Friday, August 13, 2021

Klan boosting Cubs owner relevant today

Charles Weeghman
   If Todd Ricketts is curious — and I doubt he is, but let’s pretend — about how history might someday view him, he can get a hint by looking at the reputation of a previous Cubs co-owner, Charles Weeghman.
     “The Quick Lunch King” made a fortune selling fast eats to harried downtown workers and bought the Cubs in 1916 when they played on the West Side. He moved the team to its current location at the corner of Clark and Addison. He didn’t own it long: The economy went bad and he brought in partners, including William Wrigley.
     I wish I could say Weeghman is remembered for that or for starting the practice of allowing fans to keep baseballs batted into the stands rather than having ushers retrieve them.
     But what really radiates across the years about Weeghman is that he was a supporter of the Ku Klux Klan. On Aug. 16, 1921, — 100 years ago Monday — the largest rally of the Klan ever on Illinois soil took place on Weeghman’s Lake Zurich farm.
     How does that balance with Todd Ricketts — not to be confused with his brother, Cubs Chairman Tom, more circumspect about his politics — being the finance chairman of the Trump Victory Committee? Plus various fundraisers held for the toxic fraud, white supremacist and fomenter of rebellion against the United States. Suppose that depends whether we are at the end of our nation’s shredding of its democratic values and traditions or only the beginning. The Klan also tried to keep minorities from voting, but Trumpers are more methodical about it.
     In Ricketts’ defense — I try to be fair — his mom, Marlene, gave $3 million to an anti-Trump campaign. Plus there is an element of prejudice in every human heart. 
Evil is attractive — the devil is a gentleman, remember — and it draws in the most unexpected people.
     There is a moment in the Klan rally on Weeghman’s farm a century ago that deserves to be shared, even savored.

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  1. Jewish men wanting to join the KKK, sounds like a scene Mel Brooks would have put in one of his movies, if he thought of it. I suspect the Jewish people involved were recent immigrants, and unaware of the Klan's history. They just wanted to join an American organization with some prominent people as members, to help fit in with their new country.
    Visiting Jewish cemeteries it's not unusual to see grave markers with compass and square. Freemason iconography, apparently an organization they could join. And like many fraternal societies part of their activities was to raise money for charities.

  2. Well, Weegham certainly looked the part of the young successful businessman of the early 20th Century. Jack Lemon couldn't have been more dapper.

    And I once sat right behind Tom Rickets at a Cubs game and he couldn't have been more affable and accommodating. He probably would have bought me a beer if I'd hinted that I'd like one.

    Appearances, they do deceive.


  3. Not to forget, Todd Ricketts was using the term "Kung Flu" before Trump ....

  4. Hmmm...Weeghman, Wrigley, Ricketts...what could those three guys possibly have in common? In Annie Hall, Alvy classically began a hilarious sequence with Max proclaiming..."he muttered it under his breath...jew".

  5. Now is the right time to be a White Sox fan. Blindly being a Cubs fan is not that much different than blindly following Trump or Desantis.

    1. Nope. Die-Hard Cub Fan ever since the day my father took me to the center field bleachers for the first time...61 years ago next week. Once you bleed Cubbie Blue, it's for life. I've bled, and lived, and died with the Cubs. Mostly died. And survived...'69, '84, and '03, along with various and sundry collapses and chokes since 1960.

      Been through the miserable Wrigley Years, the Tribune Era, and the last couple of jerks, one of whom, at least, brought us the golden years of 2015-2020. And we'll always have 2016.

      I cheer for the uniform and the logo, not the men who wear it---they come and they go. And I don't really give a damn about the fat cats who have owned the Cubs, and who are merely temporary caretakers of an NL franchise that has existed for almost 150 years.They come and go, too. Like the players they hire and fire and trade away. Just not as quickly.

      Great Klan story. I've heard about that rally, but never about those Jews, who were lucky they weren't beaten, or whipped, or worse. I think I've already told the story about my first cousin, but this seems like the right time to tell it again.

      In Eighties, my cousin (who's Jewish but looks more like an aging Elvis) moved from the Midwest to a small town in the Carolinas. Worked at a nearby military base...he was an Army lifer. A Yankee by birth, but a Rebel by choice. Had that bumper sticker on his truck.

      Made a lot of friends quickly. Liked his beer and his liquor. There was even talk of running him for mayor of the town. Maybe that was just a joke. In time, he was also invited to join what the locals called their "sporting club." Good old boys, hunting and fishing out in the country. Target practice and plenty of bonfires and booze.

      One guess what that sporting club really was.

      Those hillbillies wouldn't have known a Jew if one had bitten them on their pale and Christian tuchases. Klansmen have never been known to be the brightest crayons in the box. Just the whitest.

    2. OOPS...almost forgot. My Cuzz's father, a glad-handing, smooth-talking, dapper salesman, WWII B-17 gunner, and former semi-pro boxer, became a Freemason when my Cuzz and I were kids. I clearly remember examining his Masonic ring, when I was eleven or twelve. That fraternal organization had no problem with accepting Jews for membership. When he said he was now a Mason, I thought he had decided to become a bricklayer. I kid you not.

    3. "Once you bleed Cubbie Blue, it's for life."

      I'd put "you" in italics and point the comment back at its author. There have been more than a few Cubs fans who, disgusted by the Ricketts clan, have been abandoning ship in the last couple years. Who knew that treason has a way of souring even a long-term affection?

      As for myself, I was a Cubs fan for decades, from whenever I began paying attention. Long before the Ricketts took over I was turned off by the corporate owners and the hypocrisy, expense and excess of major league sports and now barely give them any thought at all. I also no longer play with the Matchbox cars or army men I did when I became a Cubs fan; times change.

