5 Questions with...WGN Radio's Mike McConnell


5 Questions with...WGN Radio's Mike McConnell

CSN Chicago Senior Director of CommunicationsCSNChicago.com Contributor

Want to know more about your favorite Chicago media celebrities? CSNChicago.com has your fix as we put the city's most popular personalities on the spot with everyone's favorite local celeb feature entitled 5 Questions with...

On Wednesdays, exclusively on CSNChicago.com, its our turn to grill the local media and other local VIPs with five random sports and non-sports related questions that will definitely be of interest to old and new fans alike.

This weeks guest ... a standout talk radio veteran whose vast knowledge of politics, pop culture, sports, and numerous topical issues affecting not only the city of the Chicago, but the entire country, has quickly made him a must-listen during his brief, two-year stint on WGN Radio 720 ... he's a man with an opinion who has no problem disagreeing with you on just about anything ... thankfully, he agreed to be a part of 5 Questions with ... MIKE McCONNELL!

BIO: Mike McConnell joined WGN Radio in August 2010 and can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

McConnell previously hosted middays for WLW-AM 700 in Cincinnati, one of the country's most respected radio stations, for 25 years. He also hosted the nationally syndicated "Weekend with Mike McConnell" for seven years. Known for his quick wit and common-sense approach to discussions, his show features a broad range of topics from in the news social issues to the oddities of everyday life. "I play it down the middle. If you're too far on one side of the middle, you're missing half the show," says McConnell of his style.

McConnell grew up outside of Philadelphia and attended the University of Dayton before starting his radio career in Cincinnati.

He enjoys everything there is to do in the great outdoors along with looking things up and being right all the time.

1) CSNChicago.com: Mike, you're coming up on your two-year anniversary at WGN Radio after spending 25 at WLW-AM in Cincinnati and were glad you're here! Now that you've been in Chicago a couple of years, what is the one thing about our city that has been a pleasant surprise to you ... and the one thing that has disappointed you?


Positive surprise about Chicago

I'd been to Chicago about a dozen times, mainly to watch baseball, so I didn't pay much attention to the where and how people live. So when you're thinking about moving, I thought my choices were high rise vs. suburbs. I'm not much of a high-rise guy and I don't like a commute. So the neighborhood situation is probably the most pleasant surprise. I have a 10-minute commute to downtown from Lincoln Park. And then there are all the other neighborhoods with their own unique attractions and quirks that are worth checking out.

Down side of Chicago

I have restaurants across the alley from where I live and I'm sure their dumpsters smell great. If I was a rat, I'd want to live in my backyard too. The city has worked hard to stay ahead of the problem, but I think it's a losing battle. I've looked at buying my own rat traps but my rats would just wear them like a necklace.

2) CSNChicago.com: It looks like the City Council will be moving forward to approve Mayor Rahm Emanuel's proposal to partially decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Good move? Bad move? Your thoughts

McConnell: Good move. I don't think people stop to think how being busted for small amounts of drugs can drastically change someone's future. The President has admitted he's smoked pot and snorted coke when he was young. If he'd been busted like the 18,000 Chicagoans who are each year, would he be President of the U.S. today? No. Would he have been a Senator from Illinois? No. Would he have been admitted to Harvard? I don't know. But the point is we've been drastically altering people's futures over youthful indiscretions for far too long.

3) CSNChicago.com: You recently went on a tour of Wrigley Field with WGN Radio contest winners. What was that experience like for you personally and, from what you witnessed, what is your opinion on if major renovations are actually needed to keep this historic landmark going strong for years to come?

McConnell: I've done the tour at least three times. Twice with friends from out of town. And I recommend it for any baseball fan, not just a Cubs fan. I've watched Cubs baseball on WGN since I first got cable in the early 80s. There's always that thrill of seeing something in person for the first time that you've seen on television for years. And having a chance to sing 'Take Me Out to the Ballgame" was maybe the highlight of my sports fan life.

I'm no architect, but fans have come to expect more amenities than Wrigley Field provides today. The old scoreboard has to stay, but traditionalists have to allow for more electronic signage elsewhere. Update and expand the restrooms, and add a restaurant somehow. If you do the tour, you'll be amazed at what visiting teams get for a locker room. It's pretty much a closet. And the fact that the Bears played there all those years, and visiting NFL teams used the same room, leaves you wondering how everyone on the roster fit inside. They must have changed in shifts. The average fan won't care much for the quality of the luxury suites, but I've been in a few around the league and they don't measure up either. They're not even half the size on average, and don't have restrooms. And lastly, the Cubs have to figure out how they can sell more signage without messing with the rooftop experience. The rooftops are a larger part of the Wrigley atmosphere than perhaps the Cubs would want to believe.

