B-Side: Childhood friend was an extraordinary Joe

  • Written by Bob Rakow

I learned that the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey team defeated the Soviet Union when my best friend, Joe, raced out the side door of his house screaming the news. If memory serves, we were playing ball hockey in his driveway—using a section of the garage door for a goal—when he rushed outside with the exciting, unbelievable news.

I thought about that moment last week when I learned via a Facebook post that Joe had died. I had not seen him in more than 25 years. People move on, go their separate ways. But news of his death truly saddened me. He’s not the first member of the Class of 1978 at St. Thomas More School on the southwest side of Chicago to pass away, but he’s the first one I knew well.

Joe and I were as close as could be for about three years from 7th grade until freshman year, when my family moved out of the neighborhood. During those years, we did everything together, and the memories came flooding back upon news of his death. I’m told he suffered from a host of maladies, and I know that he lived a tough life, but the thought of someone passing away at 49-years-old is tough to comprehend.

I don’t remember what brought the two of us together, but I vividly recall how we spent our time. Neither of us had much in the way of athletic ability. In fact, when we played together on a on an organized softball team, we took turns playing catcher. But, we did it together, had fun doing it and somehow that was enough. Who could imagine that 35 years later, I’d learn of Joe’s death from another player on that same softball team via social media?

In the days long before Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and the like, Joe and I spent our time outside in the neighborhood—me peddling Joe’s old Schwinn while he sat on the handlebars. We were not especially popular, and I’m sure that’s part of the reason we became friends.

We played endless hours of home run derby with a Wiffle ball and bat. The batter stood on the sidewalk across the street from Joe’s front lawn, the outfielder was positioned on the lawn. A caught ball or one that did not get across the street was an out, while a ball that fell on the lawn counted for one run. A ball that landed on the lower-level roof of Joe’s house was a grand slam, and the rare ball that reached the upper roof counted for eight runs. We played basketball, ball hockey, tossed around a football, you name it—sports were everything to us.

On Fridays during the NFL season, we got together after school and bet on the games. It was a simple affair. We threw the names of the all the teams in a hat and took turns selecting one. One week the big wagering—50 cents a game—was conducted my house and the next week we’d circled back to Joe’s place. We made endless calls to Sports Phone to track the Sunday scores in the days long before sports radio and the Internet.

Saturday’s were reserved for trips to Ford City. We’d get together at Joe’s house, walk to 79th Street and hop a bus to the mall. It seems one of us would always buy an album, t-shirt or sports apparel. We’d have lunch at Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour, and more often than not I’d have to quash Joe’s plan to dine and ditch. But that was Joe. He was a crazy guy that occasionally would step over the line. I routinely reached over than line and reined him in. I’d get mad sometimes, but somehow our friendship maintained.

In the years after I moved out of the neighborhood, I’d talk to Joe now and then, spend a little time with him occasionally, but it wasn’t the same as the bond between us as kids. Still, Joe’s death really saddened me. It’s as though a lot of childhood memories—good times—died along with him.

Rest in peace, my friend.

Bob Rakow is a news reporter for the Reporter.

Ridge parking restrictions about to get tighter near Desmond’s Pub

  • Written by Kevin M. Coyne, Correspondent

Irish eyes won’t be smiling

Photo by Kevin M. Coyne. Chicago Ridge officials are expected to create permit parking only on Kerry Ridge Court, off Birmingham Street, which is across from Jack Desmond’s Irish Pub, 10339 Ridgeland Ave. Photo by Kevin M. Coyne. Chicago Ridge officials are expected to create permit parking only on Kerry Ridge Court, off Birmingham Street, which is across from Jack Desmond’s Irish Pub, 10339 Ridgeland Ave.

Chicago Ridge officials hope barring pubgoers from parking on Kerry Ridge Court, located on Birmingham Street, will give rest to the residents living across from the popular Jack Desmond’s Irish Pub on Ridgeland Avenue.

Chicago Ridge Attorney George Witous along with officials from the building, fire and police departments are working together to create an ordinance that will bring peace to the residential area while allowing access to emergency vehicles that otherwise are unable to fit down the packed street on Friday and Saturday nights.

“The problems are continuing over there and I feel sorry for those people,” Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar said. “They’re dealing with all sorts of litter; broken bottles, broken glass, cups and people are fighting in the streets and coming out at 2 a.m. in a residential area.”

If passed, Chicago Ridge residents who do not live in the small townhome subdivision are prohibited from parking in Kerry Ridge Court. Violators will be ticketed and towed at the owner’s expense.

Photo by Kevin M. Coyne.Photo by Kevin M. Coyne. The residential parking is for members of the townhome subdivision only.

“A lot of people have the idea that if they have the Chicago Ridge vehicle sticker that constitutes residential parking and that’s just not the case,” trustee Daniel Badon said.

Village officials have yet to determine which side of the street will become permit parking only. Chicago Ridge Fire Chief Robert Muszynski said at Tuesday’s board meeting that he wants access to the fire hydrants and access to the buildings along Birmingham Street.

“This has been going on for quite a while now and a fire truck or ambulance wouldn’t be able to get down that street especially on a Friday or Saturday nights,” Muszynski said.

Tokar reiterated that the Chicago Ridge vehicle sticker is not considered a residential parking permit. Kerry Ridge Court will not be the only area with residential parking. Streets such as Princess Avenue, Oxford Avenue and Oak Avenue also prohibit non-residential parking.

“We need to let people know in our next newsletter that a vehicle sticker is not a residential parking sticker,” Tokar said. “We should also put this on our website so people are made aware of the residential parking area.”

