Summertime scorecard: Some winners, some losers

Lou2From the Saturday, July 18, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …


By Dave Wischnowsky

Some of today’s sports figures deserve greater recognition (Lou Henson) and some don’t (Pete Rose). Some local sports executives are worthy of big kudos (Theo Epstein) and some aren’t (Mike Thomas).

And, as you might expect, I have some thoughts about it all.

Just Lou-Do it

Sometimes it seems like much of Illini Nation has forgotten that the University of Illinois’ basketball program was in existence prior to B.S.

That’s “Before Self,” not the other thing you were thinking.

But this week it was refreshing to find that an 18-year-old U. of I. sophomore who wasn’t even born when Lou Henson retired back in 1996 is leading the push on campus to honor the 83-year-old hoops legend.

Sam LeRoy – a Champaign native and a member of the 50-person U. of I. student senate – says he’ll soon introduce a resolution to name the renovated State Farm Center’s court in honor of Henson, the winningest coach in school history.

“I think the greatest impact this will have is to connect Fighting Illini fans to Lou Henson for years to come,” LeRoy told the Champaign News-Gazette about the nonbinding proposal. “I think it’s fair to say he was the single most impactful coach in basketball history, not only because of what he did on the court, but because of what he did off the court in helping to establish Orange Krush as a cheering section and as a philanthropic organization that it is.”

I couldn’t agree more. And with Henson in poor health of late, it would be wonderful to see him celebrated appropriately while he’s still around to enjoy it.

Continue reading

Chatting Cubs with ‘Wrigleyville Nation’

Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 9.15.29 AMLast week was a wild one for the Chicago Cubs.

And on Sunday night, the guys at the “Wrigleyville Nation” Podcast invited me on as a guest to chat about the week that was against the division rival Cardinals and crosstown rival White Sox.

The pair can rival each other as the Cubs’ archrivals.

Also during the podcast, we discussed Cubs fandom (and how I became a die-hard), the latest on the Wrigley Field bleachers experience (it’s good, but could be better) and where the team stands at the midpoint mark of the season (ahead of where my expectations stood in the spring).

You listen to our chat, you can click right here.

Chicago’s July still delivering a bang

Windy-City-Smokeout3-800x483From the Saturday, July 11, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

By Dave Wischnowsky


The Independence Day hoopla is through, but Chicago still has plenty of fireworks left for the remainder of July – and not just because the Cubs and White Sox are tangling at rowdy Wrigley Field this weekend.

Although that should pack plenty of civic punch too.

Rather, the biggest bangs for the remainder of the month target our taste buds. As you may be aware, the 2015 Taste of Chicago is ongoing through Sunday. But that iconic – and crowded – festival in Grant Park is far from the only location where you can get a taste of the city during July.

Here are a few other ways to wet your whistle and satisfy your stomach up in Chicago this weekend and throughout the rest of the month.

Windy City Smokeout

BBQ. Country Music. Beer.

When it comes to selling its appeal on its website, the Windy City Smokeout doesn’t mince words. Instead, it minces mouthwatering meat dipped into delicious sauces and served up with a heaping side of country entertainment and adult beverages.

Continue reading

Chicago’s Union Station can be more Grand (Central)

UnionFrom the Saturday, July 4, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …


By Dave Wischnowsky

There are train stations. And there are destinations.

And then, in rare and wonderful instances, there are both.

Last Saturday in New York City, my wife and I visited one of those wondrous rarities when we took the “5” train to Midtown and whiled away a rainy Manhattan afternoon exploring the fabled Grand Central Station.

During our time puttering about the sprawling 48-acre terminal/tourist attraction, we lunched at The Oyster Bar – one of the city’s oldest, established in 1913 – before wandering through the eclectic array of food stands in the adjacent basement food court.

Upstairs, we strained our necks while admiring the intricacies of the Zodiac constellations painted high above the beautiful Main Concourse’s covering its towering ceiling.

Next, we sipped cocktails inside The Campbell Apartment, an opulent space that once belonged to 1920s business tycoon John C. Campbell and is now a dimly lit “speakeasy” evoking that era. Later on, we spent an hour people watching from the bar at Michael Jordan’s NYC Steakhouse on the balcony that overlooks the busy concourse below.

