Video: Former “Chicago Tonight: The Week in Review” host Joel Weisman throws out the first pitch Monday, Aug. 6, 2018.
He came. He saw. He threw out the first pitch.
Joel Weisman wowed his friends, family and a crowd of more than 22,000 fans at Guaranteed Rate Field on Monday night, nearly throwing a strike as the White Sox honored him for his long tenure as host of “Chicago Tonight: The Week in Review” on WTTW.
“It was exhilarating,” said Weisman. “Really thrilling. And I wasn’t as nervous as I imagined I’d be. Plus, it didn’t seem to be quite as far of a throw as I thought.”
How did Weisman get such an honor? Brooks Boyer, White Sox sales and marketing senior vice president, explains it this way: “When White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf learned that Joel was signing off from ‘Chicago Tonight: The Week in Review,’ after 40 years, and understanding that Joel is a longtime White Sox fan, Jerry wanted to invite him to throw a ceremonial first pitch, honoring Joel’s storied broadcast career and accomplishment. (The first pitch) experience is simply a way to say thank you to Joel for his longstanding commitment to the Chicagoland community.”
Weisman hosted his final edition of “The Week in Review” on Jan. 19, 2018, almost 40 years to the day of his first program on Jan. 20, 1978. During the final show with Weisman at the helm, NBC 5 reporter Mary Ann Ahern told him about the White Sox honor. (Watch the video below to see his reaction.)
Weisman says he began practicing throws this spring in Florida after marching out 60 feet, 6 inches on the beach. He had lots of support Monday for his pregame adventure: He brought to the game 30-plus friends and family, most traveling on a privately rented party bus.
Weisman’s wife Analee was there cheering him on. His three sons, Scott, Mitchell and Matthew as well grandson Holden all traveled to Chicago from across the country to be at the game as well.
Accompanying Weisman on the field were Analee, Matthew and Holden. Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito played catcher for the evening, deftly scooping Weisman’s pitch out of the dirt just beside home plate.
“Giolito gave me some good advice just before the pitch,” said Weisman. “He said, ‘We’re just gonna go out there and play catch.’”
Weisman received high-fives and backslaps from his assembled friends and family. “They all thought I was going to either throw it way over his head, or throw it right into the ground. So the fact that I nearly got the ball over the plate was a big win.” he said.
So how did this North Side sports fan from Albany Park become a White Sox devotee?
“At the beginning, it was hard,” Weisman said. “My mom was a Cubs fan and when I was 6 or 7 years old, she used to take me to Wrigley Field on the bus to see games there.”
But Weisman became a fan of Sox players like Billy Pierce and Minnie Minoso. And as a kid, when he wrote the teams asking for autographed pictures, White Sox players were much more responsive than the team to the north. And it didn’t hurt that the White Sox were consistently good and played a crowd-pleasing style of ball during Weisman’s formative years in the 1950s. He was hooked.
When he was 14, Weisman snagged a job at Comiskey Park. He thought it would allow him to see a lot of baseball. “Wrong,” he remembers. “My job was filling cups with ice for the vendors back in a room where I couldn’t see the field!”
The next year, he lied and said he was 16 so he could begin selling ice-cold Coke in the stands. By the time the White Sox were in the 1959 World Series, Weisman was an experienced vendor. Although during the series, he didn’t try very hard, he says.
“On a normal day, a good vendor would sell 20 to 25 trays of Coke,” he remembers. “Well, during the World Series, I think I sold eight or nine. It was definitely intentional laziness. I wanted to watch the game!”
When the White Sox returned to the World Series in 2005, Weisman was there. And he hopes to be back again if and when the Sox cadre of top minor league prospects brings the team back to post-season success.
Also honored at Monday’s game with a first pitch opportunity was lifelong Sox fan Alberto Herrera. He was one of 103 people, including 16 Chicago area residents, who safely walked away from a plane crash in Durango, Mexico last week.
Meanwhile, the White Sox had their season high four-game winning streak snapped Monday by the powerful New York Yankees by a score of 7 to 0.
But for Weisman and his group, the night itself was a winner.
Note: This story was originally published Aug. 6, 2018. It has been updated to include quotes from Weisman after throwing his first pitch.