Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak was in town last weekend to tape 15 family-, college-, and sports-themed episodes that will begin airing April 28. Sajak was born in Chicago and grew up around 31st Street and Kedzie. He attended Goethe and Gary elementary schools, graduated from Farragut High School, and went to Columbia College (while working nights as a desk clerk at the Palmer House Hotel), leaving early to enlist in the army in 1968. His mother still lives in Crystal Lake.
Before a taping on Saturday I chatted with Sajak. He recently hosted the Pat Sajak Baseball Hour on mlb.com for three years (he had to end it a year and a half ago because of scheduling conflicts) and became an investor in the Golden Baseball League, an independent professional league with eight teams in the western U.S. and Canada. His son plays baseball for his high school team in Maryland.
Are you a Cubs or a White Sox fan?
You know, I get asked that a lot. I'm a fan of both teams. I've never understood why I had to hate one or the other. I grew up close enough to Comiskey that I could hear the fireworks after games, but I watched the Cubs on TV. And back when Bill Veeck was with the White Sox I used to go to the Sunday double-headers for $1.50.
Any favorite players from those teams?
Well, I followed the White Sox pennant team in '59, so there was Luis Aparicio, Nellie Fox, Ted Kluszewski. On the Cubs I liked Ron Santo, Ernie Banks, Billy Williams.
Did you play baseball growing up?
No, I didn't throw or hit or field or run well--other than that I was a good athlete [laughing].
Have you ever used performance-enhancing drugs?
[Laughing] Yeah, you can tell when I spin the wheel that I've done steroids--I've been injected a few times.
Sajak says that when he got into town last Wednesday he went to the Blackhawks game (they beat the Anaheim Ducks 3-0) and over Thursday and Friday ate lots of hot dogs at Al's #1 Italian Beef (1079 W. Taylor St.). He's "addicted" to Chicago-style hot dogs, he says, and can't find them in LA. Here's his essential-ingredients list.
Pat Sajak's Chicago-style hot dog*
1) Vienna beef
2) Poppy-seed bun, steamed (the steaming is very important, Sajak says)
3) Yellow mustard
5) "Tiny little peppers"
6) Celery salt
* slices of pickle, tomato, and cucumber optional