As the Cubs and Yankees prepare to go to war over manager Joe Girardi (a bidding war, that is), I am reminded of a wonderful story I heard about Girardi's days as a catcher for the Cubs. It relates to the story I heard from a co-worker about Ron Santo taking Berteau west from Clark Street after games to avoid traffic on Addison, Irving Park, or Montrose. Berteau Avenue (4200 north) is one of those Chicago streets that is largely residential, but moves quickly, often one-way, between the major thoroughfares. Santo would occasionally talk about Berteau on the air (WGN Radio Cub broadcasts).
My co-worker related that as a kid she would wait with her friends for Santo at a Berteau stop sign. Santo never failed to pause and chat and sign autographs. He was so generous with his time that other players, who preceded him on Berteau and who were perhaps a bit grumpy after the usual Cub loss, or just in a hurry, would tell the young fans who waved pens and paper at them, that they couldn't stop but Santo was right behind and would surely take some time to say hello. Santo never failed.
A generation later, a different Cub took Berteau west to avoid traffic -- Joe Girardi. My co-worker's children took their turn waiting at those same stop signs to see their favorite Cubs drive by and maybe pull over to the curb to say hello. Girardi never failed.
One day the kids and their friends took public transportation down to the ballpark. After the game, they lined up along the chain link fence that surrounds the Cubs players' parking lot on Waveland Avenue (and right below our favorite SRO spot at the top of aisles 205-206!) to catch a glimpse of their favorite players.
Joe Girardi emerged and headed to his car. He looked up and saw the kids, and he recognized them!
"Hey you guys," said Girardi, "what are you doing hanging around here this late? How are you getting home?"
"Bus," one of them replied.
"Hop in," said Girardi. "I'll give you a lift."
Nice story. Nice guy. I hope the Cubs outbid the Yankees. It would be great to have him back in town, for more than one reason.
Ps. Shameless plug: my former (I no longer work there) co-worker's name is Mary and she manages tag's outlet store at 1730 W. Wrightwood (just east of Clybourn) in Chicago. Great selection of home decor and furniture and great prices. Stop in some time.
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