The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre – and a bite of history

ClarkFrom the Saturday, Feb. 14, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …


By Dave Wischnowsky

In 1929, it was just a nondescript red brick garage for the SMC Carthage Company. But by 1949, it had become a packing-and-shipping facility whose famous interior wall attracted far more tourists than it did actual customers, much to its owners’ chagrin. And by 1967, it had been demolished into nothing but a pile of rubble.

These days, the only thing still standing at 2122 North Clark Street in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood are a few lonely trees and a wrought-iron fence dotting a lawn in front of a nursing home parking lot.

But the barren place is still plenty busy this time of the year.

“This is where history happened!” a young man dressed in black coat and 1920s-style fedora shouted last Saturday evening to a couple dozen bundled-up gawkers as they crowded around him on the sidewalk.

“Rat-a-tat-tat-tat!” he added, mimicking the noise of a tommy gun.

The demonstrative guide and his rapt group were in the midst of a historical walking tour of the “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.” And as the sightseers listened to the description of the bloody event which took place at 2122 North Clark Street around 10:30 a.m. 86 years ago today on Feb. 14, 1929, I passed by on my way to get a taste of its last surviving vestige – in both a figurative sense and a literal one too.

Across the street at 2121 North Clark Street stands a two-story brownstone that reportedly served as a lookout when five of Al Capone’s henchmen, dressed as police officers, burst into the SMC garage, lined seven of gangster rival Bugs Moran’s associates up against a brick wall and opened fire with machine guns, killing them all.

Continue reading

‘Chicago’s Big Ten Team’ Should Always Face Illini There

Today’s column from CBS Chicago

(CBS) Riddle me this: If you’re really “Chicago’s Big Ten team,” can you play three conference road games in the Windy City?

The answer: No, you can’t. Not if you’re really “Chicago’s Big Ten team.”
But if Northwestern wants to continue to talk that broad-shouldered talk here in the state, then it needs to also walk the walk by taking its home football games against Illinois in 2016, 2018 and 2020 and moving them south from Evanston to Soldier Field.

You know, just like the Illini are doing with their 2015, 2017 and 2019 home games against the Wildcats.

On Monday, Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas announced that his university — which boasts the slogan “Our State. Our Team” — will be staking its own claim to Chicago by playing those three season-finale contests 138 miles north of Champaign at the home of the Bears.

“By taking these Thanksgiving weekend games to Soldier Field, we will provide a great environment for our student-athletes, fans and students who are already in the Chicagoland area for the holiday,” Thomas said. “Ending the regular season at a historical site and one of the best stadiums in the world will make for a big-time event for our student-athletes and will be a great springboard for our football program into the postseason.”

What it also should be is a great springboard for an enhanced Illinois-Northwestern football rivalry, which really has never been much of a rivalry at all. With neither program known as a pigskin powerhouse, the game has usually been more of something that happens rather than a true happening. However, perhaps it could have some added juice if the two in-state schools turned their game into an annual affair for “Braggin’ Rights” in Chicago.

Continue reading at

Short on days, February long on fun in Chicago

From the Saturday, Feb. 7, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

Botanical-Orchids-3-10-131The WISCH LIST

By Dave Wischnowsky

February may be a short month, but in Chicago it’s long on fun. So, if you’re considering a trip up to the Windy City and looking for something to do, here’s the long and short of it.

Tonight: The Ultimate ’80s Prom

Do you miss the ’80s? Do you miss Prom? Do you miss the ’80s and Prom?

If you answered yes to any of those questions and are still looking for something to do tonight, consider a last-minute trip to Chicago’s House of Blues (329 N. Dearborn St.), which is preparing to relive Prom with a throwback twist.

Featuring popular cover band Sixteen Candles, HOB will host the “Ultimate ’80s Prom” playing all of your favorite hits from the decade, along with drink and food specials and a costume contest. Doors open at 7 p.m. with the performance beginning at 9 p.m.
For more information, visit

Feb. 14: Chicago Botanic Garden Orchid Show

If you’re fed up with the snow and cold, the Chicago Botanic Garden – located north of the city at 1000 Lake Cook Road in Glencoe – has a way to put a little springtime in your step.

