MLB: Ozzie Guillen and Sons Steal Show at La Vida Baseball Live Event

Credit: Chris Pennant
La Vida Baseball correspondents Julie Alexandria (left), Ozzie Guillen Jr. and Jennifer Mercedes pose for a photo at their live event February 20 in Chicago.
By Chris Pennant (@kwandarykitten)

Ozzie Guillen was back on the South Side of Chicago last week, doing what he’s done his whole life: speaking his mind.

The former Chicago White Sox manager and his two sons, Ozzie Jr. and Oney, held court at Simone’s Bar in Pilsen last Thursday to record a special live edition of their podcast “Being Guillen.” The event was presented by La Vida Baseball, which broadcasts the podcast every Friday as part of their daily programming block. About 50 to 60 fans packed the back room of the bar as the three Guillens discussed everything from the Houston Astros cheating scandal to the elder Guillen’s tumultuous relationship with MLB and his desire to get back to managing.

The Pilsen neighborhood has been a enclave of Mexican and Latino culture for decades and recently has taken the local political spotlight as residents fight to stem the tide of gentrification. Simone’s regularly hosts events promoting Latinx culture, such as nights for banda, bachata, and cumbia music and a monthly loteria. LVB co-host Jennifer Mercedes said Simone’s was the natural choice to host their live show.

“One of the reasons that we chose Pilsen is because it’s so Latin-centric,” said Mercedes. “Something that makes La Vida Baseball really, really special is that we focus on not only the Latino player, but the Latino player’s story. That’s what makes us one as a family, as Latinos–we connect to the lifestyle, the culture.”

Veteran media personality Julie Alexandria also hosts La Vida’s live shows and segments; she and Mercedes have a combined 20-plus years experience working in baseball and sports media. Alexandria pointed out how special it is for a media organization to have two Latina women at the forefront of their coverage: “giving us that baton,” as she put it.

“Take the banner down”

Ozzie Guillen’s time managing the White Sox was as well known for his candidness as his on-field success. Time away from the game has not mellowed him much, and he was forthright about how punishment should have been handled in the Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal.

“If I was the commissioner, I would say, ‘You can keep the trophy, you can keep your rings, but take the banner down. In 2017, nobody won anything’,” he said.

Guillen also said if he or current Houston skipper Dusty Baker had been helming the team, the scheme would have been squashed. “Players know when you’re a–what do you call it? A muppet?” he said, drawing laughter from the audience as Oney corrected him to “puppet.”

The conversation had many lighthearted moments as well. Ozzie Jr. and Oney brought up their father taking his citizenship test not long after the White Sox World Series victory, and Senior’s story of wrong-footing the test administrator got the crowd laughing again.

“I went in for the test and they asked me, ‘What does July 4th mean?’ and I said, “We play baseball and there’s fireworks,'” he said. After being granted his citizenship, he said he went around to players such as Paul Konerko, asking them to name the original 13 colonies.

“None of them could do it,” he said.

A Q&A segment revealed a common theme between the three Guillen men: analytics has taken a lot of good baseball minds out of the game. Oney called Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo “one of the best scouts the game has ever seen” and said their World Series win validated his strategy of resting Stephen Strasburg, which had been widely criticized. The younger Ozzie also said that while baseball lifers could get PhDs, no academic could get “50 years of baseball knowledge.”

All this begged the inevitable question: does Ozzie Guillen want to manage again someday? While he does miss being in the dugout, he added a caveat, as he scooped up his granddaughter Adela: he wants to spend time with his grandkids.

Chris Pennant is a Senior Writer for WARR Media

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