Warm up to fun in Chicago throughout August

BudFrom the Saturday, Aug. 2, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …


By Dave Wischnowsky

Summers are cool in Chicago.

These days, that’s both figuratively and literally.

One year ago, we experienced an unseasonably brisk June, July and August, and this time around both June and July have followed suit.

Now, perhaps August will break the trend, but whether the weather truly gets hot or not, summer is still the best time of the year in Chicago. And this month offers plenty of opportunities for you to find fun.

Bud Billiken Day Parade
Aug. 9

In 1929, Robert S. Abbott, founder of the Chicago Defender newspaper, came up with the character of Bud Billiken, named after the Billiken – the guardian angel of all children, according to Chinese legend.

He then launched a parade named after his brainchild, which has since grown to become the nation’s second largest parade and a fixture in Chicago’s African-American community.

Focused as always on the message of “Back to School,” this year’s parade begins at 10 a.m. at Martin Luther King Drive and Oakwood Boulevard in the city’s Bronzeville neighborhood and continues south to 55th Street at Washington Park, which is the site of a celebratory picnic.

For more information, visit budbillikenparade.org.

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Rose Puts The Ball In His Own Court

Chicago Bulls v Portland Trail BlazersFriday’s column from CBS Chicago

(CBS) When it comes to the Chicago Bulls’ championship hopes this coming season, there’s no player more important to the franchise than Derrick Rose. That would be the case even if Carmelo Anthony were joining him in Chicago this fall.

Anthony won’t be, of course. And according to Sun-Times writer Joe Cowley’s revealing interview on Thursday with a surprisingly candid Rose, that’s apparently just the way the Bulls star wanted it.

Even if the Bulls didn’t.

After speaking with Rose this week about the long-rumored rift between his own camp and the Bulls, Cowley wrote that, “Tensions hit a peak when Rose, who has a five-year, $94.8 million contract, seemed to blatantly resist helping build the roster in a new NBA where stars increasingly double as recruiters. The latest example was the Bulls’ pursuit of free agent Carmelo Anthony.

“Looking back, it’s clear Rose wasn’t all that interested in teaming with Anthony, who chose to return to the New York Knicks. Rose was much more aggressive in the Bulls’ pursuit of free agent Pau Gasol, not only asking for the veteran’s phone number, but giving a hard sell to the big man on joining the Bulls.”

Beyond all the hubbub about the supposed sniping between Rose’s handlers and the Bulls’ brass – all of which Jerry Reinsdorf attempted to dismiss via statement Thursday night – what struck me as the most significant insight from the Sun-Times story was that Rose apparently isn’t against recruiting.

Rather, it seems he was against recruiting Carmelo Anthony.

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5 Thoughts From A Weekend In Cooperstown

2014 Baseball Hall of Fame Induction CeremonyToday’s column from CBS Chicago

(CBS) The Chicago White Sox aren’t known for drawing a crowd.

In fact, they’re often known for not drawing one.

But after this past weekend in Cooperstown, N.Y., perhaps that should change. Because fans of the South Siders showed up in droves Sunday to cheer on favorite son Frank Thomas as he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, and the much-maligned fan base deserves big kudos for their Big Hurt turnout.

I too spent this past Sunday in Cooperstown, along with my family, soaking in the history – and sunshine after the region’s morning showers blessedly evaporated. Coming into town, however, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect in terms of a fan turnout.

With a great induction class of Thomas, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Bobby Cox, Joe Torre and Tony La Russa, I was certain that the crowd would be huge – and it certainly was at an estimated 48,000, Cooperstown’s the third largest ever – but I was unsure of how it would be broken down.

Would Braves and Sox fans show up like they should? Just how many from the Cubs’ and Cardinals’ passionate followings would turn out? And was Torre alone a big enough draw to lure in Yankees fans?

As it turned out, Braves boosters – another fan base often maligned for its lack of support – showed up in impressive force to support their two former aces in Maddux and Glavine and ex-manager Cox.

White Sox fans, however, weren’t far behind the Atlanta masses, and their numbers paced well ahead of the contingents wearing Cardinals, Cubs and Yankees apparel, all of which had solid showings.

