You don’t even have to be a fan of the Chicago White Sox to recognize the bright-green-furry mascot by the name of Southpaw, who can often be seen patrolling U.S. Cellular Field before, during and after games.
According to a Q & A back in 2009, Southpaw is “just one of the guys”, which is why I was a bit shocked when I learned “he” was anything but.
The “green dude that just loves the Chicago White Sox, ” was in fact a woman.
Carrie Norwood, the woman behind the green fur, recently sat down with Sports Mockery to discuss her amazing experience as the one and only Southpaw.
SM: Are you originally from Chicago?
CN: I’m from a western suburb of Chicago.
SM: What school did you attend? Did you play any sports growing up??
CN: My parents introduced my three siblings and I to every activity possible. As a young kid there were days my Mom would carpool us from morning swim, to summer school, to piano lessons, to baseball and finally to gymnastics.
It was a great way to grow up – we were never just laying around doing nothing. In high school I swam, played basketball and did track & field. I was also involved in student government, the A/V club, band and choir.
I went to college at the University of Iowa and was a member of the crew (rowing) team my freshman year and a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority.
SM: How did you become a mascot and better yet, how did you win the job of Southpaw? Were there tryouts? If so, how hard were they?
CN: I began my mascot career at the end of my freshman year at the University of Iowa, when the fraternity who had portrayed Herky the Hawk for the previous 40 years was kicked-off campus.
I remember thinking, “Oh no! Who will play Herky?”
A few weeks later, I saw a newspaper notice for tryouts for this beloved symbol of the university. A light bulb went off…I felt my calling…I knew it … I had to be Herky.
I went to the tryouts and got the part along with three other Iowa students. Myself, and another woman (she’s still one of my great friends), were the first women to portray Herky.
The local media made a big deal out of us two females — our names were even an answer on Jeopardy! It’s crazy to think that I was a mascot performer for 18 years.
Growing up I never even realized being a mascot performer was a thing. I’m so happy my parents instilled the idea of trying everything. I’ve performed as Herky the Hawk, Tommy Hawk, the AOL Running Man, a Beatles “Blue Meanie, ” and even a stick of Sargento String Cheese, but nothing comes close to my experience as the fuzzy green dude.
The guy who was Southpaw for just under the mascot’s first year of existence knew me because I was performing as Tommy Hawk from the Blackhawks. The NHL was in the middle of a lockout (2004-2005), and my other job was part-time (I was a radio DJ for 94.7 The Zone) so my schedule was fairly open.
Well, I got a call in May 2005 asking if I could substitute for him so he could attend a friends wedding. I went for it and then he told me he was going to be turning in his two weeks. I told him to give the Sox my name and number and if they were interested in talking with me to give me a call. I honestly had no idea anything was going to happen. I didn’t pay attention to baseball. I was just looking for a job and if it happened to be as a mascot performer – cool. Once hired, I got to know more about the White Sox and fell in love with the team and front office.
SM: How hot does it get in that suit?
CN: During the summer months I could wring out my hair and have a steady flow of sweat. I wouldn’t be surprised if I could get a few ounces of sweat just from my hair. Performing as a mascot is a great way to stay in shape.
Summer games and weddings were the most exhausting.
SM: Are you given free rein during the game or are there certain things you are told to do?
CN: Yes and no. I wasn’t able to run on the field when ever I wanted, but how I interacted with the fans was on me. I knew my boundaries, but when I crossed them I’d get a phone call.
SM: Did you ever have any confrontations with fans that didn’t go well?
CN: I got yanked off the dugout during one of Southpaw’s birthday games. A Yankees fan in the front row had an incredible straw hat that just screamed “take me!” So, I took his hat and put it on Southpaw’s birthday party hat.
Next thing I knew I felt a hard tug on my belt and I went flying off the dugout towards the fans and thankfully missed landing on people, but landed on the stairs. The Yankees fan then tumbled next to me. I quickly reached my hand out so he didn’t slam his noggin on the stair.
He dropped some f-bombs, I got up and security came down to get him.
SM: Do you travel with the team for road games?
