SOX PARK — A day after being condemned by fans for unceremoniously changing the name of a Guaranteed Rate Field seating area that honored a beloved concession worker, the Chicago White Sox reached out to her family to try and fix the situation.
“Loretta’s Lounge” in the 100 section of the stadium was dedicated to Loretta Micele during the 2005 World Series to commemorate her 60th year working for the team. On Wednesday, many fans learned it was renamed “La Russa’s Lounge” for Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa and that the team did not inform Micele’s family.
Fans voiced their anger with the move on social media, leading the team to reach out to Micele’s family. The Sox have now promised to print a replica sign for her family, but one won’t be going up in the ballpark.
La Russa had a space in the ballpark in his honor long before being rehired as the team’s manager this year. It was moved, however, to the spot that honored Micele.
Micele was a die-hard White Sox fan who began working for the team in 1945, her great-grandson Lou Soto said. The lifelong Bridgeport resident died in 2014.
Soto said Micele’s family was not notified the section named for his great-grandmother was renamed for La Russa. They realized it when his sister attended a game this season and saw the sign had been changed.
“They never called us at all,” Soto said.
Soto’s family reached out to the White Sox to ask for the “Loretta’s Lounge” sign to hang in a family bar but was told the team disposed of it.
“They told my mother that they threw the sign out,” Soto said. “It was really disheartening. It meant a lot to our family. Every time we’d go to a game we’d take a picture in front of it.”
The White Sox organization released a statement on the flap Thursday, saying “a space that had been named after La Russa for many seasons was relocated to the current area on the 100 level.”
“Loretta Micele has always been a treasured member of the White Sox family and a plaque in her honor remains in the space to honor her memory despite the name change. As we say in the plaque, Loretta was a dedicated concession stand staff member known for her service with a smile attitude.”
White Sox fan Tyrone Palmer posted about the name change Wednesday, saying, “this legit pissed me off … She gave so much to the organization and replacing her name to that of TLR is shameful.”
Palmer’s Tweet went viral and a backlash against the White Sox organization occurred.
By Thursday afternoon, Palmer’s Tweet had received more than 31,000 likes and 4,800 retweets — causing the team to take notice and reach out to Micele’s family, promising them a replica “Loretta’s Lounge” sign.
“Based on what we heard, it was important to the family to have a replica, so one is in the works,” said team spokesman Scott Reifert.
Reifert said the name change was made prior to the 2020 season, which ultimately had no fans because of the coronavirus pandemic. The change had “nothing to do” with La Russa being named manager this year, he said.
“A LaRussa pizza location existed in the ballpark for many years before being replaced and the decision was made to keep his name in the ballpark given what he accomplished as manager in 1983,” Reifert said.
On Thursday, Soto, Micele’s great-grandson, said he was happy the team took action and promised a replica sign but also said it is bittersweet knowing the “Loretta’s Lounge” is gone from the stadium.
“I’m happy that we’ll get something that we can hold on to and can pass down. Of course, it’s a little bittersweet but at the end of the day, it’s gotten a lot of attention and the people that truly remember her, to them, it’s always going to be Loretta’s Lounge, no matter what they call it,” Soto said.
On Thursday, White Sox fans launched a Change.org petition to get the area’s name change back to “Loretta’s Lounge.”
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