By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications
The Chicago Fire in an institution. No, not the one started in the O’Leary barn in 1871. This one is full of history and definitely winners. I have been playing against, and occasionally for, these guys, and you always know it is going to be a struggle to get past them.
Dan Gooris is the current leader of the pack with the Fire, now known as Chicago North TSP Fire, as they will be competing in the 70-over Central division this year, where they won yet another ring last year. (Dan Gooris is back row, far left in the picture below)
We were able to corner Dan Gooris and ask him a little about the history of the Fire and how things began.
“I personally started going to Arizona in 1992 and my World Series career began with the Chicago North Cubs,” said Dan. “Back then Bart Zeller was in charge of the Fire and they always played in the top divisions and always fielded a team that the Chicago entries looked up to because of their pattern of successes.”
I asked Dan when he took the reins from Bart, which seems like it was just recently but I was surprised to hear it was 15 years ago!
“I had been toiling with the Cubs until 2008 and never won a ring. We even changed our name once to the Red Dogs but we didn’t scare anyone with that move and met the same fate.
Then in 2008 Bart and his exceptional player and close friend, George Karras, were watching one of my games and they asked me after the game if I would like to become a player/coach with them. Bart wanted to back off a little, though he is still an invaluable coach and advisor to this day and remains on the team.”
I have noticed that throughout the years the Fire has gone through a few name changes.
“When I took on my new role, we became the ‘National Pastime’, then ‘Windy City,’ but after a couple of years we came back around to the ‘Fire.’ TSP is the name of a sports apparel company run by our league president Max Reising and his partner Bruce Zimmerman. Bruce was a long-time player for the Fire and just recently decided to hang them up. They have kept us in uniforms!
Having a baseballmind like Bart on board as a mentor has been invaluable. Our history and culture is so solid that we never recruit. New people may come into the family but it is always from a connection within the team. I feel that this is a contributing factor to the success of the Fire these past 30 years.”
Dan is a catcher by trade but like many of us continuing to grind away in the 70+ division, it has become hard to throw on the gear and get behind the plate very often.
“I have now evolved into having a first baseman’s legs,” chuckled Gooris
Below, Dan describes one of his favorite moments as a Chicago manager.
“I’m the catcher in this picture (below) and George Karas is in my arms after striking out the Hollywood Stars batter for our first World Series Championship in 2009 as the National Pastime. To my right is John Engeriser, who spent months in the ICU after contracting Legionnaires Disease in the Phoenix hotel he was staying in.
Next to him is Mike Weinberg, who fell down a flight of stairs the year before and broke his arm days before the start of the World Series.”
I had to ask Dan what his plans were for the future and if there were any immediate goals.
“At our age, there are no real goals except to continue playing this great game as long as we can, reconnect with friends, stay healthy, and if a ring happens, it happens. The only goal I can control is making sure we continue carrying on the great Windy City and Fire tradition. We will always be respectful of the game and our opponents and at the end of the day, all will be good.”