4) CSNChicago.com: As an avid book reader, what are your top can't-miss suggestions you can pass along to us for a good summer read this year?

McConnell: Not to dodge a question, but I read so much for work that I don't have much time for leisurely reading. Last week, I had three books to read along with my usual prep work. So it gets to be that a day I don't have to read is like a day off.

For me, the summer is for getting outside, playing golf, soaking in the sun, watching a ballgame or 10. Doing all those things you wish you could do from October to May. Watch something mindless on TV like "Wipeout." Drink beer on a sidewalk. Hit the festivals. Go to the beach. Ride a bike, take a walk. I could write a book about killing time in the summer. The last book I read for pleasure was Michael Crichton's "Timeline." It's about time travel back to the middle ages, and the book was a lot better than the movie.

5) CSNChicago.com: Your bio states your love for the great outdoors ... what was your most memorable outdoors experience ever and what was it that made it so special to you?

McConnell: For an adrenaline rush in the great outdoors, it's hard to beat white water rafting. A favorite spot for me is the Gauley River in West Virginia. I've done it about 10 times. Nothing beats putting your raft in at the base of the dam at 7 in the morning with torrents of water coming through the base of the dam, setting up the best rapids this side of the Colorado River. I've been dumped out of a raft on two occasions. You feel like a sock in the washer and gain a whole new appreciation for water and nature. If you have half a mind to try it, look up my friends 'the Rivermen' -- fantastic guides and accommodations.

Less stressful, but the most spectacular natural setting I've seen is Machu Picchu in Peru. I went about three years ago. You can hike all or part of the Inca Trail -- tough at high altitude. And climbed Huayna Picchu (if you Google a photo of Machu Picchu, it's the tall peak that's always shown in the background) -- its the greatest view on earth.

McConnell LINKS:

WGN Radio 720 official Mike McConnell page

Mike McConnell on Facebook

Mike McConnell on Twitter

In Game 1, Jon Lester doesn't quite live up to his World Series reputation: 'We got a long ways to go'

In Game 1, Jon Lester doesn't quite live up to his World Series reputation: 'We got a long ways to go'

CLEVELAND – While the Cubs came into this World Series as the heavy favorites, the team with the global following and baseball’s best roster on paper, Jon Lester understood the challenge ahead. The Cleveland Indians would counter with their own Game 1 ace, a dynamic reliever changing the way we think about bullpens and a future Hall of Fame manager.

That’s how it played out in a 6-0 game that felt a lot closer, Corey Kluber pitching like a Cy Young Award winner, Andrew Miller handling the seventh and eighth innings and Terry Francona improving his record to 9-0 in World Series games.     

Welcome to “Believeland,” where the Fourth Street bars on Tuesday were buzzing more than seven hours before first pitch. That night, LeBron James and the Cavaliers would get their championship rings and watch the banner-raising ceremony at Quicken Loans Arena, just up the street from Progressive Field.

By the first inning – when pitching coach Chris Bosio had to walk out to the mound to talk to Lester – the red video ribbons lining the stadium said: “CLEVELAND AGAINST THE WORLD.” With the bases loaded, Lester had just drilled Brandon Guyer with a pitch, forcing in a second run, a sequence set in motion by walks to Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana and Jose Ramirez’s soft infield single up the third-base line.

It didn’t matter that Lester would eventually settle down and pretty much control this Cleveland lineup. (Except for that rocket Roberto Perez launched off the left-field railing for a solo homer and a 3-0 lead in the fourth inning.) Or that the Indians didn’t run all over the bases, with Francisco Lindor going 1-for-2 in stolen bases. (“Whatever, it’s happened all year," Lester said.)

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This is Cleveland’s blueprint for October, maybe its only chance to win its first World Series since 1948.

“It’s always important (to get a lead), no matter what time of year it is,” Lester said. “It makes a manager’s job a lot easier. It makes your job a lot easier. When you give a guy like Kluber – who’s locked in from pitch one – two runs in the first, it makes his job a lot easier. I know the feeling on the other side. You’re just able to attack differently.

“With the bullpens and all that stuff that they’re setting up nowadays, all you got to do is get through six.”

Lester kept it a 3-0 game, but didn’t finish the sixth inning, a rare October night where he didn’t seem to be automatic. Until Tuesday night, he had gone 3-0 in three World Series starts, allowing only one earned run in 21 innings.

