Sneed: Baseball dream becomes real for ailing Chicago cop
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The good earth. To Chicago police Officer Anthony Letizia, it’s an eight- inch-by-eight-inch piece of sod, a patch of baseball field he planned to visit before he died.
An avid Cubs fan, Letizia, 32, now in the final days of hospice care because of a deadly brain cancer, had thought he’d lost his lifetime goal of visiting the country’s 30 professional baseball parks.
He and his wife, Sarah, a White Sox fan, had only succeeded in visiting 29.
Last Monday, the 30th ballpark came to him.
Pull up a chair.
Five years ago, the Letizia family hit on a plan to keep their marriage vibrant.
“Visiting the ballparks together became our field of dreams,” Sarah said.
“We had rules. We had to have a beer and a hot dog, sit in the seats half the game, and explore the ballpark before and after the game. Then we’d have a pinning ceremony and place a red pin on a map and plan our ballpark trip. We even took our baby daughter, Emme, on the trip to Toronto.”
“It was always a special time. Baseball season is always when the sun is shining bright. The ballpark is filled with cheers and positivity, a happy place,” she said.
“They came very close to hitting their goal,” said Chicago’s former top cop Phil Cline, executive director of the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation.
“They were saving the best for last: the home of the Houston Astros in Minute Maid Park until the cancer advanced enough to stop them,” added Cline.
“You know, miracles have been known to happen, but at least one happened earlier for Officer Letizia,” said Cline.
“Seeven years ago, he donated bone marrow to a little girl in England he never met and didn’t know. It was a match. She is doing great.
“He saved her life, never mind the countless lives he didn’t know he saved in service as a police officer,” added Cline.
Early last week, a special package was delivered to the Letizia home near O’Hare airport: a piece of Minute Maid Park.
“A few folks had decided to run a little interference,” said Cline.
“Thanks to the intervention of Chicago Police Chaplain Dan Brandt; Miles Berger, a Board Member of the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation; Ted Lerner, the owner of the Washington Nationals, and Ted’s son, Mark Lerner, who was at the training camp the Nationals share with the Astros — an-eight-inch-by-eight-inch square of stadium sod from the Houston Astros Minute Maid field was sent to officer Letizia.”
Also enclosed was a piece of encased mound game dirt where Houston Astros pitcher Michael Fiers pitched a no hitter Aug. 21, 2015.
“Visiting those ballparks gave us so much joy,” said Sarah Letizia, who now plans to visit them again someday with their daughter.
“Baseball. Sunshine. Joy. Cheers. Love. Teamship,” she said. “What more could anyone ask.”
A buddy bid . . .
Chalkboard clout? During last Tuesday’s primary election, Sneed noted one familiar name on the list of Illinois delegates for Hillary Clinton: her longtime Park Ridge schoolmate and best buddy, Betsy Ebeling.
Burke’s law . . .
A new missive from the Mell man: Former Ald. Dick Mell, who appears to be losing his 33rd ward Dem committeemenship while awaiting absentee voter returns, was spotted Thursday visiting the City Hall bastion of Ald. Ed Burke, an old political ally.
• To wit: Mell recounted to Sneed some savvy Burke advice: “It happened one fateful night in 1987, when I shouted for attention after jumping on top of my City Council desk in an effort to make Ald. Gene Sawyer the mayor after Harold Washington died!
“I couldn’t get interim mayor David Orr’s attention, so I decided to do something dramatic,” Mell chirped.
“That’s when (Ald.) Ed Burke walked up to me, looked up to me, and stated:
“ ‘Do you know what kind of a moron you are going to look like tomorrow because you are standing on your desk?’ ”
Sneedlings . . .
Saturday’s birthdays: Bruce Willis, 61; Clayton Kershaw, 28, and Ursula Andress, 80. . . Sunday’s birthdays: Ruby Rose, 30, Spike Lee, 59, Bobby Orr, 68.