100 Years Of Wrigley, My Top 5 Memories

fergieToday’s column from CBS Chicago

(CBS) Happy 100th birthday, Wrigley Field.

Here’s to 100 more – and how about at least one World Series championship this time around, OK?

One century ago today, at the corner of Clark and Addison, Chicago restaurateur Charles Weeghman opened the gates to the brand new ballpark that would eventually be named Wrigley Field.

Originally, the place was built for Weegham’s Federal League team, the Whales, but after the Chicago Cubs moved in for the 1916 season, it’s been best known for producing tales of the “The One That Got Away.”

Since calling Wrigley home, the Cubs have seen World Series championships wriggle away in 1918, 1929, 1932, 1935, 1938 and 1945, while failing to ever hook a title as a tenant of the Friendly Confines.

That famous championship drought, however, hardly means that the old ballpark hasn’t produced its share of memorable moments – some of which I’ve been blessed to witness in person. And so today, in honor of Wrigley becoming a centenarian, I thought I’d share five of my favorite memories of games that I’ve attended.

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Serving up Chicago’s best brunches

eggsWith Easter on Sunday, you’ll be seeing plenty of eggs this weekend.

But later this spring, if you’re up in Chicago for a weekend baseball game or an overnight getaway and are on the hunt for eggs of a different kind – say, on a plate, in a sandwich or inside a skillet – you can find them at some of the city’s best brunches, along with plenty more. Interestingly, the concept of brunch is said to have actually been popularized in Chicago during the 1930s when movie stars, celebrities and other wealthy folks riding the rails cross-country would stop off in town between trains for a late morning meal. If you’re looking to grab the same near Wrigley Field, U.S. Cellular Field or the heart of the city, here are some suggestions:

BEFORE A CUBS GAME:

Southport Grocery and Café

Located just a few blocks west of Wrigley Field, but a world away from the gameday chaos that surrounds the ballpark, the Southport Grocery and Café (3552 N. Southport Ave.) allows for great people-watching from its patio seating along the sidewalk.
Its menu, meanwhile, includes entrees such as Brisket & Gravy featuring house-smoked brisket gravy over buttermilk biscuits, “The Southern” omelet with housemade sausage, red onions and pimento cheese, and pancakes that are made from cupcake batter.

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The Six Most Maddening Cubs Closers Ever

Cardinals v CubsMy April 18 column from CBS Chicago

(CBS) It appears that the Cubs may have figured out a solution to their lack of a closer: Just never lead again.

This week began on Sunday with Cubs manager Rick Renteria demoting his closer Jose Veras after his second blown save. Since Monday, the Cubs have been outscored by the Blackhawks – handily.

Yes, they’re that cold. Along with the team’s offensive woes, the open closer job is once again a hot topic on Chicago’s North Side.

“Right now, we’ll see who emerges,” Renteria said on Sunday.

In the days since, media reports have claimed that Justin Grimm, Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop are the leading candidates to fill the role – should the team ever actually give them a shot. Although, I’m hearing that Eeny, Meeny, Miny and Moe have all presented strong cases, as well.

You know, like Renteria said, we’ll see who emerges.

What I Like – And Don’t – About The Illini Rebrand

illini-football

My April 17 column from CBS Chicago

(CBS) These days in college sports, it almost seems as if the game of fashion is more important than the actual games themselves.

And when it comes to recruiting, it actually might be.

With all that in mind, I’m pleased that the Universityof Illinois upped its fashion game this week with the unveiling of a new Nike-driven rebrand that’s been 18 months in development and culminates today at Niketown on Michigan Avenue with an event featuring basketball coach John Groce, football coach Tim Beckman and athletic director Mike Thomas, along the flashy new Illini apparel.

Overall, I like the new logo, look and color schemes for Illinois’ basketball and football uniforms, although there of course are some things I like more than others. Here’s my rundown of what I favor and disfavor with the new Illini duds:

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Is Derrick Rose Still No. 1 In Your Thoughts?

Chicago Bulls v Golden State Warriors

My April 15 column from CBS Chicago

(CBS) At this time last year, when he was suiting up in Armani instead of an NBA uniform, Derrick Rose was Public Enemy No. 1 in the eyes of many Chicago hoops fans. But this season, as the Bulls prepare for their latest playoff run without him, he’s isn’t even part of the conversation.

And that leaves me wondering: Just how much is Rose – probably still Chicago’s biggest sports name – even a part of Chicago’s sports consciousness at this point?

As a Bulls fan, do you think about him on a daily basis? Are you still counting on his triumphant return and expecting him to again be a superstar? Or in your mind, is Derrick Rose simply a part of this city’s basketball past until he’s actually a part of this city’s basketball present?

Sadly, for me, I’d have to say it’s the latter.

It doesn’t feel right to say something so dismissive about someone who’s meant so much to Chicago – and who absolutely still could yet again. However, when it comes to Rose, dismissing thoughts of him also seems like the only sensible approach right now.

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New Chicago Sports Museum hits a home run

From the Saturday, April 12, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

hoverboardThe WISCH LIST

By Dave Wischnowsky

When it comes to museums, Chicago has almost as many as it has potholes. But oddly enough, for a city that’s so in love with its sports franchises, figures and history of both, it’s never had a museum dedicated to sports.

