Q&A with a ChicagoNow blogger: Floyd Sullivan of Waiting4Cubs

Floyd Sullivan is the author of the ChicagoNow blog, Waiting4Cubs. As a fellow Cubs fan, I had plenty of questions for him regarding our favorite baseball team.

JOE GRACE: What is your favorite Cub memory ever?

FLOYD SULLIVAN: Most of my Cub memories are absolute horrors (I was at the Brant Brown game in Milwaukee, we once walked out of a no-hitter in about the 5th inning, I was at both the Centennial game and Derek Jeter’s last Wrigley Field appearance this year, both awful awful losses, etc. etc.) My favorite Cub memory happened far from Wrigley Field. We were at a train station in Lancaster, PA, picking up our daughter who went to Temple in Philadelphia. We lived in York, PA, at the time. She texted us that Ryan Dempster and his family were not only on the train, but sitting just a couple of rows in front of her. This was October, 2008, immediately after the Cubs had been swept by the Dodgers in the playoffs.

After a chaotic few minutes in the station and out front, we all met him. He looked a little lost, so I asked him if he needed a lift. He had reserved a car at the local Avis office, which was a couple of miles away. We gave him a ride and had a great chat. I wrote about it in my book (shameless plug) Waiting for the Cubs, and blogged about it a while back.

GRACE: Besides following the Cubs, what are your other hobbies?

SULLIVAN: I like to read. Favorite books include Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad, The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler, Beloved by Toni Morrison, and most Hemingway. I like to brag that I worked on the same publication as Hemingway — the Oak Park and River Forest High School yearbook, about 50 years later! Ha ha! I also look forward to every Alan Furst novel — his series about spies during World War II — and anything by Graham Greene or John Le Carré.

Love movies and love to read about them, especially old movies and great foreign films. The Grand Illusion by Jean Renoir is a favorite. Also, again, The Long Goodbye by Robert Altman. Used to go to about 300 films a year! Not so many these days.

And we love music, anything from Wilco to John Primer to Dexter Gordon to Gustav Mahler! The Grant Park Music Festival is the best thing going. We try to attend twice a week during the summer.

Maybe our favorite thing to do is to take architectural self tours around Chicago. We pick an architect, grab our self tour book, and try to visit every building in the city by that architect or firm.

GRACE: Who is your favorite Cub player ever?

SULLIVAN: Has to be Ernie Banks. Ironically, he wasn’t my favorite growing up. Tony Taylor was my guy for the few years he was on the Cubs. Then he got traded to the Phillies for Don Cardwell and others (don’t recall the details, but it was a multi-player deal, IIRC), speaking of walking out of a Cub no-hitter! But I grew to love Ernie. How could you not?! That unique batting stance! He dared pitchers to throw the ball!

GRACE: Do you approve of the direction the Cubs are going in?

SULLIVAN: Some things yes, some not so much. I think their building up from the minors is absolutely right. And based on the budding stars working their way through, like Bryant, Baez, and others, it looks like it has a good chance of paying off in the future. But I don’t agree with them putting a bad product on the field every year while we all wait forever and pay ridiculous ticket prices.

And I hate what they’re doing and planning to do to the ballpark in terms of finding every bit of possible advertising space, and where there is no space they create it. The Toyota sign; all the ticky-tacky ads they put on outfield doors or behind the bullpen on the bricks; the planned jumbotron which is more for the ad revenue than “enhancing the fan experience” in any way. They don’t need to enhance the fan experience. People come from all over the world for the Wrigley Field experience AS IT IS!! Or as it was.

Now they want to move the bullpens. Instead of being out in the open on the field, the bullpens will be indoors under the bleachers. Indoors!! Indoor bullpens at Wrigley Field!!! Good grief! What are they thinking? If that happened (and I think I heard they are backing away from that idea), then fans would no longer be able to look down the lines to see the players in the bullpens move around, and get up to warm up. That is such a key element of the Wrigley Field experience. It’s so important and so loved that when the Giants built their new ballpark, they put the bullpens down the lines, just like Wrigley Field.

They say they need the “revenue streams” to pay for all the improvements to the rest of the park like better player facilities (which look fantastic and much needed), and to field a perennial championship team. I don’t believe it. That’s all PR spin. They just want the money. They are becoming a media company more than a baseball franchise. Sell more and more and more ad space. That seems to be their true priority. I’m sure they want a winning team, but mostly because a better product (like popular editorial content in magazines) means they can sell more ads and charge more for them. All the stuff they are planning for the triangle property and the McDonald’s space are just more opportunities to sell ads. The advertising sales department in the company must be the most important division — more important than player development.

They say they love Wrigley Field and want to preserve it. Garbage. They look at it as a resource to be exploited, core fans be damned. They are mostly from out of town (and they hire agencies and key personnel from out of town) and have no true love or lifelong appreciation for the ballpark. It’s an empty billboard for them with a big “YOUR AD GOES HERE” sign on it. To me, the “ad creep” on Wrigley Field is as horrible as putting billboards along Lake Shore Drive would be. The City of Chicago needs revenue streams, too! But, so far, they haven’t destroyed the beauty of LSD with ads.

“Forever open, clear, and free” is the law for the lakefront since 1836. It should be the law for Wrigley Field, too.

GRACE: Love the blog post you wrote on Mark Grace (my all-time favorite player) and the email you received from the person who met him. What been your best experience meeting a Cubs player?

SULLIVAN: Glad you enjoyed the blog! The episode with Ryan Dempster referenced above is one. The other would be an event at Wrigley Field in 1998. My daughter and I were allowed on the field, and we met Ernie Banks and Jack Brickhouse. Ernie was so nice and so fun. He was way more interested in our stories than in telling his own. He asked about my job, my daughter’s school, our family, and plans for the future. He wouldn’t let us go. Other fans waiting to get autographs were getting angry that we took so long. We had so much fun that we forgot to ask for his autograph! Then we met Jack. He wasn’t doing well. The man who was the voice of the Cubs for decades could hardly talk at all. He died a month or two later. So the visit was bittersweet, but memorable.

I have to mention one other. It happened during the years we lived in York, PA. We were in town for some business function, staying at the Hilton on South Michigan Avenue. We got on the elevator and who should get on at the next floor but Fergie Jenkins wearing a big cowboy hat. I don’t remember why he was in town. I hesitated but finally said, “Fergie?”

“How you doing?” he replied, extending his hand. In the time it took to reach the lobby we chatted briefly about how he was probably the best Cub pitcher I could remember seeing play. Then 1969 came up. His face became reflective, almost sad. “We should have won it all, that year. Best team to not win a World Series ever.” The doors opened. He smiled wanly and wished us a great day.

~ Learn more about Sullivan by visiting his blog, Waiting4Cubs.

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