Former Chicago Athletes: Where Are They Now?

What do star athletes do after their playing days are over? We tracked down a onetime Bears cornerback who’s now a practicing dentist and a missionary; a former Blackhawks star who copilots jetliners; an ex-Cub who became a jazz trumpeter; and more

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CARMEN FANZONE

THEN Utility infielder, Chicago Cubs (1971–74)
NOW Musicians’ union representative, jazz trumpeter

When Carmen Fanzone became a Cub, he realized he’d be enjoying plenty of games from the comfort of the dugout—he was primarily a third baseman, the same as Ron Santo, the Cubs’ perennial all-star. “I knew that I wasn’t going to play regularly,” recalls Fanzone. “I was always trying to do better so that they would find a hole for me somewhere.” In 1972, Santo was sidelined with a fractured wrist—a break, it turned out, for Fanzone, who went on to have his best season: In 86 games, he set career highs in home runs (8), RBIs (42), and runs (26).

But his most memorable moment that season came before a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, when he played the national anthem on his trumpet at Wrigley Field. A trumpeter since childhood, Fanzone spent his nights and off-seasons as a jazz musician, blowing his horn in Chicago clubs such as The Back Room and Wise Fools Pub. “If I was not doing very well in baseball, at least I had an outlet at night to forget about the game,” he says.

When Santo came off the disabled list, Fanzone returned to his role as a utility player. Following his brief major-league career, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue his musical dream. “That was the thing I was trained for,” he says, “and that was the thing that I’d spent all of my life preparing for.” He toured with Lou Rawls and spent two years with the Baja Marimba Band, appearing on the 1982 album Naturally. He has also played on albums by his wife, the jazz singer Sue Raney, a four-time Grammy nominee.

Today, Fanzone, 69, works as a representative for the Professional Musicians Union, handling grievances filed by movie and TV soundtrack artists. He still practices trumpet at least an hour a day, and occasionally he sits in with club bands around Los Angeles. The transition from professional athlete to musician came naturally for him. Baseball and music, he says, “are completely different, and yet the disciplines are alike. You just have to dedicate yourself.”

 

Photography: (Fanzone, then and now) Courtesy of Carmen Fanzone

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3 years ago
Posted by Thane Of Cawdor

You'd think this guy growing up in Gary, Indiana and playing for the White Sox and he appeared as being a small town guy who found suucess and that he would be a decent guy but from all the accounts I've heard this guy is a total a**hole! Jerk!!!

3 years ago
Posted by OneTimeBlue

It's interesting that I came across this article, because it had recently crossed my mind as to what had become of some college athletes. In particular, Mark Aguirre, Teddy Grubbs and Terry Cummings from DePaul's NCAA glory days. Maybe you could do a follow-up story on these guys and other college and high school phenoms that did not complete a pro career, but were still a part of Chicago's sports history. As for this article, I am very impressed and pleased at the way you have taken several excellent role models for young athletes and shown them in a positive light. Please continue the good work.

3 years ago
Posted by left out

What about Tom O'Hara, the first native of the U.S. state of Illinois to break the four-minute barrier for the mile run. He accomplished this feat in 1963 when he ran the mile in 3:59.4.

He also held the world record for fastest mile in indoor track, which was set when he ran the mile in 3:56.6 on February 13, 1964. He later beat that record on March 6 of the same year with a time of 3:56.4, a world record that stood for fourteen years.

3 years ago
Posted by kjbsawb

THANE OF CAWDOR: you are a buffoon. An individual as uneducated (look at your grammar) and uninformed (White Sox?) should not be permitted to post comments to any blog. Carmen was a fan favorite and player's player because of his generosity and fiery competitiveness, among many other great qualities. It is obvious you have some personal ax to grind, and I doubt you you have ever held as much as a minimum wage job. Carmen was the ultimate in class as Cub, and he is certainly all of that as a human-being. Several friends of mine and I know this from personal experience.

2 years ago
Posted by HOME RUN BANGKOK

@THANE OF CAWDOR...u must be talking about a different Steve Trout...the one I know who pitched for the Cubs/White Sox/Yankees and Seattle,is a classy gentleman and one of the nicest guys I have ever met. One I am proud to call a friend!

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