After finally leaving the terminal, I found myself wondering why Chicago’s own historic Union Station – which I used to visit often when I worked nearby – couldn’t be more like Grand Central. And then upon my return to Chicago, I was delighted to discover that it just may soon be.

Continue reading

A Decade in the City

Screen Shot 2015-07-05 at 12.09.24 PMTen years ago today, I moved from Ottawa to Chicago and started work at the Tribune (yes, on the same day — that was a trick). Today, as I look back on this past decade, it’s been one filled with professional ups and professional downs, personal highs and personal lows, some things expected and many things not.

I’ve grown a lot, met many great people and had a lot of fun while also becoming much wiser, falling even more in love with my favorite city in the world and, most importantly, finding the love of my life (you’re the best, Debbie). Without a doubt, it’s been the most tumultuous, most exciting and most interesting 10-year span of my life so far, and I very much look forward to seeing what the next decade will bring.

And so to celebrate my milestone Chicago anniversary, I’m off to Wrigley for a Cubs game. Because, c’mon, in the end, I haven’t changed *that* much. ;)


Chicago’s new Riverwalk is worth a dip

IMG_5014From the Saturday,  June 20, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …


By Dave Wischnowsky

Freshwater is a wonderful resource.

Just ask California.

But as anyone still drying out this weekend along the banks of the swollen Kankakee, La Salle and Fox rivers can surely attest, water also poses problems.

Up in Chicago, for example, the lake truly is great – except when its cooling effect drops downtown temperatures into the brisk 50s while they’re in the balmy 80s out in the burbs.

The adjacent Chicago River is a similarly great asset – except when it transforms a gleaming new stretch of the city’s Riverwalk into a literal walk in the river like it did this past Monday evening when nearly three inches of rain hammered down on Chicago.

After a stormy Sunday, Monday’s sudden June monsoon caused floodwaters to rise high enough to submerge multiple tiers of steps along the new Chicago Riverwalk just days after it had officially opened. Once the water had receded by Tuesday morning, the Chicago Tribune reported that large swaths of the pathway were caked with a dark brown substance along with random debris such as baseballs, driftwood and liquor bottles.

In other words, the contents of Al Capone’s vault.

Where’s Geraldo when you need him?

Continue reading

Home is inhospitable for Chicago baseball clinchers

sox_1906_fullTonight at the United Center, the Chicago Blackhawks have a chance to win the Stanley Cup on home ice for the first time since 1938.

That’s a long dry spell.

But, then again, it’s next to nothing when it comes to the postseason series-clinching drought that our city is still enduring in baseball.

That’s because, as crazy as it may seem, Chicagoans have not seen a MLB postseason series clincher – of any kind – take place on city turf since way back in 1906, when the White Sox beat the Cubs in a World Series that never left Chicago.

In the century-plus since ’06, there have been seven other baseball postseason series victories by the Cubs and White Sox, but each and every one of them has been clinched outside the City of Big Shoulders. That history also includes four separate times – three in 2003, and one in 1945 – that the Cubs had an opportunity to secure a series championship on Chicago soil only to come up typically short.

Ponder the following list from Chicago’s bizarre history of only managing to win MLB playoff series when the Cubs or the Sox were playing on the road, and failing every time they had a shot to do so at home:

2005: The White Sox won the American League Division Series on the road in Boston, won the AL Championship Series on the road in Anaheim, and won the World Series on the road in Houston.

2003: In the NLDS against the Braves, the Cubs failed the clinch the series in Game 4 at Wrigley Field before going on to ultimately win the series in Game 5 on the road in Atlanta. In the NLCS against the Marlins, the Cubs lost two potential series clinchers – Games 6 and 7 – at Wrigley Field en route to losing the series.

1945: Facing Detroit, the Cubs lost the decisive Game 7 of the World Series at Wrigley Field.

1917: In Game 6 at the Polo Grounds in New York City, the White Sox won the World Series over the Giants.

1908: The Cubs won the World Series by beating the Tigers in Game 5 at Bennett Park in Detroit.

1907: The Cubs won the World Series by beating the Tigers in Game 4 at Bennett Park in Detroit.