Lester won his two World Series rings with the Boston Red Sox, overlapping with Francona and Miller at different points. This is why the Cubs gave Lester a $155 million contract, to set the tone on the mound and within the clubhouse.

Near the end of a 103-win regular season – and even after winning the franchise’s first pennant in 71 years – Lester has offered colorful versions of: We haven’t done anything yet.

But Lester – the National League Championship Series co-MVP after putting up a 1.38 ERA against the Los Angeles Dodgers and watching the Cubs win both of those starts – also doesn’t do overreactions to losses.

“We got a long ways to go,” Lester said. “If we win tomorrow, we’re right back in it. Just like LA – everybody counted us out after Game 3. They said we were the worst best team in baseball. We’re here. We’re not giving up.

“I know my guys. I know my team. And I know that nobody in this clubhouse is giving anything up.”

Andrew Miller's outstanding postseason continues with escape to beat Cubs

Andrew Miller's outstanding postseason continues with escape to beat Cubs

CLEVELAND — Andrew Miller added another impressive chapter to an already legendary postseason performance on Tuesday night.

The Cleveland Indians reliever pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the seventh inning to preserve a three-run lead and help his team achieve a 6-0 victory over the Cubs in Game 1 of the World Series in front of 38,091 at Progressive Field.

Despite putting four men on base, Miller added two more scoreless innings to his 2016 playoff résumé. Miller also struck out more three batters, giving him 24 in 13 2/3 innings this postseason, the second most by any reliever in playoff history. Critical to the effort was the strikeout of Cubs veteran David Ross with a checked swing on a 3-2 slider to strand the bases loaded in the seventh.

“You’re just trying to see the ball as long as you can and stay up the middle,” Ross said. “The 3-1, that’s the one that kinda messed me up. It didn’t break as much, so now you’re like ‘OK, let’s protect and just battle.’ ... Looking back at it, I wish I just stood there and not swung at all. If I could rewind. If it were that easy. I wish it was. And then he’d throw one right down the middle and America hates me.”

Ross has had his share of success against Miller before, though it all came when the left-hander was still a struggling starting pitcher. The veteran catcher is 3-for-5 with a walk against Miller in his career. But that wasn’t the reason Cubs manager Joe Maddon opted to stay with Ross instead of pinch hit for him with either Jorge Soler or Albert Almora Jr. with two outs in the seventh inning and Miller struggling for the first time all postseason.

With a man on and nobody out, Miller took over for Corey Kluber and walked Kyle Schwarber — only Miller’s third free pass of the postseason. Javy Baez followed with a single to load the bases.

But Miller rebounded quickly and retired Willson Contreras on a fly out to shallow center before he struck out Addison Russell. Based on his experience, Maddon thought Ross was the right man for the spot.

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“I thought David could hit him or David would accept his walk more than the other guys,” Maddon said. “David works good at-bats in that moment. So I felt good about him, actually. I felt better about him.

“I think with Soler coming off the bench or Albert they had less of a chance than David because I thought there was a two-fold opportunity to either get the hit or draw the walk.”

Ross worked the count to his favor quickly as he took a fastball for a ball, and after swinging and missing a slider, took two more balls to get ahead 3-1. But Miller dropped a slider in for a called strike and then turned to it once again, getting Ross to commit just enough for the third strike. The strikeout improved the Indians’ chances of winning by 26.5 percent, up to 94.7, according to fangraphs.com.

“I was trying to throw a really good one because if he hits it, it goes a long way,” Miller said. “That’s David Ross. I think even he would say, you can pitch to him, but if you throw something in his wheelhouse it’s going to go a long way and do some damage. Fortunate that it worked out. I threw a good one that was in a spot that he went after in the situation.”

Miller struggled again in the eighth inning as he walked Kris Bryant and allowed a Ben Zobrist single with two outs. But Miller — who allowed two hits and two walks for the first time all season in 77 appearances — struck out Kyle Schwarber to strand the pair.

The Indians’ key acquisition before the July 31 trade deadline threw 46 pitches, the most he’s thrown in a game since Sept. 8, 2011, when he was still a starter.

Indians manager Terry Francona wouldn’t commit to whether or not he’d use Miller in Game 2 on Wednesday. Francona cited how Miller bounced back after throwing 40 pitches in a Game 1 victory over Boston in the American League Division Series and would have been ready if needed. But any number of factors could keep Miller from pitching, and Francona is happy to have a 1-0 series lead in his pocket.

“I don’t know,” Francona said. “He was ready to come back and pitch the next night. I just think there’s a lot that can happen.

“But we won tonight. I think when you have a lead, you try to win.”