Continue reading at CBSChicago.com … 

Maddux, Thomas inductions quite a haul for Chicago


From the Saturday, July 26, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …


By Dave Wischnowsky

Four summers ago, my dad, my brother and I, clad in our Chicago Cubs T-shirts and jerseys, sat on the grassy lawn in Cooperstown, N.Y., and cheered loudly as former Cubs slugger Andre Dawson was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

As a Montreal Expo.

This weekend, we’re back in upstate New York – along with my mom, sister-in-law and 1-year-old nephew – as we prepare to celebrate former Cubs ace Greg Maddux’s induction into the Hall of Fame.

Not as an Atlanta Brave.

In what’s shaping up as Chicago’s best baseball weekend of the summer – both in spite of and because it involves no games – Maddux and fellow Windy City legend Frank Thomas will be enshrined in the Hall on Sunday. Thomas’ plaque will show him wearing a Sox cap, while Maddux’s will feature no logo, a wonderful nod to the pitcher’s deep affection for the Cubs despite having enjoyed most of his Hall-worthy years in Atlanta.

With Tom Glavine, Joe Torre, Bobby Cox and Tony LaRussa also set for induction, as many as 50,000 visitors are expected to descend upon Cooperstown on Sunday. I’m sure that many of them will be from Chicago, and hopefully for one day at least, Cubs and Sox fans can actually applaud each other.

After all, neither group has much else to cheer for this season.

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Cooperstown Shouldn’t Close Out Lee Smith

LeeFriday’s column from CBS Chicago

(CBS) Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas are all entering Cooperstown this weekend as first-ballot Hall of Famers.

Craig Biggio and Mike Piazza might make it next year. Jack Morris’ eligibility has run out. Jeff Bagwell has a decent chance at some day earning induction, while Tim Raines, Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds may all be long shots, for different reasons.

And then there’s Lee Arthur Smith.

The man who finished 11th in Hall of Fame balloting for 2014 – behind all of those aforementioned stars – earned only 29.9 percent of the vote in his 12th year of eligibility, far below the 75 percent threshold required for induction. With so many big names coming onto the ballot in recent years, Smith’s tally has plummeted from the 50.9 percent that he earned as recently as 2012, when he was fourth in voting.

It looks like Cooperstown is closing out one of baseball’s greatest closers. And as Chicago prepares to celebrate the induction of Maddux and Thomas during a great Hall of Fame Weekend, that’s a shame for another Windy City great in Smith, who spent the first eight seasons of his 18-year career intimidating hitters from the mound at Wrigley Field.

Back in 1995, legendary Los Angeles Times sports writer Jim Murray tabbed Smith as the active player most likely to be elected to the Hall of Fame, calling him “the best one-inning pitcher the game ever saw” and “the best at smuggling a game into the clubhouse in history.”

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Illini (Coaching) Standards Out Of Whack

TBToday’s column from CBS Chicago

(CBS) Does the University of Illinois need to loosen its stringent admissions standards for athletes in order to compete at football’s highest level?

Or does it instead need to elevate its standards for hiring football coaches?

Based on more than two decades of watching Illini teams play largely subpar football since coach John Mackovic left Champaign in 1991, I tend to vote for the latter. However, last week, veteran Illini scribe Loren Tate argued for the former through an in-depth and informative three-part series of columns for the Champaign News-Gazette.

In the series’ first part, entitled “UI standards out of whack,” Tate writes that, “While the UI is recognized with Michigan and Wisconsin nationally and internationally for their greatness as research institutions, Illinois is far behind athletically. Wins, resources, prospects, attendance … Illinois is behind.

“And part of the reason – emphasis on PART because there are many reasons – is the academic gap between NCAA qualifying standards and the level the UI insists upon.”

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Celebrating Millennium Park (and other oases)

Millennium-Park_Millennium-Park-aerial-view_4281From the Saturday, July 19, edition of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …


By Dave Wischnowsky

On Wednesday, the best thing to hit Chicago in decades turned 10.

It was back on July 16, 2004, when Mayor Richard M. Daley sliced a red ribbon to officially welcome the public to Millennium Park, the downtown gem that has since grown to become a true jewel of the city.

Construction of the $490 million, 24.5-acre urban playground has long been criticized for rampant overspending, and just this month a trial over a controversial contract for the Park Grill again brought that enduring drama to light.