Evergreen officials ready to game plan where medical marijuana will be sold

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Evergreen Park officials Monday took the first step toward controlling the location of clinics that distribute marijuana for medical purposes.

Photo by Jeff Vorva. Evergreen Park Mayor Jim Sexton wants to limit where medical marijuana can be sold in his community.Photo by Jeff Vorva. Evergreen Park Mayor Jim Sexton wants to limit where medical marijuana can be sold in his community.Trustees approved a resolution that “authorizes a moratorium on the establishment of medical cannabis facilities and the issuance of building permits or zoning certificates of compliance for construction or operation of such uses in the village.”

Mayor Jim Sexton said the resolution is designed to buy the village time until the village board decides on approved locations for medical marijuana facilities that locate on the village in the future.

The village’s zoning board will meet on Tuesday to discuss the issue. Residents are welcome to express their opinions at the hearing, Sexton said. The village board will consider the zoning restrictions proposed by the zoning board, he said.

“You can’t say ‘no’ (to a clinic),” Sexton said. “We can limit where they go.”

For example, he said, a medical marijuana clinic would be best suited for a commercial or medical district, such as Little Company of Mary Hospital. It would not be appropriate in a residential area or near a school, he said.

No clinics have petitioned to locate in the village, the mayor said at the meeting.

Jeff Vorva's Editor's Notebook: Baseball Hall voters — we’re really not a bunch of idiots

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Column-Edit-NoteThis is the time of the year that people think that I am a dope along with 500 or 600 of my colleagues.

Last year at this time, we all took a beating. They thought we had the IQs of members Honey Boo Boo’s family. They thought we had the judgment abilities of someone who had 27 beers for lunch. They said mean, mean things about us. We were the lowest forms of life in the world. We were scum. And that was a kind description.

What did we do that was so wrong?

We didn’t vote anyone into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Yes, I am one of the lucky few to have a Hall of Fame vote. I paid dearly to get it. I had to cover the Cubs 10 straight years. More than 1,000 games. But I have it.

So the other idiots and myself had the audacity not to vote anyone in. And we took a pounding.

The 2014 announcement was made yesterday, Wednesday, and it came after our deadline. But with people like Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas and Tom Glavine, I can safely say we didn’t pitch a shutout this year.

There are probably a few people that wonder why their favorite eligible players did not make it and still think we’re a bunch of goofballs. But let me at least explain the process.

You need 75 percent of the vote to get in. Three out of every four. Think about it. It’s hard enough to get more than 75 percent of your pals to agree where to have lunch. And to vote for something as important at the Hall of Fame?

Last year, there were 37 ex-players on the ballot. There were 569 writers who turned in a ballot. They are allowed to vote for up to 10. They could vote for 10. They could vote for three. Some vote for zero. Those are the people who get ripped on the hardest.

Throw in the fact that the list includes players who were suspected of using steroids and some who were rumored to have used them and that throws the whole thing out of whack.

We are talking about more than 500 people of different ages and different backgrounds trying to figure this thing out. My criteria is different than some geezer who claims we’re a bunch of sissies and, by God, back in the good old days, he would have punched a player in the nose or slammed him against a locker if that player didn’t grant an interview.

My criteria is also different than someone who is voting for the first or second time who looks at me like I’m a geezer.

And it’s not like we are in some big smoke-filled room arguing back and forth for who should get in or not. We’re scattered across the country sitting in our homes in December trying to figure it out.

Finally — and most important — it’s a vote. A vote is personal. A vote is done with some research and with some gut feelings. It’s imperfect.

This is the first year I actually voted for 10. I usually top out at six, seven or eight. So, in alphabetical order, here are my choices: Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Tom Glavine. Greg Maddux, Edgar Martinez, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling, Lee Smith, Frank Thomas and Larry Walker.

Yes, some of the heavy steroid suspects such as Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa and others are off my list. The beauty is that if they get more than 5 percent of the votes, they can stay on the ballot for 15 years. So we can always change our minds on these guys if something comes to light in the next decade or so.

People may think that the criteria is too tough to get in and maybe they are right. But can you think of another hall of fame that has this much interest and passion? You rarely hear about controversy, outrage or much interest in general about the football, basketball and hockey halls.

So congratulations to those who made it. Those who didn’t? Life goes on, guys.

That goes for the fans, too.

Baker’s dozen

How in the world could I have forgotten this?

After last week’s column on my 12 favorite TV shows was published, Reporter reporter Bob Rakow named a few shows that were good and mentioned “The Paper Chase,” which was a show about a variety of students in law school who had the mean Charles Kingsfield (played brilliantly by John Houseman) as a contracts law professor.

So my dozen favorite shows just became a baker’s dozen.

Bartender, clerk charged with selling liquor to minors

  • Written by Bob Rakow

An Oak Lawn tavern and a liquor store were caught selling alcohol to minors Dec. 26 during a sting conducted by police.

Two Oak Lawn police officers at 5:16 p.m. witnessed a bartender at PJ’s Pourhouse, 5635 W. 87th St., serve a bottle of beer to an 18- and 19 year-old, according to reports. The bartender, Linda M. Roberts, 58, of Chicago, was charged with selling alcohol to minors, an ordinance violation.

About 30 minutes later, the duo purchased a case of beer at Cardinal Liquors, 9630 S. Southwest Highway, after the store clerk did not ask for identification, police said. The clerk, Marilyn R. Wantiez, 74, of Oak Lawn, also was charged with selling alcohol to minors, police said.

The investigation was conducted in conjunction with the Illinois Dept. of Revenue Liquor Control Commission. The arrests came shortly after Oak Lawn police warned bars and liquor stores they were cracking down on the sale of liquor to minors.