"I insisted on a no-cut, no-trade contract instead of asking for a huge salary. I wanted to establish a life somewhere. [Nancy Lanier will shoot herself when she hears about that.]
"Gale had such a sensational, whirlwind break-in to the league that after his rookie year he was immediately put on the banquet circuit, which I had a hard time adjusting to. Here I was, basically a little country girl and very naive. There's a jealousy factor, too. I don't mean jealousy about other women—football is the other woman—but jealousy that he is in the spotlight, and you feel like a puppy trailing along behind. We go somewhere and everybody just clambers over him. So who am I! I've learned to enjoy the times when I can be alone and private, but in the beginning I wouldn't let Gale walk from one room to another without following him, and asking him constantly, what's wrong? I was the typical fan asking, how are your knees? I don't think it's possible to be married to a man in the spotlight and not experience this jealousy. Even now sometimes, I get angry. I think he's worthy of the attention, but it makes me feel like a dwarf. I used to bug him. I used to say, 'Take the garbage out.' I thought he should take it out. Other husbands take the garbage out. What was so fancy about him? You can become bitchy without knowing it. You have to do a little soul-searching. All of a sudden I decided that's not the way a wife should be. You have to develop a life of your own.
"Oh, I got so tired of tiptoeing around the house on Sunday morning. During the football season we do not live a normal life. Gale is so moody that even the children are aware of it. People have no idea what professional sport does to a man—the pride factor, getting yourself up for a game, the letdown after a bad game. We've been on both ends of the pendulum. First, all that success, then two injuries and practically two seasons of not playing at all. You bleed for them, but you have to learn not to show it. If his leg doesn't heal, he will announce his retirement. If he retires, I am prepared for a couple of years of tremendous strain. He was the best pro runner in the history of the game, and all of a sudden it's taken away. Football is his love and he's not finished with it. This year we are living on hope. He has that brooding inside of him.
"The reason Gale loved Brian Piccolo so much was that Brian was competing for his job, and Gale had this ability to care for him which is really a rare thing. Brian's wife, Joy, is finally adjusting. Brian's was a typical Italian household, which means the man is dominant. Joy was just a mother and housewife. Then, after he died, she was on a whirlwind, with everyone pampering her, and she's actually a celebrity because of her husband's death, which is a little ironic. She realizes now that she's got to get off of this. Now, every time there's a function in Chicago, she's there as the poor widow of Brian Piccolo. He's been dead for two years now, and you know, she says that her grief is over. Now she wants to make a life of her own and they won't let her. Sometimes I look at the popularity of football as almost being barbaric—the exploitation of athletes, the money thrown around.
"Our worst year was probably 1969 when the Bears had a 1-13 record. The fans yelled terrible things at the players and even threw bottles. One of the players got hit on the head. I was sitting in front of his wife. She just sat there, her face sort of frozen. I went downstairs and started crying. Later, Gale said, 'Oh, you'd cry if Tom caught Jerry.'
"Sometimes I think I would like to be married to someone in a normal job. Sunday morning he puts on his game face. I can't wait for him to get out of the house. Oh, I'm so happy when he's gone I don't know what to do. Away games? I just love them. During off-season I yearn for him. That's our happy time. But during the season I just say, 'Goodby, husband.' He's not going to be the same man until January."
I think getting married has helped me. When I was single Id clean up my apartment and then do errands. By the time I got to the ball park I was tired. My diet's better. Lots of Italian cooking.
—SAL BANDO, 1969
"Oh, I was just furious when he made that statement," said Sandra Bando, 2hurling herself into a chair, still furious. "He will say things like that, even now. He said that after we had been married for five months, and I said to him, 'You make it sound as if all I ever do is cook veal parmigiana and lasagna every day, and there is Sandra down on her knees scrubbing your floor. I don't like the idea that you have molded me into a domesticated little thing.'
"The first year we were married, Sal simply couldn't understand that I had to have a life independent of him. The other baseball wives couldn't believe it. I had to be home by 10 o'clock at night. If he was on the road, he would call and I had to be here. Once I called him from the theater and said, 'I'm home.' Then I said to myself, this is ridiculous, I'm a grown woman. I did nothing but get up in the morning, prepare some food, go to the ball park and watch him play and come home. I said, is that all there is to me? He thought women who played golf were terrible. What kind of children were they raising? Why weren't they home where they belonged?
"Sal was raised in the old-fashioned Italian tradition. He saw his mother as a very hard-working, domesticated woman. The song 'I want a girl just like the girl that married dear old dad' was written for Sal. For the first few months he was trying to make me into something I wasn't. My own upbringing was more liberal, perhaps because my father was a physician. To Sal I felt I was a body without a mind. He wanted me to be just his reflection."