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White Sox Seating Area, Dedicated To Beloved Longtime Employee, Rededicated To Disliked Short-Term Employee

Tony La Russa
Sarah Stier/Getty Images

For over a decade and a half, the ballpark of the Chicago White Sox featured an area of seats named after one of its longest tenured and most-loved employees. Loretta Micele, who started selling concessions with the team in 1945 while in her twenties, received a sign in 2004 dedicating a section of the park in her honor to celebrate sixty years working for the club. Here she is talking about that experience in The Times of Northwest Indiana:

On Saturday—the first day of the 2005 World Series—Micele reported to work her stand at U.S. Cellular Field the same way she has for the last 60 years.

“I like to work,” the 85-year-old Bridgeport woman said. “I don’t like to sit around the house.”

Last year, in honor of her 60th year with the team, the White Sox surprised Micele with an invitation to go on the field before a game.

It was then she learned the organization was naming the seating area next to her concession stand down the third base line, “Loretta’s Lounge.”

“I’d like to have died when I saw it,” she said. “They had me on the field, and I waved and blew kisses to everyone.”

Micele died in 2014, but the Loretta’s Lounge sign stood until this season, when Tony La Russa began his second managerial stint with the club. A tweet on Wednesday pointed out that Loretta’s Lounge now celebrates the Hall-of-Famer baseball person, who hates late-game home runs and loves to see teams throw at his players.

The White Sox confirmed that the tweet was accurate, and said that a section of the park named after La Russa had been relocated to the former Loretta’s Lounge.

“Loretta Micele has always been a treasured member of the White Sox family and a plaque in her honor remains in the space to honor her memory despite the name change,” a White Sox spokesperson told the Chicago Sun-Times. “As we say in the plaque, Loretta was a dedicated concession stand staff member known for her service with a smile attitude.”

Lou Soto, Micele’s great-grandson, told Block Club Chicago that Micele’s family had no idea about the change until one of them attended a game this year. He said they asked the team for the sign to hang in a family bar, but the Sox had already gotten rid of it.

“They told my mother that they threw the sign out,” Soto said. “It was really disheartening. It meant a lot to our family. Every time we’d go to a game we’d take a picture in front of it.”

Aside from the heartlessness, the name change is interesting given the context of La Russa’s decades-old history with the franchise. TLR’s first gig as a manager was with the Sox from 1979 to 1986, when he was fired because of a subpar start to the season. Of course, La Russa went on to become a three-time World Series champion with the A’s and Cardinals, and in 2011, White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf called La Russa’s firing the worst mistake of his career in sports.

“It was a mistake to keep (GM) Hawk (Harrelson) and fire Tony,” he said then. “We could have had Tony all this time. … But the reality is that Tony wasn’t very popular then and our organization was going into decline. Our farm system wasn’t very good. We weren’t going to be good for a while and he is so competitive. I really think I probably did him a favor by firing him.”

La Russa and Reinsdorf maintained a good friendship after the firing, but Reinsdorf’s regrets about it obviously stuck with him for a very long time. One way to offer a mea culpa for wrongfully canning your buddy is to, decades later, give him a sign in a more prominent part of the ballpark. It’s a token of recommitment, you could say. Perhaps the White Sox just thought nobody would notice how it erased someone who worked for them for most of her life.