But as Chicago Tribune architectural critic Blair Kamin wrote this week, “Little matter. Calculate the pluses and minuses, and it’s hard not to conclude that Millennium Park … is a great work of civic art, a robust generator of jobs and construction and the latest demonstration of Chicago’s audacious ability to invent the urban future.”

It’s also a resplendent oasis in the midst of Chicago’s concrete jungle that’s more accessible, beautiful and festive than adjacent Grant Park. Featuring the reflective Cloud Gate sculpture (better known as “The Bean”) as well as the Crown Fountain, Lurie Garden and Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park is also chock full of city icons.

And as it celebrates its milestone birthday, it may indeed be the best urban oasis in Chicago, but it’s not the only one. Here are three of my other favorites throughout the city.

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If Ventura Falls Short, Ozzie Actually Makes Sense

Toronto Blue Jays v Chicago White Sox

Today’s column from CBS Chicago

(CBS) Over the past season-and-a-half, Chicago’s two baseball teams are a combined 86 games under .500. Good seats aren’t just available at U.S. Cellular and Wrigley Field – they’re plentiful. And so far this summer, both the Cubs and the White Sox have found themselves largely overshadowed by the Blackhawks, World Cup and even NBA free agency.

Yes, right now in the Windy City, baseball is a bore.

But Ozzie Guillen would apparently love to change that – down on the South Side, at least. And I don’t doubt that he could.

Before Tuesday’s All-Star Game, the Sun-Times’ Joe Cowley asked the former manager of the White Sox if could see himself being the future manager of the White Sox now that he’s significant steps toward patching up a relationship with owner Jerry Reinsdorf.

Guillen replied, ‘‘I wish,” before immediately adding, “If I say yes, then I don’t respect (current manager) Robin Ventura. But that’s not where I’m coming from. When Robin gets tired of managing or he’s had enough, I would like to be back. But it’s up to them. If I wear a uniform and it’s the White Sox, that will be special.”

It would certainly be interesting, considering that Guillen almost always is. And even though I’ve never been particularly pro-Ozzie, his eventual return to the South Side could actually make a lot of sense if Ventura doesn’t ultimately pan out.

Continue reading at CBSChicago.com

LeBron’s Return Hits Home For Illini Nation

GroceToday’s column from CBS Chicago

(CBS) Four times in the past eight years, the No. 1 high school basketball player in the nation has called Illinois home.

Yet, none of them have ended up calling Illinois home in college.

In 2007, Simeon’s Derrick Rose chose Memphis over the University of Illinois. In 2011, Anthony Davis of Perspectives Charter picked Kentucky. In 2013, Jabari Parker, also of Simeon, headed off to Duke, while this summer Whitney Young’s Jahlil Okafor will do the same.

Throw in the likes of Homewood-Flossmoor’s Julian Wright and Crane’s Sherron Collins matriculating to Kansas, Peoria Central’s Shaun Livingston announcing for Duke before declaring for the NBA and Curie’s Cliff Alexander spurning the Illini for the Jayhawks just this past fall, and Illinois has had a rough go of it over the past several years in regards to keeping the state’s top basketball players actually in state.

The growing trend has led to increasing frustration for a fan base still waiting for a homegrown prep superstar to finally stay home, which makes LeBron James’ dramatic NBA return to Northeast Ohio something of an inspiration for Illini Nation.

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Exploring Chicago’s French Connections

Flag_of_Alliance-Française_de_Chicago_studentsFrom the Saturday, July 12, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

By Dave Wischnowsky


It isn’t July’s most popular revolutionary holiday – I’m pretty sure you know what that is – but come Monday evening, the celebration of Bastille Day will very much be a thing at Daley Plaza in Chicago’s Loop.

One during which le clou du spectacle – the show stopper – will feature waiters from Chicago’s finest French restaurants running a 200-meter footrace while balancing a tray filled with plastic glasses of Grand Cru wine.

The event, called “La Course de Garçons & Filles de Café,” begins at 5:30 p.m. with the championship sprint scheduled for 7. It’s preceded by the French national anthem and likely followed by mops.

For Francophiles far and wide, Bastille Day – which marks the moment 225 years ago when a pack of fed-up Parisians stormed a prison and sparked the French Revolution – is an opportunity to indulge France’s famed cuisine, wine and music without crossing the Atlantic.

It’s also an opportunity for me to fill you in on some things you might not know about Chicago’s French connections, both historic and contemporary.

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