Nick

Nick

Thursday, November 20th

Unfortunately in life, friends leave us. No matter when it is, its never easy. A legendary Chicago sports figure that a lot of fans might not know passed this week. One of the best things, no make that, the best thing about what I do for a living, is the vast array of people I get to meet because Im behind the bar at Harry Carays. Im always asked by people, Who have you met at the bar? Im always perplexed, and amused, by this question, because the inference is, who would they know? Like having someone famous at the bar validates it as the place to be. Or, because its not a name your familiar with, its not that exciting. For me, I get a kick out of anyone thats interesting, and few were more so than Nick Kladis. Nick was 81, and like anyone his age he had a long list of accomplishments.

A star on the Tilden Technical High School basketball team in the late 1940s, he has been described by his long-time friend Marv Levy as one of the best basketball players I ever saw. In 2005, he was inducted in to the Chicago Public League Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. His left his basketball mark though as a collegian as a star for the Loyola Ramblers in the early 1950s. Nicknamed Nifty Nick, his signature moves on the court were a one-handed jump shot, and a gravity defying left-handed hook that he was known to launch from anywhere. He perfected these to the point that he was an All-American in the 1952 season. His honors from the university were many: Named to Loyolas All-Decade Team of the 1950s, inducted into the Loyola Athletics Hall of Fame, and my favorite, having his 3 retired and hanging from the rafters of the Gentile Center overlooking the current generation of Ramblers hoopsters. Something he was very proud of was being a volunteer assistant coach for the 1963 Loyola team that won the NCAA National Title. In fact, I remember not too long ago, him having a meal with some of the players from that team in the restaurant, the twinkle in his eye that night was unmistakable. He loved his school. So much so that he is one of the forces behind the construction of a new Intercollegiate Athletics Center adjacent to the Gentile Center. I know he will be missed at the groundbreaking in January, but upon completion Im sure his presence will be immortalized in its Hall of Fame Room.

After his senior year he was drafted by the NBA, but unlike todays climate of millionaire status, the NBA was not the path for many to instant riches. At an early age, his business acumen was spot on. It would continue for the rest of his life. He started with working with the family grocery business, but his love of sports was always there. This led him to, among other things: Being a part owner of the White Sox from 1975 1980. An original investor in the East Bank Club. A co-owner, along with former New York Knicks star, Dave DeBusschere, of boxing bible, The Ring magazine. And currently, a minority owner of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Life has many ironies, and among them is that, a minority owner of the St. Louis Cardinals, was one of the original investors in the Home plate of the Cubs and what many fans think of as the ultimate Cubs bar, Harry Carays in downtown Chicago.

Invariably during the last 3 years, when Nick would be at the bar and get into conversations with Cubbie fans seated near him, I would make sure to tease (No, not me!) by saying to them, You cant be nice to him! Dont you see that ring hes wearing? At this point, Nick would let them see, or hold if they like, his World Series ring from the 2006 Championship. I used to get the biggest kick out of that, and I know he did too. Not in a malicious way, the thing that we had in common was, we were fans of our teams, and there was nothing wrong with having fun with fans of others. Nick loved his Cardinals. When they played any game, he was into it, but playing the Cubs was something altogether different. He loved going to the games and coming to the restaurant afterward with players or manger Tony LaRussa or others associated with the team. Often he would bring one of his dinner guests up to the bar to meet me.

I remember meeting former Cardinals second baseman Fernando Vina and being very impressed. Go figure, hes now a baseball analyst for ESPN. Another introduction from Nick that Im very fond of is when he introduced me to former Tribune columnist Mike Downey and his wife Gail. What nice people. I remember one night Nick and Dutchie Caray having a group of friends they were dining with in the bar for cocktails. As many milled around, I found myself in a conversation with Dutchie and Gail in the front corner of the bar about gambling on NFL football games. (I have a very boring job!) When I told Gail I surprised by her incredible knowledge on the subject, she told me she learned all about it from her father. Her father's name was Dean Martin. Yes, that Dean Martin! I could only imagine the conversations at dinner, but you know that table was never boring.

A favorite table, for me, was when Nick and Dutchie would be having dinner. They frequently had dinner in the restaurant, or an occasional lunch at the bar on Friday, when I work my only day shift, over the last 10 years. I dont know what it was, well maybe you can guess, but often I would visit their table, get engrossed in conversation, then realize: Wait! I was just going to say hello. I have a bar full of people waiting for me! Gotta go! I often thought after my sometimes sudden departures that they thought I was a crazed, caffeinated mad-man. But I digress.

Theyre two of the nicest people Ive ever met and Im sad that I wont be able to accost their table anymore. The last time I saw Nick, they were in with a friend, and it was the first time I had seen him since the Cardinals were, to me anyway, shockingly beaten in the playoffs by the L.A. Dodgers. I told him that I felt bad for him, but that I knew that the World Series ring that he was wearing would keep him good company during the long off-season. Well, it just got a lot longer for me, but I feel so fortunate that I got to share that moment with him.