Continue reading

Illini Football Needs To Draw More Local Talent

TBToday’s column from CBS Chicago

(CBS) It’s been a week of daffy tantrums, quarterback defections and assistant coaching suspensions for Illinois football.

But it’s also been a week of recruiting.

Pretty solid recruiting, at that – especially by recent Illini standards.

With a late flourish on Wednesday morning, Illinois climbed the rankings to snare the Big Ten’s sixth-rated class according to Scout, 247Sports and Rivals. Those three recruiting services also had the Illini rated at Nos. 36, 45 and 46, respectively, on a national scale.

There was another noteworthy development too, from my vantage point: a quote from a local product that stood out the most this week amid all the signing day hubbub.

After becoming one of Illinois’ late signees early on Wednesday, three-star defensive lineman prospect Jamal Milan of Chicago Al Raby was asked by the Champaign News-Gazette why he picked Illinois over Minnesota, Indiana and Iowa State.

“Why wouldn’t I want to play for my home state?” Milan told the newspaper. “That’s pretty amazing for me.”

Continue reading at

Chicago’s heartiest exhibit for Valentine’s Day

Wireless_Station_Last_NightFrom the Saturday, Jan. 31, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

By Dave Wischnowsky


What is love?

According to Chicago’s Newberry Library, that was the question Googled most frequently in 2014, while “how to kiss” topped the list of how-to queries. So, if you’re among those pondering that elusive question – or kissing – as we approach Valentine’s Day (that’s in two weeks, fellas), you should take comfort in knowing that you’re far from alone.
In fact, you have history on your side.

At the Newberry (60 W. Walton Street), located in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood, a new “Love on Paper” exhibit shows that love indeed does come in all shapes and sizes, spanning the centuries and the globe – especially when it’s expressed on paper.

Displaying the likes of heart-shaped maps from the early days of printed cartography, elaborately constructed Valentine’s Day cards, and even 13th century missives from Dante swooning over his Beatrice, “Love on Paper” features an eclectic array of items ranging from proclamations and pictures to cynical put-downs and comical send-ups of love.

“We knew we had this fabulous collection of historical valentines,” Diane Dillon, interim vice president for research and academic programs at the Newberry, recently told the Chicago Tribune. “That seemed like a natural thing to show around Valentine’s Day. But we wanted to contextualize them.”

Continue reading

Illini Basketball’s One Silver Lining

GroceToday’s column from CBS Chicago

By Dave Wischnowsky –

(CBS) Right now, when it comes to NCAA Tournament bids, the Big Ten is looking a little small.

In ESPN’s latest edition of “Bracketology,” Jim Delany’s 14-team conference had only six schools in the projected 68-team field. League leader Wisconsin was listed as a two-seed, and Maryland held a three-seed. But behind them, Indiana could be found clinging to a seven-seed, while Iowa, Ohio State and Michigan State all stood together as a trio of mediocre nine-seeds.

Illinois wasn’t included in the bracket, not at all surprisingly considering that the Illini are currently 13-8 overall and just 3-5 in the Big Ten. However, when it comes to NCAA Tournament hopes, John Groce’s squad does have one silver lining – none of Illinois’ eight losses are truly “bad” setbacks.

Unlike Michigan and Nebraska, there are no New Jersey Institutes of Technology or Immaculate Words blighting the Illinois loss column. All of the Illini’s defeats have been against teams from major conferences with winning records, and seven of the losses have come on the road or at neutral sites.


Unveiling Chicago’s best shortcuts and tricks

From the Saturday, Jan. 24, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

pedwayThe WISCH LIST

By Dave Wischnowsky

Chicago can be a tricky place to navigate.

When I moved to the city nearly a decade ago, I quickly discovered that I didn’t know what I didn’t know about living there until, well, I knew it.

For example, during my first week in town I learned about parking. When the city sweeps one side of the street on one day ($50 fine), it’s going to sweep the other side of the street on the following day ($50 fine).

No, I was not fine.

