also shifted his base of operations to a bar on 33rd and Wells, which he opened on July 1, the same day that the White Sox moved into their brand new ballpark.

I remember clearly that I literally scouted locations for this place-and saw a building on the corner of 33rd and Wells, across the street from Armour Park, that looked as if it could have been a bar in the past. I took one look at it and dubbed it the Nichols' former bar.

The decade of the teens was eventful. The Nichols would increase their brood to five-three sons and two daughters-and Sr. would teach all three of his sons the game, in the hopes of making them ballplayers.

It was also at this time that Sr. formed a bond with three regulars that would come in after work and have have a couple of beers, usually on Friday. The four men bonded and became good friends-all four were married and eventually got to meet each other's families.

Always, there was time for baseball. They were all devoted fans of the White Sox and attended as many games as finances and family obligations would allow. They would sit in the bleachers, whistle, stamp, make noise and rattle the opposition at every opportunity. In 1917, their devotion paid off when their favorite team won the World Series, beating the favored New York Giants 4 games to 2.

Two years later the Sox again were in the series, and the four friends attended a couple of the games. They were upset when the team lost to the Reds, but felt it was a simple upset. Their illusions were shattered the next year when it was revealed that eight members of that team had taken money to "fix" the series. Included in the eight accused was their favorite player, bar none-"Shoeless" Joe Jackson.

In my teenage imagination of the 1980s, the four men are broken-hearted by the scandal. They continue to root for the Sox, but their hearts are just not in it. They can no longer feel the same faith and devotion that they once did. I now realize that those traits would probably be revised, but back then the thinking was that the scandal destroys their love and devotion to the White Sox.

Sr. gives up on the Sox and turns to the other team, becoming a Cubs fan. Well, sort of. He doesn't feel the fire and passion for them that he felt for the Sox, but he tries to bond with them as a fan just the same. It doesn't really do any good.

Of course, once 1920 rolls in, so does Prohibition. Nichols responds by converting his place to a Bar and Grill. He increases the number of food items available to customers and available beverages are soda "near beer" and diluted drinks allowed by the law.

All this time Katrina Nichols bears his children and works tirelessly at his side raising them and helping him run his business in a smooth fashion. She is the rock that holds the family together.

In 1925 Sr., who never again felt the passion for the Sox that he once did, died of a heart attack at the age of 45. His wife took over the business and is actually more successful at running it than he was-he served the drinks but she was the brains behind the operation.

Dan Nichols by this time becomes a star pitcher in high school and plays a year in the minors before being discovered and signed by the St. Louis Cardinals. He plays two games with them in 1926, but is not around when they win the World Series. The next year, as luck would have it, he is released and the White Sox pick him up.

His career details are now hazy-I never wrote them down. I did have his record from year-to-year, but that is long since thrown away. I do know he won 20 games a few times, lost 20 a couple times, most notably during the stinko 1932 season, when the team went 49-102. He enjoyed the team, the trains, travel, hotels, and women. He lasts 12 seasons with the White Sox before they deal him to the crosstown Cubs. Nichols plays for them for three years before being traded to the Cardinals in 1942. After that season he volunteers to serve in the Army and does so for the duration of World War II. When he comes back he fails to land a roster spot on the Cardinals. The White Sox give him a look-see but opt not to sign him, so Nichols retires.

The character was still "alive" as of the time I came up with him in 1985, and approaching his 80s. Now, of course, he would be long dead, but I haven't settled on a date.

I now have the character of "Dan Nichols" as a legend of the "New Orleans Knights." His origin is the same-he grew up on the south side of Chicago, his father was a pitcher turned bartender. Only now he spends 1927-38 in the uniform of the Knights.
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