CN: No, but…I did go to the MLB All-Star Game festivities each year, two social media tours (that happened to coincide with Sox games), President Obama’s Inaugural Parade in Washington DC, and the Cayman islands twice.
SM: Any idea on how the White Sox landed on the name Southpaw?
CN: It’s my understanding there was a vote between a few names. Front office employees got to vote. Before Southpaw came “alive” and was named Southpaw he was referred to as
SM: How long were you involved with the White Sox organization?
CN: My first day with the White Sox was June 2, 2005. My last day was February 29, 2016.
I took a few months off of my performing duties when I became pregnant with my kids. I performed until I was five months pregnant with my daughter and four months pregnant with my son.
When I wasn’t performing I continued to run the program.
SM: So you were there when they won the World Series, what was that like?
CN: It was amazing. I had been with the team for only a few months so I was spoiled right away. I thought “does this happen every year!?”
Southpaw was behind home plate for Konerko’s Grand Slam, ran onto the field after Scotty Pods Game 2 home run, was in [Houston] Texas when we won the World Series, on the first double-decker bus for the ticker-tape parade, on the stage during the ceremony…….I’ve experienced some amazing things.
SM: Any funny stories you can share?
CN: Oh wow….I have a million. Can I save them for another day?! Some hints on a few stories: cup, falling brides, security guard, bachelor party. I could go on and on.
SM: Who was your favorite player to interact with? Who was the funniest?
CN: There have been some great guys who have played for the White Sox: Buehrle, Dye, Jenks, Crede, Pierzynski, Danks, Putz, Anderson, Garland, Baines, Alexei, Ozzie, Hermanson, Thomas….
The White Sox former players were also awesome to work with: Kittle (he was the officiant for my wedding), Moose, Minnie, Melton, Stone, Farmer. Jerry Reinsdorf is an incredible man.
Really, everyone is terrific.
SM: What will you miss the most about the job?
CN: I will miss the people within the White Sox organization and the performing aspect of my job. Oh, and not to mention I will miss seeing my fellow MLB and Chicago mascot performers on a regular basis — some of my dearest buds are performers from other teams.
There had been times during my nearly 11 years with the White Sox that I hit a wall — my mind and body drained and exhausted — but it wouldn’t take long to remember that my worst day had the potential to be someone else’s best. I want to share a visit that I’ll never forget.
Nine years ago, I received a call from a hospital. A sports-loving child wasn’t going to live much longer, and they wanted to give him one last smile.
Southpaw carefully walked into the dimly-lit room, its walls plastered with enough sports photos to indicate a lengthy stay. An assortment of machines clicked and beeped in the background, counting breaths and heartbeats. I made eye contact with the boy’s exhausted mother — holding vigil — and with a sad smile, she made room for me at the bedside. And there lay a child no older than 10, but made to look smaller by his illness and the maze of wires and tubes attached to his fragile form.
As his mother raised her camera to take our photo, his small hand raised from the bedding to form a feeble thumbs-up. That moment was captured forever by the camera’s click, and something clicked in me as well. It was this “thumbs-up” that put my life into perspective. Southpaw had the power to be an honored birthday guest, a lovable celebrity and a dying child’s last wish. Therefore, I had to treat every moment in costume as an honor and a privilege.
I always tried to look at our fans as more than a sold ticket. They love the White Sox — so what could I do to strengthen that bond with the team? Another high-five, one more photo, an extra-long hug, a twirl with a dance, a thank you note, a care package. I couldn’t promise them a grand slam, but I could promise a grand time.
I personally want to thank Carrie for sharing some truly incredible memories of her experience as Southpaw.
Her new role, serving as the Associate Director of Programs for the USO of Illinois, will grant her the opportunity to grow professionally, while still allowing her the time that’s necessary to spend with her family. She feels this new position will challenge her creativity, but also provide her a unique opportunity in which she can help support soldiers and their families.
Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me and go White Sox.
You can even follow Southpaw on Twitter.
Hey! It’s me Southpaw, the official White Sox Mascot. I sleep, breathe, eat (well…maybe not eat..that would be weird) the White Sox.