White Sox

5 Questions with... George Wendt

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5 Questions with... George Wendt

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

ByJeff NuichCSN Chicago Senior Director ofCommunicationsCSNChicago.comContributor

Want to know more about your favorite Chicago celebrities? CSNChicago.com has your fix as we put the citys most popular personalities on the spot with everyones favorite weekly local celeb feature entitled 5 Questions with...

Every Wednesday, exclusively on CSNChicago.com, its our turn to grill the local media and other local VIPs with five random sports and non-sports related questions that will definitely be of interest to old and new fans alike.

This weeks very special guest one of the most beloved character actors in television history whose brilliant portrayal of the priceless barfly Norm Peterson on the hit comedy series Cheers earned him a massive six Primetime Emmy nominations this alumnus of Chicagos famed Second City continues to earn rave reviews for his work on both screen and stage (he was recently Edna Turnblad in the Broadway production of Hairspray) bottom line, were honored this multi-talented entertainer and author calls Chicago his hometown here are 5 Questions withGEORGE WENDT!

BIO: Actor and comedian George Wendt was born on October 17, 1948, in Chicago. He initially studied at the University of Notre Dame, but was kicked out after failing all the subjects he took in a semester. He eventually graduated with a degree in economics at the Rockhurst College in Kansas City.

Wendt was part of the Chicago-based comedy troupe The Second City. After being inspired to join after one viewing, he was initially assigned to sweep cigarette butts off the theater floor. Eventually, he progressed to become one of the performers and his experiences there led to screen roles in the 1980s. He began by playing bit roles in films such as "Somewhere In Time," as well as guest roles in series such as "Taxi", "Soap" and "MASH".

However, Wendt is best known for his role in the massively successful sitcom Cheers. He played Norm Peterson, a regular customer at Cheers, who began as an accountant who eventually loses his job and becomes a housepainter. He played the character throughout Cheers 11-year run, and also reprised his character in its spin-offs, "The Tortellis" and "Frasier," as well as "Wings" and "St. Elsewhere" and an episode of "The Simpsons".

Wendt is also known for his numerous appearances on "Saturday Night Live." After his first appearance in 1985 as a guest co-host (with Francis Ford Coppola), he later made several cameo appearances in some sketches, notably as Bob Swerski, one of the Chicago Superfans. His SNL connection continues to this day, as he is the uncle of current cast member Jason Sudeikis.

Apart from these, Wendt also had a recurring role in "Sabrina the Teenage Witch," and appeared in other programs such as "Modern Men," "House of Dreams," "Madigan Men" and "Becker." He has also returned to the stage, recently playing the role of Edna Turnblad in the Broadway revival of the musical "Hairspray." In addition, Wendt is the author of the hilarious book Drinking with George: A Barstool Professional's Guide to Beer.

1) CSNChicago.com: George, thanks so much for taking time to join us for CSNChicago.coms 5 Questions with Its truly an honor to say the least. On to the questions you were born in Chicagos Beverly neighborhood on the south side of the city. Tell us a couple of your fondest local sports memories of growing up in that part of town and, since you did grow up on the South Side, were assuming youre a White Sox fan or did you go against the grain and root for the Cubs?

Wendt: I remember the night the 59 Sox won the pennant! Air raid sirens went off throughout the city at Mayor Daley's orders. It caused quite a scare for the Cub fans -- Sox fans knew the Russians weren't attacking! I was always a Sox fan primarily, but the 69 Cubs did turn my head for a while. I loved that era of Cubs. I even swallowed the bait for the 84 team. After playing in "Bleacher Bums" a few times, I realized the folly of the quest for Cub fans. After the Sox won in 2005, I called several Cub fan friends and warned them what a hollow feeling winning left me with ... "Don't!" I said to them, "It's all about the quest. They didn't take it very well. So watching and waiting for just how and when the Cubs season will blow up is just so much fun for me ... plus it saves Joe Mantegna a rewrite on "Bleacher Bums."

2) CSNChicago.com: Youre a 1975 alumnus of Chicagos world-famous improv comedy troupe Second City and one of so many talented comedic actors that came out of there over the years. What makes Second City so special in your opinion and tell us who were some of your fellow 75 alums that joined you on that famous stage?

Wendt: I left Second City in 1980. Tim Kazurinsky, Bruce Jarchow, Mary Gross, Jim Belushi, Danny Breen, Nancy McCabe-Kelly and Bernadette Birkett were among the many I played with over six years there. As for the success that many alumni have achieved, one overlooked factor is plain old EXPERIENCE. There aren't many situations in the theater where you get to play in front of an audience eight shows a week for years and years. Most Second City performers are there for 3-5 years, some longer. I was there for six! But you never really leave. For example, the group I mentioned above (with the exception of Mary Gross, who will miss the show) are getting together in a month to perform at Second City's etc. space during the "Just for Laughs" festival.