Hopefully, the Blackhawks can get it done and win the Stanley Cup  in front of the home crowd tonight. But if they do, don’t blame Chicago’s baseball die-hards if they get a little jealous.

After all, we’ve never even seen a NLDS win in town, let alone a World Series.

One of these days …

June events in Chicago to make you swoon

1370464975-ribfest1-teaserFrom the Saturday, June 13, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

By Dave Wischnowsky


In Illinois, people train for months – or, at least, weeks – to get their “beach body” ready for summer (even if they’re nowhere near a beach). But then, Chicago’s summer arrives and threatens to ruin all that hard work in a single weekend.

Delicious food festivals can do that.

And if you’re looking to partake in some such events this month, here are my suggested selections. Just try to not cheat on your diet too much – or go ahead and do, if you’re in the mood.

June 13-14: Ribfest Chicago

Taking place this weekend from noon to 10 p.m. both today and on Sunday, the city’s longest-running rib fest is also widely considered its best. There’s good reason, considering how the 27th Annual Ribfest Chicago features up to 50,000 pounds of ribs and BBQ dished out by more than 30 restaurants.

Located at the intersection of Lincoln Avenue and Irving Park Road in North Center, Ribfest also offers a family area (open noon-7 p.m.) featuring live entertainment for kids, including inflatables and games.

For more information, visit

June 13-14: Andersonville Midsommarfest

Also taking place today and on Sunday, Midsommarfest is a misnomer since summer technically hasn’t even begun. Nevertheless, the 50th anniversary of this bash created to celebrate Andersonville’s Swedish heritage, Midsommarfest will have summer in full swing as it celebrates old Sweden’s world traditions – including a dance around the Maypole.

Continue reading

Blackhawks looking fantastic – and maybe dynastic

HawksFrom the Saturday, June 6, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …


By Dave Wischnowsky

Ming, Tudor, Duck … Blackhawks?

Outside of China, England and the Reality TV lineup on A&E, dynasties are a pretty rare thing. But here in Chicago, we’ve been spoiled.

During the 1990s, we reveled in Michael Jordan’s Bulls capturing six rings. And now tonight in Tampa Bay, the Blackhawks could take another step toward establishing their own Windy City dynasty when they face the Lightning in Game 2 of the NHL Stanley Cup Finals. If Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane & Co. ultimately turn their current 1-0 series lead into another title, it will be the team’s third crown in the past six seasons.

That’s remarkable. All the more so considering that prior to 2010 it had been such a long time since the franchise’s last Stanley Cup in 1961 that some claimed the Blackhawks were cursed. Now, however, they’re just three wins away from joining the Bruins and Red Wings as the only NHL clubs to have hoisted the Stanley Cup six times or more.

So maybe there really is hope yet for the Chicago Cubs.

Jordan’s 30 for 30

Speaking of dynasties, a new exhibit outside Field Museum was unveiled last week that features 30 over-sized photos of Michael Jordan shot by legendary former Sports Illustrated photographer Walter Iooss.

Continue reading

The best roofs to top off Chicago’s summer

view-during-day.0From the Saturday, May 30, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …


By Dave Wischnowsky

I like to think of Chicago as Summer’s Favorite City.

For my money, there’s no town in America more beautiful during the year’s warmer months. And I’d bet big money that there’s no town on Earth that cherishes its sunny days more than the Windy City.

We can thank our wicked winters for that.

With that in mind, there are few better ways to enjoy Chicago’s architectural beauty and sunshine – or moonlight, for that matter – than atop one of its many downtown rooftop venues.

This summer happens to be a banner one for such hotspots with new ones opening, while existing ones have upgraded their offerings. So, if you’re looking to “top” off a summer day in Chicago soon, consider these.

Cindy’s at Chicago Athletic Association
12 S. Michigan Ave.

Once an exclusive Venetian Gothic palace that served as a private playground for Chicago’s business elites such as Marshall Field and William Wrigley, the Chicago Athletic Association has been transformed into a resplendent hotel for all that just opened this past Wednesday.

Atop its 13th floor of sits Cindy’s, a new indoor/outdoor space sporting a beach-house feel with picnic-style seating and two fire pits. Facing the lake, Cindy’s offers gorgeous views of Millennium Park and the Art Institute, all from beneath a glass rooftop framed by steel.

Continue reading