Saturday’s Inside the Clubhouse (670 The Score) led off with Tom Ricketts.
Bruce Levine and Wayne Randazzo talked to Tom Ricketts about Ernie Banks, Wrigley Field, his team and the upcoming season.
Tom Ricketts was very appreciative of the City of Chicago with the help placing Ernie Banks’ statue at Daley Plaza. Mr. Banks statue was offsite in storage due to the Wrigley Field construction. Ricketts explained the team got it out of storage and the city helped build a base for it.
On his relationship and what Ernie Banks meant to him
“I met Ernie [Banks] several years before we bought the team. He would come and speak at events, events I was hosting. I got to know him a little bit. But after we bought the club, he’s there a lot. You get to know him really well. I mean you realize what a wonderful person he was. Ernie would just come by the office before a game and just hang out and just chat. We are really going to miss having him around. He was just a lovely man.”
On what Ernie Banks was like after he got to know him. Mr. Banks would often turn the conversation and make it about the person he was talking to instead of talking about himself and answering questions about being Ernie Banks.
“It’s interesting you mention that Bruce because I will mention that a little bit in my comments this morning. The thing that I think surprised people most when they met Ernie for the first time was unlike a lot of, maybe a lot of other professional athletes or a lot of high-profile people, he didn’t want to talk about himself. He was very much … he always would say, ‘How are you doing? What is your job? Are you married?’ He liked to get the conversation the other direction and people would walk away from meeting him the first time and kind of realize that was a great conversation but wait a minute we never talked about baseball. We talked about me. I really believe he just had that kind of humility and was just sincerely interested in other people and just a good hearted-person.”
On what the Cubs have planned this year for a tribute to Ernie Banks
“Well, we’ve got a lot of things in the works. I don’t want to get ahead of my team before we lock a few things down. But obviously we’ll do some of the basic stuff. You know the stuff everyone, other teams have done and certainly we’ll have a patch ready to go pretty soon. Hopefully there will be a day that we can … certainly there will be a lot of different days that we can do different tributes, but I just want to be careful. We will do it right. We will honor Ernie’s memory in a way that makes everyone proud and we will get those details out when we can.”
On the Cubs winning this season and winning the Series this year
“Well, I think Joe Maddon put it best. He’s like of course that’s our goal. Obviously we’ve all lived through this together. We had an organization that needed some time and needed to make some decisions that were long-term decisions rather than short-term decisions. I think what you are seeing, what we feel like we are seeing is that a lot of those decisions are starting to pay off and we are turning the corner and we’re bringing a team that can really compete for the division. You know once you make the playoffs, Bruce you know, I mean it’s a coin flip. The fact is that whether you won 115 games or 85 games, your odds of winning the World Series are the same once you’re in the playoffs. Obviously our goal is to have a great season, win the division and get in the mix.”
On if he’s surprised to see the Cubs are now favorites to finish near the top of the division, be in the playoff picture and that the national perception of the team has changed so quickly
“On the division side, I don’t think so. I think that we have a very good division but once we kind of got the right guys in the right positions at the second half of last year we played tough with them and then we’ve added people that are going to make impact right away to the team. On the World Series stuff, it’s nice to have the fourth best odds of winning the World Series I guess, but maybe some of that is the fact there are more Cubs fans than other teams. But the fact is everyone is excited. You guys were down at convention and you saw how excited the fans were but you could also see how excited the players were. Everyone knows that this is a team that has a chance to have an incredible season and get us back in the playoff mix and they are working hard to make sure that happens.”
On Chicago politics and the fact he has to feel good on where Crane Kenney and the business side stand right now
“Yeah, absolutely. Obviously there were a lot of big issues that weren’t addressed under previous ownership. Things that we just had to take head on and it took time and a little bit of patience and a little bit of determination from time to time. But the fact is that we knew that because we have the high ground on most of our issues and because we have the long-term approach that we were going to get to where we had to get to. We are pretty happy right now with our situation. Obviously the park is under construction and we’re moving forward on getting a solution that is more of a long-term kind of … something that works for the Cubs long-run on the streets around Wrigley.”
On purchasing the land and property around Wrigley Field and why the family would want to own it
“The fact is that your baseball experience doesn’t start when you walk into the park. It starts when you get off the “L” or when you get out of your cab or when you park. We have to improve it from top to bottom not just give people more food options in Wrigley. We looked at … we were lucky enough that were some opportunities to buy the land, like the land across the street on Clark Street and now there’s some opportunities to buy a rooftop here or there. We want to control the game. We want to control the experience. And also outside the park it’s also a little embarrassing that Clark Street looks like it does after … I think the alderman even said it to me. Clark Street looks like it did 40 years ago or 50 years ago. We can do better. On non-game days we can make that area useful to the neighbors and that’s what we are going to do.”
On what is the most exciting thing for him leading up to the season, what is he looking forward to the most
“Obviously I just want to get the games started. It will be fun to come into a season with, basically in a different position than we’ve been in the last five years. And that position being, you know, expect to be competitive.”
Bruce Levine asked Tom Ricketts about being an owner of a team with a plus-.500 record for a change.
“Bruce, that’s not fair. You know that we were above .500 for one day in the last five years [laughs].”
On if he thinks Chicago will have another sports figure and another citizen like Ernie Banks
“I think the answer is absolutely not. I don’t think it’s just Chicago. Ernie was just a really special person. I will talk about this a little at the services this morning but I think everyone gets it. Everyone that knew him gets it. The fact that it isn’t so much how much the fans loved him but how much he gave back and how available he was and accessible he was. He had time for everybody and everything that he did to build those relationships. I saw you yesterday at the service. Everybody that walks out, everyone had some small but meaningful story about how Ernie touched their lives. You can’t make that up. You can’t coach that. Your PR firm can’t do that. It’s just a guy who just really took time to be nice to people. And you do that long enough and suddenly you’re just part of it, you’re just part of the city, you’re someone that everybody knows and everyone loves. I don’t think that professional athlete, before him or after him, is ever going to have that kind of position in the city or with his fans.”