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by Michell Eloy
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
3 weeks ago