Until now, that is.

“The Chicago Sports Museum is going to fill a hole in this sports-crazy town,” WGN Radio and Comcast SportsNet personality David Kaplan said recently in a release promoting the Windy City’s newest sports attraction. “We have lots of great museums in Chicago, but nothing dedicated to sports. Fans are going to love it.”

I think so, too. I know that I certainly did.

Located on Level 7 of Water Tower Place at 835 North Michigan Avenue, the Chicago Sports Museum – which opened on April 2 – is housed as part of the new Harry Caray’s 7th Inning Stretch Restaurant.

It’s billed as “Chicago’s playground for sports fans,” and with an amazing array of interactive exhibits along with a fascinating array of some of the city’s quirkiest pieces of sports memorabilia from Harry Caray’s CEO Grant DePorter’s personal collection, the 8,000-square-foot museum lives up to that description.

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Past QBs Show Lunt Could Be An Illini Savior

Saturday’s column from CBS Chicago

UI fbo mediaday(CBS) The weather is supposed to be warm Saturday in Champaign for the University of Illinois’ spring football game, but probably not as hot as Tim Beckman’s seat will be this fall if his Illini don’t make a bowl game.

If the third-year coach is to be assured of a fourth, it likely will be thanks to the strapping kid wearing the red No. 12 jersey during the 2 p.m. scrimmage at Memorial Stadium.
That would be 6-foot-5, 210-pound Wes Lunt, the strong-armed Oklahoma State transfer who hasn’t yet been formally named the Illini’s starting quarterback for the 2014 season, although from all indications it’s only a matter of time until he is.

On Friday, Champaign News-Gazette columnist Loren Tate wrote about the redshirt sophomore quarterback, “While it’s too early for comparison, there are those already mentioning Lunt in the same sentence with Tony Eason, Jeff George and Kurt Kittner.”

In the pantheon for Illini football, such as it is, that trio would be considered the gold standard of signal-callers. Asking Lunt to live up such billing in his first season playing in Champaign may be asking a lot, but if he does excel, just how much of an instant impact can a high-caliber quarterback even have on a bad team?

Well, based on past history at Illinois, perhaps a lot.

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Is Chicago Missing An Olympic-Sized Opportunity in 2024?

A helicopter view of downtown Chicago MaToday’s column from CBS Chicago

(CBS) Whether you were in favor of Chicago getting the 2016 Summer Olympics or not, one thing is becoming increasingly clear.

Chicago should have gotten the 2016 Summer Olympics.

On Thursday, news broke that Olympics officials have become so concerned that Brazil might not be ready to host the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro that they’ve enacted a series of emergency measures to jump-start preparations woefully delayed by “sluggish construction, labor strife and governmental chaos.”

“We believe that Rio can and will deliver an excellent Games if the appropriate actions are being taken now,” IOC president Thomas Bach said, with that discomforting “if” noticeably left hanging in the air.

According to reports, the IOC boss stopped short of ruling out the possibility that the competition might be shifted elsewhere, telling reporters, “What I can say categorically is that we will do everything we can to make these Games a success.”

If the 2016 Summer Games were to be shifted – and what a mess that would be – I think it’s safe to say they wouldn’t be shifted to Chicago. But what I’ve been wondering of late is how Chicagoans might feel if a different Summer Games – those of the 2024 variety – end up being hosted by an American city other than ours.

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When It Comes To Titles, Big Ten Is Final Forlorn

My April 8 column from CBS Chicago

Cleveland Indians v New York Yankees(CBS) When it comes to reaching the Final Four, the Big Ten can hold its own with any conference in America. But when it comes to actually winning championships?

Well, that’s a different story.

Twenty-five years ago, Glen Rice, Rumeal Robinson and Steve Fisher cut the nets in Seattle after leading Michigan to the 1989 NCAA Tournament title. But in all the springs since, the Big Ten has sprung only one more title on us – that by Michigan State in 2000.

Why is that? I really don’t know, and I’m not sure that anyone does.

But what I do know is that by coming up short so often on college basketball’s biggest stage, the Big Ten has spent the past quarter-century bucking the championship odds better than any organization not named the Chicago Cubs.

Consider this: In the 25 seasons since 1989, 100 teams have reached the Final Four, and the Big Ten has laid claim to 18 of them – including Wisconsin this year. That’ s second only to the ACC’s 21 qualifiers, although from its group the ACC has also produced eight champions, while the Big Ten has generated just the one.

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Spring cleaning my mind about Chicago sports

Wrigley_field_720From the Saturday, April 5, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

The WISCH LIST

By Dave Wischnowsky

No matter your city, no matter your state, no matter your climate, spring is universally regarded as a season of renewal during which everyone gets a fresh start.

Unless, of course, you’re the Chicago Cubs.

And then it probably just means more of the same.

At least that was the case to start this week after the Cubs opened the 2014 season in Pittsburgh by failing to post a run for nearly 17 innings.

The drought got bad enough on Wednesday night that I was wondering which team would score first in 2014, the Cubs … or the Bears.

Ultimately, the Cubs beat the Bears to that punch, but the punchless North Siders have a lineup that could make fans punchy all spring. With that in mind, I’m going to take a few swings of my own at the Chicago sports scene and, who knows, I might even connect with a few.

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