A Cubs-White Sox World Series? Not this year

CT soxcubs026From the Saturday, May 21, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …


By Dave Wischnowsky

It’s happened only once. And that was 110 years ago.

But I’m still not quite ready for it to happen again.

Back in 1906, the Chicago Cubs won 116 games to punch their dance card for the World Series, where their date for the ball turned out to be the crosstown White Sox, who used a late-season 19-game winning streak to stage a Cinderella run from sixth place to the top of the American League.

As you might expect, the town lost its hardball-loving mind with the Chicago Tribune reporting after the Sox clinched their World Series berth:

“Last night, Chicago was baseball mad. Men stood and cheered in elevated trains when the news was passed along that the Sox were safe and that Chicago had two pennants — and the world’s championship.”

With fan rivalry reaching unprecedented levels, tempers flared in bars across the city, and fights broke out. On Oct. 9, the opening day of the series, business came to a halt and City Hall closed down, giving even corruption a holiday in the Windy City.

In 1906, the Cubs won a record 116 games, but it was the “Hitless Wonder” White Sox who won the World Series.

In the end, the White Sox who emerged victorious in the World Series as the “Hitless Wonders” — nicknamed as such due to their .230 team batting average — pulled off one of the biggest upsets in sports history by toppling the powerhouse Cubs of “Tinker to Evers to Chance” fame in just six games.

After the clincher at Comiskey Park, Sox fans poured into the streets where they lit bonfires for a party that lasted until dawn while Cubs fans stayed indoors and mourned. Embittered manager Frank Chance said, “There is one thing I will never believe, and that is the Sox are better than the Cubs.”

We’ve never gotten a second chance to find out — not in October, at least — as 1906 was both the first and last time that the Cubs and Sox have clashed in the Fall Classic. But with both teams currently in first place into the fourth week of May, an increasing number of Chicagoans already are eyeing October on both sides of town.

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Friends of the Park should embrace lakefront, no isolate it

MAD-architects-george-lucas-museum-of-narrative-art-approved-chicago-designboom-04From the Saturday, May 14, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …


By Dave Wischnowsky

I went exploring on Wednesday morning.

Left my condo on Chicago’s North Side, headed down to the South Loop, hung a left and hoofed it over to the Museum Campus, where I strolled past the majestic trio of the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium nestled along Lake Michigan’s lovely shoreline.

From there, I walked past Soldier Field and made my way to the most controversial piece of real estate in all of Chicago: the parking lot that would be the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art.

In an attempt to understand why the Friends of the Park are so adamant about protecting this plot of land, I wanted to get a good look at it.

And after taking a good look, I don’t get it.

The parking lot is just that, an unsightly blacktop surface lined with blue port-a-potties for tailgating Bears fans to relieve themselves. To the east, you don’t even see Lake Michigan. Rather, you see Burnham Harbor, then Northerly Island and beyond that Lake Michigan sprawls, out of sight.

Unlike the active northern end of the Museum Campus where tourists were entering Field and Shedd or riding Segways and Divvy bikes, the area near the controversial lot was desolate save the sporadic jogger and a lone park district worker blowing grass clippings from a footpath.

There was nothing going on, nothing to do and nothing to see.

And in my book, that’s nothing worth “protecting.”

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It’s not a new mascot that Illinois needs

Chicken3From the Saturday, May 7, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …


By Dave Wischnowsky

So, the University of Illinois announced this week that it’s taking steps towards selecting the school’s first-ever mascot.

Except that it’s not.

That’s because Illinois has actually had a mascot before – and, no, I’m not at all talking about Chief Illiniwek, the school’s controversial, but still widely revered former symbol, who was never a mascot.

Rather, I’m referring to the night at Assembly Hall 34 years ago when U. of I. trotted out a costumed creature in the slapstick vein of Benny the Bull or the Phillie Phanatic, and saw it fail so miserably that the mascot was never to be seen again.

Although, it should be remembered – especially now.

On Jan. 14, 1982, the Illini hosted Ohio State in a basketball game during which the university unveiled the “Orange and Blue Bird,” a San Diego Chicken knock-off decked out in a Fighting Illini T-shirt and a pair of blue high-top gym shoes. To put it kindly, the bird’s introduction was fowl.

“It was a bird of ill repute the moment it appeared on the floor,” the Daily Illini reported. “When a new-fangled yellow, fine-feathered mascot was introduced to Illinois fans prior to the Illini’s contest against Ohio State Thursday night, verbal abuse was its immediate greeting.”

The following day, rumors swirled around campus that the “O-B Bird” was an attempt by the university to ease out Chief Illiniwek. Campus officials quickly sought to douse that firestorm with associate athletic director Vance Redfern claiming that the bird was actually not a mascot at all, but simply created to “get hype and get home-court advantage” at Assembly Hall.

Which, of course, is exactly what a mascot is.