Since then, however, I’ve learned a few things. And last week, Timeout Chicago shared many of the Windy City’s best shortcuts and tricks in an article entitled “27 Chicago hacks to make your life easier.”

Some are particularly helpful for visitors, which I thought I’d share with you today along with my own two cents.

Timeout says to use the Pedway system. When slush, bitter cold or rain plagues Chicago, the underground system of tunnels allows pedestrians to move between CTA stations, City Hall, Macy’s, the Aon Center and more – all without going outdoors.

I add: Chicago’s Pedway is largely unknown to outsiders. You can actually take a tour of the 40 blocks of subterranean corridors through

Continue reading

Welcome To Chicago’s Golden Age Of Coaching

Chicago Cubs Introduce Joe MaddonToday’s column from CBS Chicago

(CBS) One of them has already won two titles. Another has been to two title games. A third has guided a team to a championship series, while a fourth has designs on getting his squad to one of those this season.

It’s time to sit back and smile, Chicago.

Because at this very moment, we’re living in the Golden Era of Coaching in the Windy City – or, at least, it sure looks like we could be.

That’s because with Joel Quenneville (two Stanley Cups), John Fox (two Super Bowl appearances), Joe Maddon (one World Series appearance) and Tom Thibodeau (gunning for an NBA Finals) handling the reins for the Blackhawks, Bears, Cubs and Bulls, I don’t think we’ve ever before been blessed with such a wealth of coaching brain power in the city.

Oh, and Robin Ventura? You’re going to need to step your game up.

After seeing way too much bad baseball, boneheaded football and injury-plagued basketball over the past few seasons, it’s exciting to now see so many gaudy coaching resumes spread across the city, all at once.

Continue reading at

Some conventional thoughts about the 2015 Cubs

cubsFrom the Saturday, Jan. 17, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …


By Dave Wischnowsky

Five years ago, I attended my first-ever Cubs Convention in Chicago, and the team promptly went 75-87 during the 2010 season.

I haven’t been back since. And, really, neither have the Cubs.

Since that weekend spent hobnobbing with Cubs greats – and Ronnie “Woo Woo” – the club hasn’t enjoyed a winning season and has gone 346-464 overall. However, as the team’s 30th annual convention continues today and Sunday, hope finally has returned to the North Side.

Not coincidentally, it’s accompanied by talent.

In Joe Maddon, the Cubs again have a manager worthy of their stage, both in terms of leadership and personality (sorry, Rick Renteria, Dale Sveum and Mike Quade). They finally have a true ace in $155 million man Jon Lester. And if phenoms Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, Javier Baez and others develop as hoped, they may soon have a team filled with true stars.

And as Theo Epstein & Co. fuel the fan fest excitement today, here’s some things that currently interest me the most regarding the 2015 Cubs.

Win now … and later

This week, while chatting with the Chicago Tribune about movies and baseball, Kevin Costner called the Cubs “a funny team – almost America’s team in a weird way. They need to win.”

And, yes, they do. But that doesn’t mean they have to win big now.

Continue reading

Illini Fighting Way Back Into NCAA Tourney Contention

GroceThursday’s column from CBS Chicago

(CBS) Just when it looked like all was lost for Illinois basketball, suddenly, it isn’t at all.

Only nine days ago, Illini coach John Groce’s program was engulfed in both gloom (an 0-2 Big Ten record after a 77-61 setback at Ohio State) and doom (leading scorer Rayvonte Rice had been sidelined indefinitely after breaking his hand) as it prepared to face No. 11 Maryland down in Champaign.

But since then?

Well, you’ve really got to hand it to the Illini, because they didn’t just throw theirs up and surrender in the face of adversity. Instead, the Illini are living up to the “Fighting” in their nickname and have now given themselves a legitimate shot at actually making a run to the NCAA Tournament.

Getting there still won’t be easy — but it also isn’t impossible.

On Wednesday night, Illinois pulled out a gutsy 72-67 road win at Northwestern, giving the team victories in two of its last three games since losing Rice to injury. With a 12-6 record overall that includes 2-3 mark in the Big Ten despite playing four of their first five league games on the road, the Illini’s situation is now looking up.

Continue reading at