Don’t Mess With Wrigley, Mr. Ricketts

300px-Wrigley_field_720220px-20120802_Thomas_S._Ricketts_croppedBelow is today’s column in USA Today. Aidan and I had a ball in Chicago from going to Hot Doug’s for hot dogs to Ed Debevik’s for hamburgers (and seeing our favorite waiter “Biscuit.). I even went into my old school Joseph Brennemann Elementary on Clarendon. But the highlight was taking Aidan to his first game at Wrigley, a major rite of passage for any Chicago native or Chicago progeny.

Last Friday, I sat with my 11-year-old son, Aidan, for more than three hours in a steady downpour of cold rain while being whipped by gusts of wind. We were shivering and soaked — and absolutely satisfied. We were in Wrigley field, the cultural and spiritual touchstone of the Chicago North Side. Yet, all was not well at Wrigley. The fans were not grumbling about the weather or the developing loss to the Cincinnati Reds. Rather they are glaring upward at the dry, remote skybox of Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts and his entourage. Last week, Ricketts threatened to move the Cubs out of Wrigley unless he gets his way in changing the look of Wrigley Field.

Ricketts grew up in Omaha and lives in the tiny Chicago suburb of Wilmette. He did not apparently know that the one thing you should never do is threaten fans who have lived under a curse for 68 years and never … ever … mess with Wrigley.

Video-board battle

Ricketts is demanding a 6,000-square foot video board atop the left-field wall and four new signs ringing the outfield. He warned that if the Cubs “cannot get approval for this plan and our signage plans are blocked, we will then consider moving.”

For the record, the Chicago Cubs is ranked as the most profitable baseball team in America, and yet Ricketts felt it was necessary to threaten the city with killing this cherished landmark.

There is a name for what Ricketts did before the City Club: blasphemy. There are only two sins on the North Side. You cannot blaspheme the Cubs, and you cannot commit apostasy (by rooting for the White Sox). I admit that I would regret seeing the classic lines of Wrigley ruined by huge signs and boards. I grew up in this stadium and like many have a huge attachment to it. (Our family home is near Wrigley, and I used to hang outside as a kid with a transmitter radio to catch balls flying out of the park by hitters such as Ernie Banks and Billy Williams.)

Team ThighMaster

Most people assumed Ricketts was bluffing. Wrigley is a major reason that this is the most profitable club; it sure isn’t the Cubs’ record. Without Wrigley, Ricketts would be left with one of the worst performing teams and some modern monstrosity stadium named after Old Spice or ThighMaster.

So don’t threaten us, Mr. Ricketts. We are fans of the oldest professional team in North American sports — any sport. We were there in 1932 when Ruth called the shot over the center field bleachers. We were there when the billy goat was thrown out of the stadium in the 1945 World Series and left us cursed for eternity. When you were working on your first Ameritrade, we were there in the rain-soaked, wind-whipped bleachers eating semicooked hot dogs and drinking warm Old Style beers.

You want a giant scoreboard, let’s talk about it. But don’t try to stare down fans who have been looking into a cursed goat’s eyes for seven decades. If Tommy wants his sign, Tommy needs to play nice.

Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, is a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors.

May 9, 2013

107 thoughts on “Don’t Mess With Wrigley, Mr. Ricketts”

  1. gbk,

    For some great ebb and flow try Vivaldi’s Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra, RV 547 in B-Flat. It is one of my favorites and, sadly, not played nearly as often as it should be.

  2. gbk, I see now, based on your comments here and on the Hawkings thread, that you are a world saver. I apologize to you. Where can I sign up to also help save the world? Can I bring my whoopie cushion, hand buzzer, and Groucho mask?

  3. While people are discussing the cultural importance of a baseball field I thought I would just interject the fact that the death toll from the Bangladesh garment factory collapse has exceeded 1,000.

    What does this have to do with Wrigley Field. Not much – I guess – but enjoy your jerseys, banners, and the clothes you wear while being there.

    In my defense I was listening to the Talking Heads’ “Burning Down The House” when I wrote the above.

    Then the Beatles’ “Back In The USSR” played, then Vivaldi’s “Concerto in F Major RV 293- Autumn- II – Adagio Molto” and after this Ofra Hazas’ “Wish Me Luck”.

    Good luck, everyone.

  4. Friends of the Parks estimates that 30,000 people ride the lake shore bike paths every day, a number that surprised even me. So your obvious contempt for bike riders is aimed at a lot of folks, and yeah we will enjoy our “ride around the park”. Its ours.

  5. Nick, more like this. Not all this news clip made it onto the evening news.

  6. OS, Admit it..wouldn’t you like to throw one high and tight to wishbone?

  7. WB, that is the worst false analogy fallacy I have seen to date. You take a nationwide percentage of the entire USA and make a direct comparison to the 5% of a lakefront park. Logic impaired much?