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A flood of fun events hit Chicago in May

bikethedriveFrom the Saturday, April 30, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …


By Dave Wischnowsky

If April showers really do bring May flowers, then after this wet week we should get enough to fill the Chicago Botanical Garden twice over.

Maybe three times.

Now, I can’t actually speak with any certainty on impending flora, but I can confirm that the city will be blooming with street art in May thanks to the Wabash Arts Corridor Big Walls, a new festival from Columbia College. The event, which kicks off on Sunday and runs through May 13, brings 18 artists from around the world (including Chicago) to transform the look and feel the South Loop through huge permanent murals along Wabash Street.

Once completed, the area reportedly will have one of the densest concentrations of public art in the world. To learn more about the festival and its public conference on May 5, visit wabashartscorridor.org/bigwalls.

And to learn more about some of the other great events taking place in Chicago next month, simply read on.

Chicago Improv Festival
May 2-8

There may be cities with more famous comedy clubs (hello, New York and L.A.), but there’s no better improv scene than Chicago. And there’s no better month for improv in town than May when it celebrates the art of “yes, and …” during the Improv Festival at venues across the city.

For more information, visit chicagoimprovfestival.org.

Chicago Beer Classic
May 7

If you’ve ever attended a Chicago Bears game, you may have had a beer at Soldier Field. But have you ever had a beer on Soldier Field?

On May 7, you can when the venerable stadium hosts the Chicago Beer Classic on its turf. This lively event includes two sessions (11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 3 to 6:30), and as Chicago’s largest beer fest it features a fantastic lineup of brewers, including Bourbonnais’ own Brickstone.

For tickets and more information, visit chicagobeerclassic.com.

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The NFL Draft is running back to Chicago next week

chitownFrom the Saturday, April 23, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …


By Dave Wischnowsky

It’s back.

After spending more than five decades in New York City, the NFL Draft migrated west to Chicago last spring and was such a hit – drawing upwards of 200,000 people to its Draft Town extravaganza across from Roosevelt University’s Auditorium Theatre in the Loop – that the league decided that it had to have a Windy City encore this year.

They’ve now made it even bigger and better than before, and if you’re considering a trip to Chicago to revel in all things NFL during the 2016 Draft this Thursday through Saturday (April 28-30), then here’s the playbook you need.

Where to go

With 4,000 seats, Auditorium Theatre (50 E. Congress Parkway) has a limited capacity (and its tickets are already spoken for anyway). But across the way in adjacent Grant Park, Draft Town is open to the public and has plenty of room for everyone.

Covering 900,0000 square feet – equal to 15 football fields – the footprint for Draft Town isn’t larger than 2015, but the festival’s free slate of family-friendly activities and interactive exhibits is expected to be. This year, the focus shifts farther away from Michigan Avenue towards the lakefront with “Selection Square,” where representatives from all 32 teams will be seated to call in their picks, now encircling Buckingham Fountain.

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Fun facts about taxes (No, really)

SamFrom the Saturday, April 16, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.)


By Dave Wischnowsky

The folks at the Internal Revenue Service may not give us any breaks, but it was nice of them to at least give us an extension this year.

Even if it’s only because the IRS gave itself a holiday.

Most years, of course, Tax Day falls on April 15. But this year, it’s been pushed back until the 18th (that’s today, folks) because the IRS called off work on Friday to observe Emancipation Day.

Generally only recognized in Washington, D.C., Emancipation Day is a legal holiday in honor of Abe Lincoln signing the law that ended slavery.  It usually takes place on April 16, but since that date was a Saturday this year, the IRS instead celebrated it on Friday.

And that’s a double boon for taxpayers in Maine and Massachusetts, as it pushes their deadline to April 19 since Monday is Patriots’ Day, a legal holiday observed in those states on the third Monday in April.

Got all that? Taxes sure can be confusing.

But today I thought I’d try to make them entertaining as well with some fun facts and figures about taxes that you may not have known.

A taxing sentence

Perhaps the only thing in Chicago higher than the skyscrapers are the taxes, which are so lofty that even Al Capone couldn’t get around them. The authorities never could bring Capone down on any of his alleged crimes as a gangster, but in 1931 the feds did finally nail him on tax evasion.

That conviction ultimately landed Capone in Alcatraz, where a woman once sent him a cryptic letter along with a check for sixteen octillion dollars ($16,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.00), signed “Holy Moses.” Prison officials feared the correspondence might be some type of code, and asked the IRS to investigate but it determined the letter and check were nothing more than “the products of a person lacking proper mental balance.”

But I wonder if they still tried to tax it.

Intoxication taxation

At least 23 states have a tax on illegal drugs (usually applied after a bust). But in Tennessee, when you buy an illicit drug, such as marijuana or even moonshine, the law states that you have 48 hours to report it to the Department of Revenue to pay your tax and get a stamp for the substance.

Reportedly, no identification is needed, although I’m guessing that you may be fingerprinted shortly afterward.

