BRIDGEPORT — New Year's Day has come and gone, but not for Joe and Gail Bosch.
"That's our kickoff of our year," Joe Bosch. "It is our Opening Day."
There are perhaps no bigger White Sox fans than the Bosches. They have attended almost every SoxFest since the annual fan convention began in 1992. This year's fest runs Friday through Sunday at the Palmer House Hilton Downtown.
The Bosches have shared season tickets one row behind the White Sox dugout for 20 years. When they don't go to U.S. Cellular Field, the Bosches always watch the Sox on TV or listen to their broadcasts on an old transistor radio.
They also started going to Sox spring training together — first Sarasota, Fla.; then Tuscon, Ariz.; and currently Glendale, Ariz. — in 1984 and have been March stalwarts at those locales for most years since.
Their Darien home is filled with 91 game-used White Sox baseball hats, including one from every member of the 2005 World Series championship club. Joe has paid $200 for a hat worn by Hall of Famer Frank Thomas during his 1993 MVP season, but he's also plucked down $20 for game-used caps of less accomplished Sox Mark Johnson, Sandy Alomar, Jim Abbott and even Jose Canseco.
“Joe and Gail Bosch are the embodiment of true White Sox fans,” said Christine O’Reilly, the team's senior director of community relations and a Mount Greenwood native. "They certainly are two of the more friendly and familiar faces around not only the ballpark, but at seemingly every SoxFest, which they have attended for many years now.”
The couple met Aug. 20, 1983 — during the Sox's run to the American League West Division title — at a wedding for co-workers. Joe asked Gail to dance. The conversation quickly turned to the White Sox.
"We struck a chord," said Gail Bosch, who grew up near Midway Airport and graduated from the former Our Lady of Lourdes High School.
Their first date was a week later and consisted of watching "Flashdance" in a theater, eating Chinese food and playing miniature golf. Gail beat Joe by a stroke.
Their second date was in a much more comfortable environment for them, in the upper deck of old Comiskey Park.
"Nose-bleed seats," said Joe, who has worked for Jewel for 36 years.
Joe became enamored with the White Sox as an 11-year-old living in Harwood Heights. A neighbor would pack him and four of his friends into the back of his Volkswagen and drive them from the Northwest Side to Bridgeport, where Joe would pay $3 for general admission bleacher seats to idolize Dick Allen during his 1972 MVP season.
Gail, an operations manager for Dunkin' Brands, was trekking to spring training with her two younger sisters before she even met Joe. Her siblings eventually would become Cubs fans. When asked if Gail could have married a supporter of Chicago's National League team, her husband made a gagging sound.
"There's no blue, red or white in this house," Joe said.
O’Reilly said the Bosches "have supported the team through ... good seasons and bad." That was even the case last year, when the South Siders lost 99 games, and Joe and Gail remained their optimistic selves.
Their exuberance has intensified now that SoxFest is approaching. Gail especially likes the question-and-answer seminars with players and executives. Joe relishes the convention's "garage sale," where he can accumulate more memorabilia.
"The most important thing is how fortunate we consider ourselves that we have an owner like Jerry Reinsdorf who makes the team accessible to people like us," Joe said. "There's not a guy on the White Sox that Gail and I don't try and like."
The Bosches have no children, but they have a slew of nieces and nephews. They said family, faith and their careers are 1-2-3 in the batting order of priorities. The White Sox are hitting cleanup.
"The White Sox are our passion," Joe said. "Maybe some people golf, others collect stamps, whatever that means. Through thick and thin, we stick with our Pale Hose."
SoxFest single-day, two-day and weekend passes are available here.