Bob Vanderberg was known for many things for nearly 37 years at the Chicago Tribune.
A kind, generous and funny colleague who could light up a room despite his soft voice. A talented writer and a strong, well-organized editor. A perfect Harry Caray impersonator. A sports specialist in high school. And a Chicago White Sox fan and historian.
Vanderberg died Oct. 27 of Parkinson’s disease while in hospice care in Denver. He was 74 years old.
“He was such a great guy to work with and so much fun,” said George Knue, who joined the Suburban Trib a few weeks after Vanderberg in September 1972 and worked with him on and off for 30 years. “He loved sports. A job as a sportswriter or a job related to sports, that was what Bob was for, and if it involved the White Sox, it was even better because no one knew the White Sox better than he did.
Vanderberg, known as “Vandy” to friends and colleagues, has written three books about the Sox and five in total, including “’59: Summer of the Sox: The Year the World Series Came to Chicago,” which chronicles the American League team. award-winning season and “100 Things White Sox Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die”.
The team appreciated his knowledge and love for the franchise.
“Bob was a tremendous Sox fan, whose impact was evident in his books about the team’s history and his connections to teams and players of the past,” the White Sox said in a statement. “You would often find him in the seats enjoying a Sox game with family or friends. He was truly a walking encyclopedia of Sox history.
“Bob was so connected to Sox alumni that we often heard news through him, and fans could see his passion for the team and former players in the heartfelt obituaries he sometimes wrote for the Tribune’s sports pages. We will definitely remember Bob and his love for the team on opening day next year.
Born and raised in Oak Park, Vanderberg lived in suburban Chicago for most of his life before he and his wife, Pat, and son, Brad, moved to Castle Rock, Colorado in 2019.
He attended Oak Park-River Forest High School for two years before his family moved to Glen Ellyn and graduated from Glenbard West in 1966.
Vanderberg earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Hope College in Holland, Michigan in 1970, then was drafted into the Army during the Vietnam War. He was stationed at Fort Lewis, Wash., for 18 months, Pat said.
After beginning his professional career at the City News Bureau in Chicago, Vanderberg joined the Suburban Trib, an affiliate of the Tribune focused on suburban coverage. A few years later, he joined the Chicago Tribune and worked there until April 2009, primarily as an editor and writer in the athletic department.
Vanderberg has contributed to dozens of White Sox articles and obituaries for former staffers, from little-known players to superstars. Among the Sox he memorialized were managers Al Lopez and Don Gutteridge, pitching coach Ray Berres, outfielders Johnny Callison, Tommie Agee and Pat Kelly, receiver Earl Battey, shortstop Chico Carrasquel and pitchers Johnny Buzhardt and Gerry Staley, who induced the double-play pitch. to Luis Aparicio who ended the pennant game in Cleveland in 1959, sending the Sox to the World Series for the first time in 40 years.
In 2004, Vanderberg selected a list of 25 all-time White Sox men for a Tribune history, and as the Sox and Cubs prepared for their first interleague game in 1997, he penned a brief history of the 1906 World Series between teams.
He was also on a first name basis with many of the 1959 team thanks to his reporting over the years. Vanderberg’s book “’59: Summer of the Sox” is considered the definitive story of that season.
Vanderberg’s specialty was finding humorous anecdotes, like the one Lopez told him about Sox vice-president John Rigney bringing two Catholic priests to Comiskey Park for Game 1 of the 1959 World Series against the Dodgers. from Los Angeles.
“He said, ‘Hey, Al, we have help here,’ Lopez recalls in Vanderberg’s book. “I said, ‘Thank you, John, we need all the help we can get.” About 20 minutes later, on the first base side, (Dodgers owner) Walter O’Malley walks in with four priests. And I looked at John and I said, “John, we’re outnumbered there.” ”
Vanderberg dedicated the book to the memory of Sox second baseman Nellie Fox and his 1959 teammates as well as his father, who he wrote “taught me to laugh at the Cubs, to hating the Yankees and loving God and writing and the White Sox”.
The Tribune sports copy desk where Vanderberg worked in the 1980s and 1990s was full of colorful characters, including many Chicago-area natives who were also die-hard fans of local teams, some of whom they had covered as beat writers before moving. the pulpit.
Vanderberg often sat on the sports rim next to crusty old Dan Moulton, who once allegedly threw his typewriter out of the press box after a Blackhawks loss. When the score for a tough Sox loss appeared on the Sports Wire at the deadline, Vanderberg would make sure to announce it just to watch Moulton’s volcanic reaction.
“They were both White Sox fans, but Vandy would play the straight man,” said NBC Sports Chicago Bulls reporter KC Johnson, then 22, working at Tribune’s sports copy desk. “He always had that mischievous twinkle in his eye, and he purposely pissed Dan off – ‘How do you feel about losing the White Sox? It was such a good education to watch these guys on the edge of the sport.
Vanderberg’s expertise has often served the Tribune’s Sox beat writers, from Andrew Bagnato to Mark Gonzales.
“He was basically our White Sox Google,” said Paul Sullivan, sports columnist and baseball writer for Tribune “In the Wake of the News,” which covered the Sox in the mid-1990s and from 2000 to 2002. “Every Whenever one of us had a question about Sox history, we just called the copy desk and Vandy knew the answer without looking for it.”
Vanderberg was a particularly valuable resource for the Tribune’s coverage of the Sox’s run to the 2005 World Series title, their first since 1917.
“I remember he was on the radio (doing Sox trivia), and nobody could faze him,” Pat said. “We planned our vacation around the people he wanted to interview for his books.”
During his final years at the Tribune, Vanderberg was the deputy sports editor for the high school, helping coordinate coverage and assigning and overseeing freelance reporters to cover games — up to two dozen or more each week.
“It touched a lot of people who ended up getting into journalism,” Knue said.
Vanderberg had many interests outside of sports. He spoke Spanish and had a passion for American Flyer trains, Pat said. He loved Epcot, milkshakes and burgers. But for most of his adult life, if he wasn’t at home or at Sox Park, he was at the Tribune.
“The core of guys he was with…they all worked really well together,” Pat said. “They all had respect for each other. Bob was barely checked because they knew he knew his stuff so well.
And it went beyond work.
“We went to their weddings, we went to their kids’ weddings,” Pat said. “They met outside of work. It was just a nice group.
Besides his wife and son, Vanderberg is survived by his brother, Bruce (Gail) Vanderberg; sisters Susan (Jim) Scherbenske and Sharon (Jeff) Park; and seven nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his brother Roger in 1978.
The family is hosting a memorial service and luncheon at 11 a.m. on March 25 at the Lodge at Katherine Legge Memorial Park, 5901 S. County Line Road in Hinsdale.