Sore losers

Professional athletes who earn an income competing in a particular city or state are subject to something called the “Jock Tax.” In 1991, California became the first state to levy this tax on athletes from Chicago – after the Bulls beat the Lakers in the NBA Finals.

Continue reading “Fun facts about taxes (No, really)”

The Cubs’ business? It’s back to baseball

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Chicago CubsFrom the Saturday, April 11, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …


By Dave Wischnowsky

A funny thing happened on the way to 2016.

The Chicago Cubs became a baseball team again.

Now, yes, the club technically played that sport at Wrigley Field from 2010 to 2014 – the first five seasons of the Ricketts era, which resulted in a 346-464 record – but during that stretch the Cubs’ business wasn’t really baseball. Or even bad baseball, something it’s always been about.

Rather, the Cubs’ business was, well, business.

During those dark, dull days for Cubdom, the face of the franchise wasn’t any player on the field, any manager in the dugout or even the club’s biggest name Theo Epstein, who as president of baseball operations worked more in the shadows than the spotlight until late 2014 when the club’s checkbook finally cracked open for the blockbuster acquisitions of manager Joe Maddon and pitcher Jon Lester.

Rather, the most prominent face representing the Cubs from 2010-2014 was that of Crane Kenney, the team’s president of business operations. And for fans of baseball, that really wasn’t a great face.

Season after losing season, it seemed as if every Cubs story of note was about Kenney battling the rooftop owners over a deal he had originally brokered, or Kenney wrangling with the city over the Wrigley renovation, or Kenney working to determining what TV networks the Cubs would call home in a given year. It got to the point where it seemed as if everything involving the franchise was about anything but baseball, and that Kenney – not Epstein – was the key power player in the entire organization.

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The best ‘Chicago’ pranks – No foolin’

april-fools_2868232bFrom the Saturday, April 2, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

By Dave Wischnowsky


When it comes to April, people have been fooling each other for at least six centuries. So don’t be embarrassed if you fell for one on Friday.

Well, you know, unless you should be.

As it turns out, the first recorded association between April 1 and foolishness dates all the way back to 1392 when Geoffrey Chaucer penned The Canterbury Tales. In one story, set “Syn March bigan tritty dayes and two” the vain rooster Chauntecleer is tricked by a fox.

Readers interpreted that line to mean “March 32nd,” i.e., April 1. But modern scholars believe there was a copying error from Chaucer’s original manuscripts and that he actually wrote “Syn March was gon,” meaning that the passage originally meant 32 days after March – i.e., May 2.

April Fools!

In honor of the pseudo-holiday just passed (it’s not a public one in any country), I wanted to share four of my favorite Chicago-related pranks over the years. Three of them took place on April 1, while the fourth simply came when time was ripe.

Welcome to Chicago!

On April 1, 1992, airline passengers descending into Los Angeles International Airport were in for a shock if they peered out the window to see an 85-foot-long yellow banner on the ground featuring 20-foot-high red letters that read: “Welcome to Chicago.”

The sign, which was raised above the Hollywood Park race track about three miles from the airport, remained up for two day with track spokesman Brock Sheridan explaining, “It was something we always wanted to do. We thought it would be kind of funny.”

I’m sure it was, until the passengers realized they had to settle for L.A. hot dogs.

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For springtime events in Chicago, April reigns

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

BFC_SQUARE_400x400By Dave Wischnowsky


By Illinois standards, this winter was a mild one.

In Chicago, there were only four days below zero and just 17 with even a trace of snow. Over the two previous winters, I’m not sure that the city spent four days above zero or went even 17 hours without a snowfall.

But all that’s in the past. (Until next winter, at least.) And spring has sprung – or will, soon enough. And beginning next week, April will reign in the city with events ranging from Opening Day for the White Sox and Cubs to the NFL Draft to plenty more in between.

Here are a few ways you can enjoy the end of wintertime.

Macy’s Flower Show
Through April 3

March showers bring April flowers? That may not be the way the saying goes, but it does fit in Chicago right now as Macy’s Flower Show continues through April 3.

The free exhibition held inside the iconic retail store at 111 N. State St. (it’s still Marshall Field’s to me) features 2 million flowers and exotic topiaries along with special events.
For more information, visit social.macys.com/flowershow.

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Wisch List on the Air

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 9.00.43 AMWith the hiring of a big-name football coach (good)), the arrests of two more basketball players (bad) and a lot of buzz about the fate of the school’s embattled basketball coach (ugly), it’s been a busy few weeks for the University of Illinois.

And it’s been a busy few weeks for me talking about the University of Illinois.

Recently, I was on the Three4 Podcast out of Indianapolis, then the Tay & Jay Show on ESPN Radio Champaign-Urbana last Friday and, on Sunday night, CLTV SportsFeed in Chicago.

You can listen to any of my segments by clicking the links above.