The thing that we shared the most, was a passion for sports and our teams, but at the same time realizing that there are more important thing in life. Family, friends and helping others should be ones priorities and they were certainly his. I know this for a fact. Im only one of many, many people who have experienced his generosity. Being able to have shared life experiences with him is something Ill never forget. One of those experiences he shared and a reason that I know that many of us feel regret about, is that he wont be able to see his grand-son, Nick, play basketball again. Nicks a sharp-shooter, doesnt fall far, for Hinsdale Central and was the apple of his grandfathers eye. I would look forward to the updates of his games or tournaments. I know young Nick would do right by following in his grandfathers footsteps. Using athletics for all of the good they can represent, and keeping them a part of your life forever.

For Nicks family and friends these next few days are going to be difficult as we mourn his loss and lay him to rest. But there will be a warm feeling in all of us, that wont go away. Thats the many memories we share and the privilege of knowing our departed friend.

Oh, and who was that team that drafted Nick into the NBA, the one he turned down? The Philadelphia Warriors! Nick was supposed to play his pro career in Philadelphia, no wonder I liked him so much.

Kyle Schwarber goes ‘Star Trek,’ launching home run out of Wrigley Field and onto Sheffield Avenue

Kyle Schwarber goes ‘Star Trek,’ launching home run out of Wrigley Field and onto Sheffield Avenue

Where the Cubs needed a Javier Baez basket shot to beat Johnny Cueto last October – the swing that might have changed the entire direction of their World Series run – Kyle Schwarber left no doubt with this one.

Schwarber launched Cueto’s 91-mph fastball out of Wrigley Field and onto Sheffield Avenue on Tuesday night, setting the tone in the first inning of a 4-1 win over the San Francisco Giants with a mammoth home run that Statcast measured at 470 feet.

“Whoa, it got small fast,” manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s almost like when you used to watch ‘Star Trek’ when it came on and the Enterprise would just fly by the screen and get really small. It kind of had that Enterprise-esque look to it. It was there – and then it was gone.”
 
Cueto, the funky right-hander with the dreadlocks, rocker steps and quick pitches, is now dealing with blisters on his middle and index fingers, which may partially explain his 4.64 ERA and San Francisco’s 20-27 record.  

Jason Heyward and Anthony Rizzo jumped Cueto first pitches in the second and fourth innings, with balls landing in the right-field basket and right-field bleachers as the Cubs (23-21) played perhaps their most complete game this season.

Schwarber’s batting average will read .186 on the big video board the next time he steps into the box at Wrigley Field. But Ben Zobrist’s production as a leadoff hitter could make Schwarber more comfortable and settled in the No. 2 spot. And teams still have to account for Schwarber’s thunderous left-handed power (seven homers) and overall patience (25 walks and 4.22 pitches per plate appearance).

“It’s a continuous process,” Schwarber said. “I’m still going to work every day and trying to figure this thing out. I’m going to go up there every day and be confident.”

Dylan Covey injured as White Sox fall to Diamondbacks

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USA TODAY

Dylan Covey injured as White Sox fall to Diamondbacks

PHOENIX — Dylan Covey exited Tuesday’s loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks with left oblique soreness.

The short-handed White Sox won’t know until Wednesday at the earliest how long they might be without their Rule 5 starting pitcher. Covey sustained the injury in the third inning of a 5-4 loss to Arizona in front of 17,865 at Chase Field. The Diamondbacks homered twice off the right-hander, scoring four times in 2 1/3 innings. The bullpen pitched well enough to allow the White Sox to rally back but they fell just short despite the 100th home run of Jose Abreu’s career and loading the bases in the eighth inning.

Though both James Shields and Carlos Rodon are on the mend, the White Sox are already down two starting pitchers. Rodon is further along having thrown off a mound four times, including 60 pitches in a simulated game on Monday. But the White Sox don’t have a lot of depth in the farm system as they’re not willing to forgo development to fill a need in Chicago.

Covey exited the game after he recorded the first out of the third inning. He induced a ground ball and signaled the bench, which brought out manager Rick Renteria and trainer Herm Schneider. Covey, who allowed two more home runs on Tuesday, didn’t attempt to throw any warmup pitches before he exited.

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The right-hander brought an 0-3 mark and a 7.64 ERA into the contest. Paul Goldschmidt tripled in a run off Covey with one out in the first inning ahead of a two-run home run by Jake Lamb. Chris Herrmann also blasted a solo homer to left to start the second inning. Covey, who had made only six starts above Single-A before the White Sox selected him in the Rule 5 draft last December, has allowed 13 home runs in 37 2/3 innings this season.

The White Sox bullpen picked up the slack as Chris Beck, Gregory Infante, David Holmberg and Tommy Kahnle combined to allow one run over the final 5 2/3 innings.

That allowed the White Sox to work their way back into the contest. Melky Cabrera homered in the second inning to make it a two-run game. After Arizona scored in the bottom of the second, Todd Frazier’s two-run homer made it a 4-3 game in the third inning.

Abreu blasted a solo shot off Jorge De La Rosa in the eighth to get the White Sox within a run. They loaded the bases with one out but J.J. Hoover struck out Omar Narvaez and Yolmer Sanchez to maintain the one-run lead for Arizona.