GLENDALE, Ariz. — Rick Hahn spends just about every waking moment trying to rebuild the White Sox. As the team’s general manager, his mission in life is to bring another World Series title to the South Side.
Growing up in Winnetka, Hahn had a much different desire.
He wanted to see the Cubs win a championship, and as an 11-year-old kid, he went to great lengths attempting to make it happen.
In 1982, as the Cubs were in the midst of an 89-loss season, young Hahn wrote to Cubs executive vice president and general manager Dallas Green with ideas of how to improve the ballclub.
“I actually wrote a number of letters to Dallas, and out of the kindest of his heart and perhaps mistakenly, he wrote me back,” Hahn recalled in an interview with CSN. “There were a plethora of things ranging from trade ideas — I was a big Leon Durham guy. I wanted him to move (Bill) Buckner from first to make room for Durham at the time. I had some lineup ideas. (Green) was kind enough to write back a couple of times. The first time he responded very favorably, so me and my buddy Rod Blunck (who now works in athlete representation in Chicago) sat down and wrote a few more letters.”
Green wrote back.
Dated Sept. 14, 1982, it read:
Dear Rick and Rod:
Thanks for your recent letter regarding your thoughts on our players and suggested trades.
During the offseason we will make some changes to improve the Cubs for 1983. We will work hard to develop a team our fans will be proud to support.
The Cubs executive would soon back up his words, getting the Cubs to the NLCS in 1984.
“The (Ryne) Sandberg trade was that offseason and that obviously got him going, so he was very much true to his word,” Hahn said.
More than 30 years later, Hahn recognizes that seeds of him becoming a baseball general manager were being planted back then. Now whenever he receives a letter from a young White Sox fan, he thinks back to what Green did for him.
“Anytime I get a letter similar to that, I try to sit down and respond, trying to pay it forward, so to speak. Dallas is the originator of that,” Hahn said. “Anyone who has received a letter from me is because Dallas Green was kind enough to do the same when I was a kid.”
Hahn’s youngest son, Charlie, a diehard White Sox fan, is 11 years old, the same age Rick was when he sent those letters to Green.
Like father, like son, Charlie is not afraid to give the general manager of his favorite team some sharp criticism about the job he’s doing with the White Sox.
“He hasn’t written any nasty letters, but at the breakfast table he can tell me directly and voice his displeasure,” Hahn said laughing.
The White Sox rebuild won’t happen overnight. There are tough times ahead at the ballpark — and as Hahn’s son learned this past fall — at the playground, too.
“He gave a lot of (his classmates) grief at school during the postseason because the Cubs hadn’t won the World Series yet. We had a ring in his lifetime, albeit he was six months old, but he counts it,” Hahn explained. “And then when the Cubs were down three games to one, he started ramping up the crap he was giving his friends. During Game 7 when the Cubs were up 5-1, it was time for him to go to bed and he couldn’t sleep. He was pretty distressed. I think because he was going to have to pay the piper for all the smack he talked about at school.”
As we know, Chicago is a divided baseball town. There always seems to be an ebb and flow with the White Sox and Cubs. One is up, while the other is down — and often times both have been down. We have the scars to prove it.
But the night the Cubs won the World Series, it immediately tested the mettle of every White Sox fan, including Hahn’s son.
“As he and I sat there for about 45 minutes being happy for other people having success, wanting to get to that level ourselves, he was pretty pointed in saying, ‘How long is this going to take, because I want to know when the White Sox are going to be back in the playoffs, why and how?’”
Hahn won’t publicly answer that question, but if it’s any consolation, he does admit that the two big trades they made this winter has sped up the process.
“We have in our minds how long we think it’s going to take. In all candor, if I had answered that question transparently as possible prior to the winter meetings I would have given you a timeline a little farther out than I would have given after we made the Sale and Eaton trades,” Hahn said.
When will the White Sox start spending big money on free agents? Hahn says not until the White Sox are within striking distance of being a championship-caliber team. But the hope is that time will arrive in the “near future.”
Green promised young Hahn that he would “work hard to develop a team our fans will be proud to support.”
Hahn has the same promise for White Sox fans. The rebuild has started. More changes are coming.
And if your son or daughter have some questions for Hahn, you know how to reach him.