3) CSNChicago.com: Theres not a list out there that doesnt include Cheers as one of the greatest TV comedies ever created (no one here will argue with that either). You appeared in all 275 episodes as one of the all-time great sitcom characters: Norm Peterson. Did going to work each day during that time ever feel like work to you and tell us which cast members you still interact with on a regular basis?

Wendt: Cheers was a dream job for any actor, but especially me! Sit at a bar and drink beer all day and have your patter supplied by some of the best comedy writers in TV ... and get paid? I keep in touch with everyone from Cheers as much as I can. Everyone's busy with family and work and some live far away. Ted and I are hoping to see Kelsey in "La Cage" next week. Bebe is also on Broadway, and I hope to see her. Wood and I are in touch a lot, also Rhea.

4) CSNChicago.com: Your character of Norm also provided TV history with some of the greatest quotes of all-time (note the sampling below). Now that Cheers has been off the air for 17 years, why do you think that truly original scripted sitcoms featuring big ensemble casts have become so scarce these days ... it seems like most of them are taking a safe cookie cutter approach?

Wendt: I think the four-camera, live audience proscenium style of sitcoms got a bit stale. The new format is one camera, more like a feature film or TV drama. 30 Rock is a good example of this. There are some four-camera shows that are on and working -- Two and a Half Men, for example ... maybe this format will return.

a sampling of Georges Norm Peterson quotes from Cheers

"Can I draw you a beer, Norm?"
"No, I know what they look like. Just pour me one."

"What's shaking, Norm?"
"All four cheeks and a couple of chins."

"Beer, Norm?"
"Have I gotten that predictable? Good."

"What's going on, Mr. Peterson?"
"A flashing sign in my gut that says, 'Insert beer here.'"

"Whatcha up to, Norm?"
"My ideal weight if I were 11 feet tall."

"How's it going Mr. Peterson?"
"Poor."
"I'm sorry to hear that."
"No, I mean pour."

"Can I pour you a beer, Mr. Peterson?"
"A little early isn't it, Woody?"
"For a beer?"
"No, for stupid questions."

"How's it going Mr. Peterson?"
"It's a dog-eat-dog world, Woody, and I'm wearing Milk Bone underwear.

5) CSNChicago.com: Back to Chicago sports you were also a part of the hilarious Da Superfans recurring sketch on Saturday Night Live that spawned the now-famous household phrase: DAAA BEAAARRRRS! How did that sketch come about and did you ever think that phrase would become the constantly spoken expression that it is among Chicago sports fans?

Wendt: The Chicago Super Fan characters from Saturday Night Live were originally cooked up by some Second City workshop students who put on a show at the Dj Vu on Lincoln Ave. called "The Happy Happy Good Show. Among these players were Robert Smigel, Conan O'Brien and Bob Odenkirk. They moved on to write for SNL and eventually got the sketch on the air when Joe Mantegna hosted. It went well and was revived when I hosted. This was at the beginning of the Jordan-led six championships. Jonathan Brandmeier had a sound byte from the show and played it constantly throughout the playoff run. I think he (and of course Smigel -- who did the majority of the writing) was most responsible for the ubiquity of the catch phrases.

BONUS QUESTION CSNChicago.com: George, you also recently authored a terrific book entitled Drinking with George: A Barstool Professional's Guide to Beer. We all know your character of Norm Peterson tossed back a few, but it was interesting to learn you REALLY are a beer lover. What made you decide to write about this love affair with the cold one?

Wendt: Beer has been very good to me over the years and I thought it was time to give something back.

Wendt LINKS:

George Wendts Drinking with George: A Barstool Professional's Guide to Beer

George Wendt on Facebook

George Wendt on Twitter

George Wendt on IMDB

'I don't feel comfortable playing DH': In interview, Eloy Jimenez hammers home White Sox need for outside fix

'I don't feel comfortable playing DH': In interview, Eloy Jimenez hammers home White Sox need for outside fix

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Eloy Jimenez has said it before, but in case you needed a reminder, he's got one for you.

“I don’t feel comfortable playing DH,” he said in an interview with MLB.com's Jon Morosi on Monday. “I like playing the outfield. I don’t care if it’s right field or left field, but I feel comfortable in the outfield. I don’t like being the DH. For me, it’s boring.

“Maybe one time in my career — when I’m 35 or 37 — I can DH. But not now.”

So that suggestion that the White Sox can plug their hole at designated hitter with Jimenez? Forget about it.

That never really seemed like it was going to happen, anyway, despite a defensive performance in left field during the 2019 season that sparked questions of where Jimenez's long-term future will be. Manager Rick Renteria went as far as saying that he believed the White Sox wouldn't be doing what was best for the young slugger if the team moved him to a full-time DH role so early in his career.

