Cubs Once Had Their Own Donald Sterling

Cubs Once Had Their Own Donald Sterling

Much has been made of the transcendent douchebaggery of LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling, née Tokowitz, a man whose bigoted views were apparently captured on a recording that is now making the rounds. I've heard talk of Sterling's less-than-progressive beliefs in the past, so none of this really came as a surprise to me. But given the speed of the news cycle these days, bad news travels fast and skeletons can be pulled out of closets in a hurry.

Sterling's not the first owner to be accused of being either a bigot or an idiot, nor would be the first to be forced into selling his team as a result of his views. Heck, he's probably not even the first to change his name in order to avoid prejudice, only to display a great deal of his own. But while he'll still be a billionaire when this whole thing blows over, I know of at least one other owner who lost more than just the ownership of his team.

It was at a family gathering this past weekend that I read a bit about former Cubs owner, Mr. Charles Weeghman. You see, my in-laws live in Richmond, IN, which was also Weeghman's hometown, as well as his current resting place, so their local paper wrote up a little piece on the 100th birthday celebration.

The usual story goes that the Wrigleys bought the team from Weeghman and the intimation is that he had fallen on some hard financial times. But I don't recall the tales mentioning why he fell on those hard times. After all, this was a man who owned several different cold-sandwich restaurants, one of which supposedly served as many as 35,000 patrons each day. And Chicago's a city that loves to eat.

But whether he wore a hood himself or just approved the use of the site, Weeghman's sponsorship of Illinois' first Ku Klux Klan rally on his property in Lake Zurich was not met with much favor by his lunch-counter patrons. His business faltered and he was forced to sell out completely to Wrigley over the course of several years.

Sterling may eventually, or not so eventually, be forced to sell his team as well, and to a former Laker to boot. Yes, Magic Johnson's name is being thrown around, fueled by his ties to LA basketball and the minor detail of his ownership stake in the Dodgers. Seems like Johnson has a penchant for reclaiming moribund teams from deposed owners and then throwing boatloads of money at them, so maybe it'll work.

Okay, he's only done that once, but you see what I'm getting at. And the salary cap is quite a bit different in the NBA, so he can't necessarily ratchet the payroll into the stratosphere to maintain success. There are more than a few Cubs fans that look to Magic's ownership of the Dodgers as the prototype for Tom Ricketts, though that logic is tragically flawed. Still, you can't blame folks for wanting more for their team.

While I don't believe GQ took the personal beliefs of owners, be they past or present, into account in their list, it should come as no surprise that both the Clippers and Cubs appear near the top of the 20 Worst Sports Franchises of All Time. But hey, at least they're both behind the Detroit Lions and the entire city of Cleveland.

"Have you considered rooting for somebody else?" asks the line from the blurb at the beginning of the top 20 slideshow. I can confidently answer "No," but I can't say that I've not endured several face-palmings when I review all the decisions my team has made over the years. Can a sports franchise have DNA, or some sort of predisposition for certain behaviors or results?

Well, of course not. But sometimes I wonder. I mean, the Cubs have proven time and time again that even a change in ownership might not be enough to reverse the fortunes of a franchise.

Should Donald Sterling be forced to sell his team? How important do you believe the owner is to the overall health and success of his team? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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  • I think Sterling should be indirectly pushed as hard as possible to sell the team, but perhaps not outright forced away in one fell swoop. Mark Cuban brought up the idea of forcing someone with alternate views out of an ownership is a slippery slope in general, and I can appreciate what he's saying.

    I think ownership often matters a lot in a team's success. Can anyone confidently say that the Tribune had nothing to do with the Cubs' failures before Ricketts came aboard?

  • Well, it turns out he was directly pushed.

    The only analogy to Weeghman would be if the tenants in Sterling's slums decided to move out.

    Maybe the more relevant distinction is that unlike most teams that are owned by limited partnerships, such as Reinsdorf being the managing partner and face for different investor groups for the Sox and Bulls, the Cubs were owned by a faceless corporation, and when the corporation got a face (Zell), that face decided to sell the team. I think that (rather than P.K. Wrigley's world view, if he had one other than chew a lot of gum) has resulted in the mediocre result on the field for the past 40 or so years. On the other hand, kicking out Sterling only kicks out the general partner, from what I take that Adam Silver said, but apparently the general partner who meddled to such a degree that the Clippers were always cellar dwellers until this year.

    Similarly, bringing in Magic Johnson (who denies any interest) would not make him the owner, but the face of some investment group. He didn't have $2 billion to buy the Dodgers. On the other hand, there would be a certain level of irony in that.

    The name change probably explains why he made a distinction between presumably Adam Silver and Lenny Kravitz. Also, saying that his audiotaping girlfriend was a Latina rather than black sort of reminds me that when they discussed Minnie Minoso facing racial discrimination, I didn't consider him (at the time) as black, but as a very dark Cuban.

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    Private comments publicised to destroy him. How many times have we all made statements in private if recorded and publicised would ruin us? I'd say plenty if times. The guy has insecurity issues but a ban for life could be interpreted as reverse racism or anti-semitism as he is a Jew. I thought the Pharisees that were about to cast the first stone were bad but that is nothing compared to the left-wing media. Baldwin also suffered their wrath as we know. What about Kerry's apartheid comments on Israel? Not a word.

    "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

    C.S. Lewis"

  • In reply to Simonzee1:

    1. What do you think Adam Silver and Jerry Reinsdorf are?

    2. Maybe he shouldn't have been going whoring around. Apparently the Latina had some reason to get on him.

    3. It looks like his punishment is going to be getting a couple hundred million dollar capital gain. For a slumlord, that's not too bad.

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    In reply to Simonzee1:

    I love that CS Lewis quote. I love the selective outrage over this whole situation even more.

  • Everything Jack said and Nothing that Simonzee1 said

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