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Ricketts not first owner to go to bat for Republicans

Cubs also played ball for Warren G. Harding. And then there was the Tribune Company....

President Donald Trump meets with 2016 World Series Champion Chicago Cubs.
President Donald Trump meets with members of the 2016 World Series Champions Chicago Cubs, in June 17 in the Oval Office. Joining the players were team Chairman Tom Ricketts (center, rear) and his brother, Todd Ricketts (left), a co-owner of the team.
Associated Press

So baseball fans are grumbling because Todd Ricketts, Cubs co-owner and finance chair of the Trump Victory Committee, is dandling GOP fundraisers at a party Saturday night in a little property of his called Wrigley Field.

Reaction was swift and predictable. ”BOYCOTT THE CUBS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Jim McDonald demanded on Facebook. “Anyone who goes to Cubs games and spends money is actually supporting Trump. Who do you love more The Cubs or the future of the USA?”

Oh please.

First off, the Ricketts family assumed controlling interest in the Cubs (it was too complicated a financial shell game to call it a “purchase”) in 2009. So the hefty profit off all those $10 beers have been funneling to right-wing causes for a decade. Odd that some notice only now, even claiming to shift their allegiance to the Sox, as if such a thing were possible.

And remember from whom the Ricketts bought the Cubs: The Tribune Company. Not exactly Ben & Jerry’s. More like Fox News before the American Pravda was a gleam in Rupert Murdoch’s eye. Whether sneering at immigrants or urging isolation, the Trib was a foghorn of right-wing nuttery for decades, stretching back to the days when its owner, Col. Robert McCormick, began each morning licking the boots of Hitler.

Yet fans still cheered Ryne Sandberg.

What changed? Americans are filled with an illusionary sense of their own importance or, if you prefer, empowerment. We’re going to strike a blow for LGBTQ rights by avoiding the waffle fries at Chick-fil-A. I’m as guilty as anybody: I actually drive a little faster passing the Hobby Lobby on Waukegan Road, as if their brand of glittery-eyed small-town bigotry is a contagious fog and I might catch it.

But there is also a triviality to the I-mold-the-world-through-my-consumer-decisions mindset. Don’t like Todd Ricketts’ politics? Enjoy your day at the Friendly Confines, then cut a hefty check to a Democratic candidate. That’s his style. I hesitate to get into the head of Todd Ricketts, but I’ll bet he isn’t trying to defeat the Democrats by avoiding fine wines produced up by liberal California vineyards.

Donald Trump with Todd Ricketts, a co-owner of the Chicago Cubs.
Donald Trump and Todd Ricketts, a co-owner of the Chicago Cubs, shake hands as Ricketts leaves the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster clubhouse in Bedminster, N.J., shortly after the November 2016 election.
Associated Press

Otherwise, Democrats should worry about aping the Republicans. It’s wrong that we’re lining up to mock Trump’s hair, his gut, his atrocious fashion sense. All valid criticisms, but also not even in the top 20 of Trump’s most significant flaws (My list I would begin with: 1. Chronic lying; 2. Undermining American freedoms; 3. Coddling our country’s enemies; 4. Debasing political discourse; 5. Promoting anti-science and general idiocy. ...) Trump’s the guy, remember, coining cruel nicknames, ridiculing opponents for their height, their gender, their physical infirmities. Don’t emulate him — or, like him, you may someday find it impossible to stop.

Before we let go the topic of right-wing baseball owners, a historical tidbit to chew upon. Before the Tribune, who owned the Cubs? I’ll give you a hint: the Cubs play at Wrigley Field. That’s right! William Wrigley Jr., to start. And was he also a Republican booster? Why yes, he was. And did he also use the team to promote wildly-unqualified GOP presidential candidates? Why yes, he did.

During the campaign of 1920, Republican party officials were concerned that their man, Warren G. Harding, was too closely associated with golf, then considered an activity of the effete rich (thank goodness those days are past!).

GOP mastermind Albert Lasker decided Harding needed him to connect with America’s national pastime and contrived to bring professional baseball to Marion, Ohio, where Harding was conducting his “front porch” campaign. The senator was told to let it be known that, with all this campaign business, he missed his trips to the old ballpark. The Cubs, of which Lasker was a part-owner along with Wrigley, volunteered to come to town. The New York Giants were supposed to meet them, but, smelling the stench of political manipulation, manager John McGraw backed out.

On Sept. 2, 1920, the Cubs played against a local semi-pro team, the Kerrigan Tailors. The first three pitches were thrown by Harding, wearing a Cubs uniform. He was then replaced by ace Grover Cleveland Alexander. Harding paused to lecture about the dangers of America’s involvement in world affairs. That November, he was elected president.

Say what you will about Todd Ricketts, but he is not exactly blazing new ground.

Presidential candidate Warren G. Harding.
Sen. Warren G. Harding, shown during his so-called “front-porch” campaign at his Marion, Ohio home. A part-owner of the Cubs brought the team to Marion in 1920 in hopes of boosting Harding’s campaign.
Sun-Times files