    To make the comparison you tried for and failed, the Meigs acreage is 91-acres. According to the Census Bureau, the United States has a total land area of nearly 2.3 billion acres. You can do the math, but I will save you the trouble. That is 0.00000395652173913043%.

    As for the one percent crack. The average privately owned plane is forty years old. Most cost less than a new car. Many owners build their own to save money. I paid $15,500 for my first airplane in the 1980s. When I sold it and bought a twin engine plane about 1990, that one cost me less than I paid for my Jeep.

    GA pours 150 billion dollars into the US economy and employs 1.2 million people. General aviation airplanes fly to about 5,000 public airports across the US, while commercial flights go to fewer than 500 airports. The average private pilot looks like anyone else. May be your postman, your small business owner, your dentist or the guy who owns your bike shop. One percent? Not so. So enjoy your smug self-satisfied bike ride, knowing that it came at the sacrifice of an estimated five million dollars a year in revenue to nearby businesses and the convention center. Not to mention the jobs lost.

    So, enjoy your ride around the park. It came at a price.

  8. ” Meigs is ~5% of the Chicago lakefront.”

    And the 194,441 private pilots in the country (Wikipedia) are less than one tenth of one percent of the population and falling (down from 299,111 in 1990). Why does one tenth of one percent of the population get to fence off 5% of a precious resource? The one percent you pimp for so eloquently have won the class war so please let the rest of us enjoy our few victories like the Meigs closing and the Romney defeat. Again Meigs is closed and replaced with a great park open to all. Accept it.

  9. I like your aviation topics and look forward to the Colorado Springs post. I have always been fascinated w/ hangliding. My uncle lives in West Rutland, Vt. He owns some hunting property on a mountain that he lets hangliders use. They can glide almost to NY state from the cliff. When I’m in San Diego I go to the hangliding port in La Jolla. It’s right next to Torrey Pines links. I’ve never had the balls to do it, but love watching…vicarious pleasure.

  10. OS, You’re right about speculating on the economics issue. However, I’m old school. I was a pitcher and would put even my friends on opposing teams on their ass [not hit them, just flip ’em] if they got out of line. Reasonable people like yourself, who make observations like this, are helpful to me. However, this guy brought up a topic that I know a lot about and it’s obvious he doesn’t know shit from shinola.

  11. nick, it would probably be better to not speculate on anyone’s economic status as a basis for argument. Some people are simply hostile to general aviation. Some seem to see general aviation as “rich people” playthings. The logic is about as strained as wanting to ban cars and tell everyone to take public transportation.

    A bike or hiking trail can be built almost anywhere. Land for airports, especially in or near urban areas, is disappearing rapidly due to pressures put on them by developers.

    I am planning a future story about the sad case of Black Forest Gliderport, which was located just outside Colorado Springs, CO. Land developers bought it, ripped it up, and now it is just a gigantic vacant lot. No houses, nothing. Last time one of my pilot friends went out there to see what happened to it, he described it as a “gravel pit.”

    One of the more bizarre aspects of the anti-aviation mentality is the number of people who buy or build homes and businesses next to an airport which may have been there since the 1920s, then complain about the noise. I have read of homeowners who build a new house right off the end of a busy runway, and within a matter of days after moving in start showing up at City Council meetings, or are down at the courthouse with their lawyers, trying to get the airport closed or force air traffic to use a different runway.

  12. The illegal ravaging of Meigs cost the taxpayers of Chicago over $1million in fines by the Federal govt. With your class envy, I venture you pay little or no taxes. I’m guessing you might be on the dole.

  13. The entire Chicago lakefront is one long park. Meigs is ~5% of the Chicago lakefront. I guess in a city ruled by one party it’s got to be 100% my way!

  14. “So you are a bike rider. Riding your bike on the Meigs Field site trumps destroying one of the best small airports in the country…”

    Yes, the tens of thousands of Chicago bike riders who enjoy the lakefront paths trump the handful of airplane owners who used a fenced in Meigs Field closed to most of the public. Its gone and a wonderful Northerly Island park has replaced it. Get over it.

  15. In fairness to Ricketts, he is paying for the upgrade himself and using the ad revenue from the new screens/billboards to offset the cost. So, the city of Chicago isn’t footing the bill.
    Not that the overall argument isn’t valid, but I did think it was interesting that it wouldn’t be funded by the city like other sports arenas typicallty are.

  16. Roy Black, et al, have requested to withdraw from representing Polo Mogul, John Goodman, in Palm Beach County Court today. His conviction was recently vacated.

Comments are closed.