    4. Maybe you didn't go to 30, 40, 50 games a year, like I did when I still lived in Chicago in the 70s and 80s and early Nineties. Maybe you weren't a Left Field Bleacher Creature whose whole social life revolved around the Cubs, summer after summer. Books were written about us. Broadway plays were performed about us. It was a way of life, especially before the lights went in. An addction as strong as alcohol or drugs. Most likely cost me my first marriage.

      Married my college sweetheart and moved to her hometown of Cleveland, 29 years ago this week. Even worked for the Tribe for a few years. So whether or not I attend games is now moot. I've been to only a handful since I left. If we want to see the Cubs now, we go to Pittsburgh. Best park in MLB, after Wrigley. Ask the man who knows...I've been to almost twenty of them.

      Once the Cubs destroyed the intimacy of the bleachers, and turned Wrigley into a pinball machine, with its bells and whistles and giant screens, I didn't care if I ever got back. But stop following them? Easier to stop breathing, which I almost did last winter.

      I'll always have the hometownn "Guardians" available...meh. I would never pledge allegiance to the White Sux. Unthinkable. And when the Cubs start to stink like a dead skunk in the road, they no longer on regional cable networks. So it might be sadder, but wiser, to simply quit snorting MLB entirely, and kick a 60-year habit. It's no longer the drug I once loved so much. There will probably be another protracted strike next year, and another season wiped out. Or maybe longer. That'll do it for me. Won't literally kill me, but it might just kill off the sport for good.

      I'll turn 75 next summer, if I'm still here, so my time is fairly short. If it doesn't include being able to watch Cubs baseball anymore, so be it. If I could give up alcohol, weed, and tobacco, I can also kick them, too. My one remaining vice is food. If I don't die with a snow shovel in my might easily be a knife and fork.

      Ricketts? To me that's still a disease, not an owner who drank the orange Kool-Aid. I don't give a damn about the family, or their politics. Red, blue, who the hell cares? What becomes of young lives of color is what matters...what becomes of corporate white greedheads does not.

      Shoulda kept those Matchbox cars...some of them are now worth a buck or two.

    5. Yes, that was my point, Grizz. Your devotion to the Cubs applies to you, and certainly others like you, who demonstrate what the derivation of the word "fan" is. But not to everybody. Nothing wrong with that, and it's what major league sports are built on. But I've never understood why anybody would want to attend 50 baseball games a year, and I never will. Though calling it an addiction is instructive.

      As I noted the last time you mentioned ballparks, I've also been to about 20, though not lately.

      For your sake, and the other real fanatics, I feel sorry about the way the front office just blew up the team. Gonna be a rough stretch ahead, for sure.

      Oh, and I've still got the Matchbox cars -- I just don't exactly know where!

    6. It was more than 30-40-50-games of was the camraderie and the fellowship and the socializing (also the beer-drinking) that kept the same people coming back day after day, year after year, and made them such diehards and such "fanatics."

      Find the book called "Bleachers: A Summer in Wrigley Field"--by an Ohio jouranlist named Lonnie Wheeler. Though it's about the distant '87 season, he captured what it was like at the apex of that community. I'm not in it, but a lot of my longtime companions were.

      Also check out "Wrigley Regulars: Finding Community in the Bleachers" (2010) by Holly Swyers. Very scholarly work...I think it was her doctoral thesis at Northwestern. These two books encapsulate my thirty-plus years of Wrigley experiences, and far better than my poor power to add or detract.

      The all-time Grizz ballpark bucket list includes MLB venues that no longer exist, and most of them are (or were) in the Midwest, with a couple in the East. I went to all three ballparks in Minnesota, which tells you just how far back I began my pilgrimages (1980).

      And, yeah, the next few years of Cubdom are really going to suck. It's very possible that by the time they can compete again, I'll have season tickets for the Angels. Many of my old bleacher buddies are already there. Even though baseball has no clock, you can't stop time. Or the Iceman.

    7. Uh, yeah, Grizz, I'm familiar with the bleacher creatures, aka bums. Independent of them, I've long wondered what attendance would be like if one took beer out of the equation... Enjoy your happy memories.

      Speaking of defunct ball-yards, the last time you brought up the topic I referred to the weird old place in Toronto as the strangest layout I'd been to. Did you ever make it there?

      Cleveland Municipal was not exactly a gem. Old St. Louis, the freaking Kingdome, Cincinnati's Riverfront, old Tiger stadium, Montreal are some others I visited -- they're building them so much nicer these days. While I'm a traditionalist and would never have supported what they've done to Wrigley, myself, those big screens are pretty easy to appreciate, especially with replays, though they so overshadow the classic old scoreboard that it's sad.

    8. The Bleacher Bums were...well...bums. Late Sixties and early Seventies. I experienced a few games with them. They were mostly just drunks. I've never been a big drinker. The Left Field Bleacher Creatures were quite a bit later...Eighties...and they hung on for a couple more decades, long after I left in '92.

      Have not made it to Toronto, and (amazingly) have never been to a ballgame in St. Louis. Nothing west of Minnesota and Kansas City. Did get to both Cincinnati parks, and made many trips to Tiger Stadium in the Nineties. One of my favorites. Cleveland Stadium reminded me of old Comiskey, but twice as big. Had season tickets, because I worked for the Tribe for a few years. The Jake is just all right with me.

      My last time at Wrigley was the night the Cubs won the pennant. Ran into people I hadn't seen in decades. How did we get so old and frazzled?

  6. Erm, Grizz - the Guardians are based on carved stone bridge abutments, the likeliness of which are all male caucasians.

    And have a nice day.

    1. Their full name is "The Guardians of Traffic."
      They are within sight of the Cleveland ballpark.
      I've driven past them for 29 years now.
      Tell me something I don't know.


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