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By Emmett Fitzpatrick

In the early 1980s, when teenager Christine O’Reilly-Riordan visited Comiskey Park to inquire about a summer job with the White Sox, she received a warm welcome from none other than Mr. White Sox, Minnie Miñoso, who, as Christine describes, “literally opened the door for me” to begin what has become a decades-long career with the organization. But to trace the origins of Christine’s success as Vice President of Community Relations and Executive Director of Chicago White Sox Charities, one must go farther back in time to Ireland, where her paternal grandparents were born.

“We Considered Ourselves Irish. It Started and Ended There.”

Christine’s grandfather hailed from Cork, served in the British Navy, and emigrated to the United States around the age of 20, ending up, like so many Irish, in Chicago. There, he met Christine’s grandmother, who had recently emigrated from County Mayo and briefly stopped in New York before moving to Chicago with her brother.

“My grandpa had that thick Cork brogue,” Christine recalls, “so thick that visitors to our house would often ask me, ‘what did he just say’?”

Growing up in Mount Greenwood in an Irish Catholic family – Christine is one of six children – she remembers nearly everyone in her neighborhood being at least partially Irish. As she reflects, “we considered ourselves Irish, and it started and ended there.”

If being Irish was one hallmark of the legacy her parents and grandparents left on Christine, their dedication to service was another. Her father served as a Chicago Police Officer and her mother was a nurse, and Christine originally planned to serve as a special education teacher upon graduation from Illinois State University in 1983. Instead, she accepted a full-time job in the White Sox promotions department, figuring it would be a fun experience, particularly given that the team was ready to host the 50th anniversary of the All Star Game that year.

“I kept renewing my teacher’s license year after year because I never thought my job with the White Sox would be forever,” Christine acknowledges. 

She is now in her 42nd year with the team.

Remarkable Impact

The impact she has helped make over those 42 years is nothing short of remarkable. In her role, she oversees the team’s charitable giving, and since the founding of Chicago White Sox Charities (CWSC), the organization has donated $47 million to nonprofit and social service agencies. She is also instrumental in the White Sox organization’s investment in youth baseball development in Chicago’s under-resourced neighborhoods, with more than $680,000 in annual funding serving hundreds of young people on the baseball field and in the classroom.

Ask Christine about the greatest impact she has helped to make during her time with the White Sox, however, and she will not focus solely on the numbers, though they are impressive. Rather, she will share one of the myriad stories of how she, on behalf of the White Sox, has facilitated special experiences for fans who are experiencing difficult life challenges. She references one example of organizing a special spring training outing in Arizona for the family of Andrew Weishar, a Brother Rice alum who was studying at Illinois Wesleyan University when he was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer. Andrew ultimately passed away, and his family started a charity supporting young people with cancer; Chicago White Sox Charities continues to provide funding and other support for the family and the organization.

“My job is personal to me,” Christine says, and notes how she views her work as an extension of her Irish heritage.

Sox Side Irish

Christine does not shy away from highlighting the lasting connection between the White Sox and Irish Chicago – particularly the South Side Irish:

“Chicago is such a neighborhood city. You ask each other, ‘Where are you from?’ ‘What parish are you from? With the team being situated on the South Side, which has historically been home to so many Irish Catholics, there’s a sense of ownership between the community and the team, and vice versa. That bond was created when the team was establishing itself on the South Side, and even though many families have moved away, we take that pride, that connection, with us wherever we go. The team has also had that blue collar mentality, that emphasis on grit, and when I think of my extended Irish family, we feel that way about ourselves. There’s an undeniable connection with the White Sox. It’s almost genetic.”

Dual Legacies

Christine made her first trip to Ireland to visit her daughter – one of her two children – who was studying at Maynooth University, and immediately fell in love with not only the beauty of the country, but the beauty of the people. She recalls meeting different people on her trip and experiencing the familiar culture of storytelling that she recognized from her father and grandfather. One conversation with Christine will confirm that she is carrying on that tradition of storytelling as well.

Christine’s legacy, much like her life’s work, is felt in the two communities she has called home: Irish Chicago and the White Sox organization. She recently welcomed her second grandchild, and she admits to “getting choked up” out of pride and happiness that her daughter and son-in-law chose an Irish name for the little one, ensuring that the sense of Irish-ness will continue in future generations. For the White Sox, she wants people to believe in the heart and soul of the organization, acknowledging the dedication of Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf in making the team’s charitable and community accomplishments possible.

Christine sums up the legacy she would like to leave at the intersection of 35th and Shields succinctly: “If people see the positive, compassionate side of the White Sox through the work that I’ve been doing, that would be a ‘wow’ for me. That would be good.”