Wittenmyer: A ’74 Vega, the ’84 Cubs and the next road to travel

A 19-calendar year-outdated university child give up faculty just in advance of sophomore lessons have been scheduled to commence, loaded up a ‘74 Vega hatchback on a warm September day with a suitcase, some books and a scenario of oil, then drove out of Spokane, Washington, headed for Chicago.

He known as dwelling from a payphone in Idaho to permit folks know about his visions of working for the Chicago Tribune with the terrific Mike Royko in a two-group baseball city he’d never ever appear within 1,500 miles of essentially traveling to.

A tricky, quick conversation bundled his dad expressing, “You could possibly obtain the folks there aren’t as awesome as you’re used to.”

And: “I don’t know how lengthy you prepare to continue to be there, but you remaining your coat on your mattress.”


A few days later on, it was nevertheless sunny in Chicago when the Vega pulled off the highway ideal just after the “Wrigley Field” indication, a couple of blocks down Addison for gas and a map, and inevitably into the parking good deal of the Diplomat Motel on Lincoln.

The child was these kinds of a rube that he walked into the Tribune Creating the next day seeking for a occupation with a hand-published resumé and almost just about every story he’d published in the last 12 months actually ripped from the newspaper and stuffed in a file folder.

As it turned out, the Trib — and its protection — didn’t run like the Spokesman-Assessment.

“I’d like to see the sporting activities editor, make sure you?”

“Do you have an appointment?”


“You need an appointment.”


“Oh. Alright. … What is the sports activities editor’s identify?”

A vacation back down the elevator and a contact on the lobby payphone again upstairs to make an appointment only resulted in acquiring out Gene Quinn was on getaway.

The obvious subsequent end was Wrigley Industry, where by $5 purchased an further ticket from any person seeking to get rid of a box seat for the make-up match against Andre Dawson and the Expos, even as the Cubs ended up in the middle of chasing historical past down the stretch that working day in 1984.

And for a child who believed the Kingdome was the paragon of huge-league ballpark virtue, the initial glimpse of the subject was magnificent the sights, sounds and smells, sensory overload Dawson, a mountain of a guy standing in the on-deck circle numerous rows but what seemed like a few ft away.

By the finish of that week a chain of compact papers was inclined to seek the services of the child as a sports activities stringer, and McDonald’s had a help-wanted indication in the window. But the journey cash was operating low, the Diplomat far too lavish to afford to pay for, the winter looming, the coat nevertheless in Spokane and Quinn still on getaway.

The Vega lasted just very long adequate to get again to the Northwest plus a week or so.

No matter if these kinds of factors as omens, harbingers, fate or destiny are actual, it’s pretty apparent that persistence, eyesight and concentration are.

For the reason that a single college or university degree, three baseball beats and 23 yrs afterwards the rube was back again at Wrigley Discipline, albeit for the Sunshine-Moments competing versus the Tribune and Royko’s previous legman, Paul Sullivan, instead of functioning for the Trib.

It is been quite considerably all Cubs, Wrigley and Dewar’s in the 16 seasons due to the fact then — a stretch that included a reunion with the to start with manager I covered on a conquer (Lou Piniella), a supervisor I’d included for a year in Anaheim as a bench coach (Joe Maddon), a supervisor I went fishing with for a back again-website page Sunshine-Times tale (Mike Quade), and most a short while ago a supervisor with whom I have exchanged a range of well-intentioned double birds.

It also incorporated arguably the most celebrated championship in American staff sports record, the to start with two — sure, two — tanking rebuilds in record for an elite-revenue MLB team since the dawn of free of charge company, a work alter along the way to NBC Sports Chicago, a good deal of fantastic dudes (and a handful of douches) to go over over the yrs and numerous great colleagues who grew to become wonderful pals.

Turns out my father was incorrect about that awesome-individuals detail.

(Or he was just in advance of his time if he was speaking about Musk-ass Twitter).

It is been a wild ride.

And the only thing for absolutely sure as this rube’s agreement has operate its training course with NBC is that the trip is significantly from concluded.

It’s tough to know for certain wherever the street turns future — more challenging however to envision someplace else sensation as a great deal like property if that street normally takes a flip that heads back out of Chicago.


But no matter how difficult the game seems to press from those people who perform the longest, even on this facet of the enterprise, it is absolutely nothing in contrast to the heart that however skips a beat in a single particular, older child when it’s game time on a summer working day at a ballpark.

Contact it fate or target.

Simply call it destiny, but really don’t phone any of it the location.

30-eight decades later it’s nonetheless about the journey. And all the miles still left to go ahead of I permit anyone sleep.

The Vega is extended gone, but some of us are nevertheless burning oil.

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