"He's too young for me to view him as a DH, to be honest,” Renteria said in August. “And I think he's shown so much improvement in the outfield that it would be, I think, derelict on my part and on our part as an organization to limit the ability for him to play on both sides of the baseball.

“He's an extremely hard worker, he's very conscientious, he's been going through a lot of the things that we need him to go through. He sincerely has improved out there a lot. And so we want to see if we can maximize his ability to do everything he can as a Major League Baseball player.

“And then time will tell us. If that ends up ultimately being his lot — I don't foresee that. But if that ultimately becomes his lot, that becomes his lot. But I think right now we're going to continue to use him on both sides of the baseball, for sure.”

Indeed, Jimenez looked like a defensive work in progress in left field during his rookie season. He had plenty of less-than-graceful plays, communication errors, minus-11 Defensive Runs Saved and a couple of trips to the injured list sparked by miscues in left field. But Jimenez views himself as an all-around player, as do the White Sox, and he obviously has plenty of time to develop into just that. He's already got the power down, with 31 homers as a rookie.

His comments to Morosi hammer home the need for the White Sox to look outside their own roster to fill that hole at designated hitter, where they got some of the worst production in the American League last season. Jimenez harbors the same opinion toward the position that Jose Abreu does, the free-agent first baseman who's still expected to re-sign with the White Sox saying numerous times how much he dislikes DH-ing. Zack Collins might find the job more palatable, and the White Sox are looking for ways to get his bat in the lineup more often. But he remains a bit of a mystery from a production standpoint and wouldn't figure to line up for a shot at an everyday job at this very early stage of his career.

J.D. Martinez deciding to stay in Boston and stay away from this winter's free-agent market took the perfect solution off the board. But that market or the trade market — one that could still include the possibility of Martinez coming to the South Side — still seem the best way for Rick Hahn's front office to find a fix.

One thing's looks to be certain: Jimenez isn't signing up for everyday DH duty any time soon.

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Eloy Jiménez: Worth the wait

Eloy Jiménez: Worth the wait

With Eloy Jiménez, we had to wait.

We had to wait for him to debut in the Majors. After laying waste to minor league pitching in 2018, he was in the 2019 opening day lineup.

We had to wait for that first home run. He started his MLB career with 11 singles in his first 10 games. His first extra-base hit was in his next game. Then in game number twelve, he finally homered. Twice.

He was the 11th player in White Sox history whose first 2 career long ones were in the same game. 

Eloy Jiménez Apirl 12, 2019
José Abreu April 8, 2014
Brian Anderson August 26, 2005
Brian Simmons September 26, 1998
Greg Pryor September 8, 1978
Wayne Nordhagen August 25, 1977
Carlos May April 9, 1969
Tom McCraw June 19, 1963
Brian McCall September 30, 1962
Don Kolloway June 28, 1941
Zeke Bonura April 18, 1934

My favorite fun fact from that breakout performance: Jiménez was the first player to hit his first 2 MLB home runs in the same game as a visitor at Yankee Stadium (old or new) since [former White Sox great] Manny Ramírez on September 3, 1993.

But then we had to wait again. Because he kept homering on the road. His first 8 career MLB blasts were all on the road. He's the third White Sox player whose first 8 career MLB home runs all came as a visiting player. The others were Nellie Fox (his first 9 were on the road spanning from 1951-54) and Johnny Mostil (his first 8 were on the road in 1921-22).

That first home run at Guaranteed Rate Field came on June 11, and it went FAR,  and from that point forward he hit 11 on the road and 12 at home.

Number 30 came on September 22 in Detroit, and with that came a few more interesting notes.

Jiménez is one of only three White Sox to hit 30+ home runs as a rookie. 

1983 Ron Kittle 35
2014 José Abreu 36
2019 Eloy Jiménez 31

Jiménez is the youngest player in White Sox history at the time of his 30th HR of the season. 

22 y, 299 d Eloy Jiménez 2019
23 y, 98 d Frank Thomas 1991
25 y, 75 d Bill Melton 1970

And perhaps most impressively, Jiménez is one of only 11 players in MLB history to hit 30+ home runs in his debut season. Here's that list:

1930 Wally Berger Braves 38
1939 Ted Williams Red Sox 31
1956 Frank Robinson Reds 38
1963 Jimmie Hall Twins 33
1986 Pete Incaviglia Rangers 30
2001 Albert Pujols Cardinals 37
2007 Ryan Braun Brewers 34
2014 José Abreu White Sox 36
2017 Cody Bellinger Dodgers 39
2019 Pete Alonso Mets 53
2019 Eloy Jiménez White Sox 31

Jiménez finished his rookie campaign on a tear, pummeling pitching for a .321/.355/.604 clip over his last 46 games. At last the waiting was over. Eloy Jiménez had arrived.

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