I recall as a child growing up in the streets of Chicago loving baseball and loving books. I was a Chicago White Sox fan, the result of my receiving free tickets each summer during grammar school. It was a program in the 1960’s, courtesy of the Chicago White Sox, for perfect attendance and straight A’s (that trend of straight A’s stopped after grammar school I might add). I would hop on the Archer Avenue bus transfer to the 35th Street bus (to Shields) with a friend or two, and root for my White Sox.
I was not a Chicago Cubs fan, but who was a Cub fan in my southwest side community which included Midway Airport, the 23rd Ward and the Garfield Ridge community. I sure knew everything as an eleven year-old about the Chicago Cubs reading the four daily newspapers and thanks to, as Jack Brickhouse would put it, “Good old WGN.” Both teams were then televised then on WGN.
In 1964, the Chicago Cubs traded Lou Brock to the St. Louis Cardinals. I didn’t think much of the “trade” at the time, but by October of that year, it was an obvious mistake. What I am referring to is the worst baseball trade ever made? Just ask ESPN or any of my childhood buddies. They will tell you it was the Lou Brock for Ernest Broglio trade. Lou Brock was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals and the Cubs received Ernest Broglio in exchange.
Just for the record and thanks to wikipedia, it wasn’t a straight one-for-one trade.
Brock was blessed with great speed and base running instincts, but the young right fielder failed to impress the Cubs management, hitting for only a combined .260 average over his first two seasons. In 1964 after losing patience with his development, the Cubs gave up on Brock and made him part of a trade with the St. Louis Cardinals.
The June 15 deadline deal for pitcher Ernie Broglio saw Brock, Jack Spring and Paul Toth head to St. Louis Cardinals for Broglio, Bobby Shantz, and Doug Clemens. Cardinals general manager Bing Devine, specifically sought Brock at the insistence of Cardinals manager Johnny Keane to increase team speed and solidify the Cardinals’ lineup, struggling after the retirement of left fielder Stan Musial in 1963.
So it was clear that Johnny Keane, the manager of the Cardinals was shooting for Lou Brock. What a trade it was? Each season that Brock would lead the league in stolen bases more often than not. He would steal over 900 stolen bases in his career and more importantly, Lou Brock would play in the World Series. In fact, the year he was traded, 1964, the Cardinals went to the World Series and beat the New York Yankees in seven games. Yes, the mighty Yankees. Lou Brock also played in the 1967 and 1968 World Series. Brock set records in those games. Brock hit the 3000 hit plateau and to add insult to injury, got his 3000th hit against, you guess it, the Chicago Cubs. Broadcast on “Good old WGN.”
That World Series was one of the subjects of a New York Times bestseller by David Halberstam titled October 1964. The book is still in print. Johnny Keane was hired by the New York Yankees for the 1965 season.
Ernie Broglio? He won seven games with the Cubs. Total.
Did I mention that Lou Brock is in the baseball Hall of Fame? Figured that by now. A real superstar and not paid like modern day athletes.
During my own childhood in Chicago we had plenty of parks to play baseball. It was a huge priority of Mayor Richard J. Daley. Baseball at Vittum Park all summer long. We were watched over by the park superintendents, while they were political appointments, they cared about the children who came to play in the parks. One such man was Joe Valenti. Another park superintendent back then of Hale Park, Bill Lipinski, would often stop by the park to help out occasionally when people like Joe were on vacation. Bill Lipinski would later become Congressman Bill Lipinski, but we knew him as “Gym Shoes,” because he wore those old, beaten, seemingly over-sized pair of gym shoes. But Lipinski also cared about the children and that left a lasting impression on us. Congressman Bill Lipinski was prominent in the resurgence of Midway Airport.
Now back to Mary Dempsey. Her loss will be felt here in Chicago and will be most felt by the ones that can least afford it: the children.
When it came to a library, my community had none. My community did not have its own bricks-and-mortar library, but once a week the book mobile would arrive and park in front of the corner drugstore for several hours. I would load up on books and take out the maximum, read them all, and quickly return the next week to replenish my supply. The selection was poor, but we all did our best. Libraries at the time was not a city of Chicago priority. Not like parks were. It was a priority in some communities, but not where I lived. I envied those communities in Chicago that had their own buildings.
As I say, baseball and libraries were a big part of my childhood.
Along came the election of Richard M. Daley in 1989, who must have noticed too that not all communities had access to libraries.
Along came Mary Dempsey in 1994 and she had a vision.
Mary Dempsey took over a broken library system in 1994 and in sixteen years turned it into a world class system with the strong and unwavering support of Mayor Richard M. Daley. Initially building/renovating 44 CPL branch libraries, 11 of which are LEED-certified “green” buildings, and then embarking on an additional 16 in 2009. She will be missed most by her peers, as noted in the recent issue of The Library Journal.
It came as a shock to hear that Mary Dempsey had resigned as head of Chicago Public Library (CPL) this week after 18 years as the city’s library commissioner. San Francisco Public Library’s Brian Bannon (an LJ Mover & Shaker) will take over March 1. I shouldn’t have been surprised, though—not only because of the continuing budget woes Dempsey’s had to deal with over the last couple of years but also because we’d talked about her future plans.
I remember chatting with her at an Urban Libraries Council conference several years ago, and even then she was thinking about other projects. She had recently been named chair of the Board of Trustees at DePaul University, where she went to law school (she also has an MLS). She was the first woman to hold that chair (2008–11), and she remains on the board as cochair of the school’s “Many Dreams, One Mission” capital campaign, which she launched in 2010.
In a memo to her staff (“With Deepest Gratitude”), and in the press, she took the high road, as she always has, saying she told Mayor Rahm Emanuel in November about her plans to leave and that he asked her to keep the decision confidential to give him time to do a national search. She even had kind words for the mayor, despite his evisceration of the library budget, resulting in materials, hours, and staff cuts. She thanked him for asking her to stay on in his administration (in May 2011), as well as “for his recent action to make restorations to our budget and workforce, and for recruiting such an accomplished successor to me.”
That is the class of Mary Dempsey, refusing to bash or criticize Mayor Rahm Emanuel publicly, but endorsing her successor. James Warren wrote a nice piece in the Chicago News Cooperative (that also appeared in a recent issue of the New York Times) singing her praises. It is also worth reading.
I like to think that Mary Dempsey changed the Chicago Public Library for all children in Chicago. I hope children would have more of a choice than I had as a child, running to the book mobile to select from a limited selection.
That is what Mary Dempsey accomplished for Chicago. Putting the books of the library in children’s hands and giving these children a great destination for learning and interacting. Something I never the honor to know and feel.
Brian Bannon will take over in March and he is currently the chief information officer for San Francisco’s public libraries. I wish him luck and as a Chicagoan who uses the libraries, I want him to succeed. He brings high tech experience to the role and that is definitely a plus.
But we missed Lou Brock oh so many years ago and we will miss Mary Dempsey. Superstar.
Send John Presta an email and your story ideas or suggestions, firstname.lastname@example.org.
John is the author of an award-winning book, the 2010 Winner of the USA National Best Book award for African-American studies, published by The Elevator Group Mr. and Mrs. Grassroots: How Barack Obama, Two Bookstore Owners, and 300 Volunteers did it. Also available an eBook on Amazon.