SOX PARK — A White Sox fan used a little magic to help the team nab a win in Game 3 on Sunday night.
That lifelong Sox fan, Rob Holt, went viral almost instantly, with people sharing photos and videos of him appearing to wave his cane to hex the Houston Astros. He’s been dubbed the “Cane Guy,” “Hex Guy” and “South Side Sorcerer.” (You didn’t hear it from us, but he’s actually from suburban Northbrook.)
“I’m just a fan,” said Holt, 71. “I brought my cane with and screwed around with it, and it took a life of its own.”
But Holt’s antics gave life to the game when fans and players needed it: Starting pitcher Dylan Cease struggled and the Astros had an early lead, raising scares of a Houston sweep in the best-of-five American League Division Series.
“I sprained my knee, so I brought my cane down just to give myself some stability with the crowds and all the stairs,” Holt said. “And when Cease the pitcher exploded, and they took him out and Astros took the lead, people were getting bummed.”
Antsy in his seat, Holt fiddled with his cane and pointed it to batter Leury García, advising him to hit the ball to the left. He did.
Holt pointed his cane at the next hitter and told him to “hit the ball in the gap.” He did that, too.
Holt’s son announced to their section in the third row, “He’s a wizard. He’s Gandalf.”
“And that took off,” Holt said. “Everybody around started yapping about the cane, and if I didn’t pick it they’d say, ‘Dude, pick the cane up. We need the cane.’”
Holt shifted to casting spells. When surrounding fans asked, “what about the Astros?” he flipped his cane upside-down and twirled the handle at Astros batters, repeating, “you will fail, you will fail.”
The Astros struck out 16 times.
The magic kept going as the Sox got their groove back and ended the game with a season-saving 12-6 win.
“The whole stadium was happy. I’ve never felt a buzz like that. Ever. Not even at the World Series games,” Holt said. “This is something really extraordinary last night. Everyone was dressed in black, and it was just a grand evening.”
Holt said his life has been a long run of good luck. As a young man in the Navy, he had his bags packed for Vietnam when the U.S. abruptly withdrew from the war. Ahead of Game 1 of the 2005 World Series, Holt escaped a hurricane on a last minute-flight out of Miami. He got a spare ticket to the White Sox home game from a friend who “got stranded in Miami.”
Holt’s two daughters, one in Hawaii and the other in Grand Cayman, were “inundated with text messages” after their dad went viral. Holt woke up Monday to find websites selling T-shirts with his face on it.
Matthew Hennesey of Lakeview was sitting two rows in front of Holt and watched him evolve into celebrity “Cane Guy ” before his very eyes. High school kids from higher sections came down to take pictures with Holt after they spotted him trending on Twitter. Fans in Section 120 bowed down to Holt as his hexes and spells proved increasingly effective. Hennesey’s friends at home told him they were playing a drinking game anytime Holt popped up on the TV screen.
“There was just something about seeing a friendly old guy super passionate about a baseball game, and still doing goofy s–t like waving a cane around,” Hennesey said. “That’s pretty exciting. Because it’s timeless: being passionate about baseball.”
Holt, who retired from his finance job in wealth management at William Blair in March, went to his first White Sox game when he was 5 years old. He’s an outlier as a Sox fan from the North suburbs, inheriting a love for the team from his father. He’s been a season ticket holder for more than 30 years and likes to take his three kids and grandkids to games with him.
It was his wife, physical therapist Priscella Holt, who insisted he take a cane to the game.
“‘Take the cane just to protect yourself,’” Priscella Holt told him. “I think it’s the one we pulled out of the closet first, honestly.”
Holt was in attendance at both home games when the team won the World Series in 2005, but the “the energy, the buzz, the excitement” of Sunday night’s crowd was the best he’s ever seen.
The team is now headed to Game 4 on Tuesday. Holt will be there. The Sox found him and invited him, his son — and his cane.
And though baseball fans are notoriously superstitious — see: Curse of the Billy Goat — Holt doesn’t buy that his cane is magic. It’s just an old, “gnarly,” sumac cane, he said.
“If I had magic powers, the White Sox would be in the World Series every year,” he said.
Still, he’s not taking any chances with Game 4.
“I got my stick and I’m going to wear exactly the same stuff I wore last night. Same shoes, shirt, shorts. You can’t break it,” Holt said. “It’s like sitting on the same cushion when you’re watching a game.”
Even if the cane isn’t “vested with powers,” Holt said what’s special about this year’s White Sox is obvious.
“There’s just adoration. The athletes and the athleticism is just remarkable,” Holt said. “Some teams are filled with primadonnas and they cry and they complain all the time, but you don’t hear about that with the Sox. They’re just grateful to be there.”
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