“Welcome to Chicago. You’re with the Tribune now”
Linda Kay, associate professor and former chair of the Department of Journalism, has been named 2013’s Woman of Distinction in Communications by the Montreal Women’s Y Foundation. Kay’s 20-year career as a journalist — she was the Chicago Tribune’s first female sports writer — led to her appointment at Concordia in 2001. She accepted her Woman of Distinction award on September 30, in a ceremony at the Palais des congrès.
The late Charles O. Finley, owner of the Oakland As major-league baseball team, lived in Chicago when I met him in 1980, and employed a chauffeur named Howard.
Charlie O — the O stood for Oscar, but critics swore it stood for Owner — built a friendship over the years with longtime Chicago Tribune sportswriter David Condon, a gifted journalist, spellbinding raconteur and noted prankster. Condon once dressed up as Morganna, the Kissing Bandit, and jumped onto the field at a White Sox game.
On my first day of work at the Chicago Tribune, where I’d been hired as the paper’s first female sports writer, Condon glared at me over his bifocals as he chomped on an unlit cigar. He wasn’t happy with my laid-back attire.I’d moved to Chicago from San Diego, where I’d been the first woman to write sports at a newspaper there, and I was wearing pink pants and a pastel blouse. “That doesn’t go at the Tribune,” Condon told me flatly.
We were teamed up to investigate a grading scandal in collegiate athletics. He was wearing a dark suit, a tie and a white dress shirt. My outfit didn’t measure up. Nevertheless, Condon informed me that we had a pending luncheon appointment and that we were leaving immediately. The chauffeur was waiting.
“The chauffeur?” I asked. Did I hear that correctly? I’d just left a newspaper where Ford Pintos were at staff disposal.
“You’re with the Tribune now,” Condon answered tersely.
Indeed, a chauffeured limousine sat outside the majestic Tribune building on Michigan Avenue. Condon said a curt hello to the driver, a distinguished-looking man in a livery cap, and muttered our destination. Soon we arrived at a restaurant just around the corner. Apparently being chauffeured even a short distance was part of the deal at the Tribune.
I made a move to open the car door, but Condon signaled for me to wait. The chauffeur dashed out and pulled something from the trunk, then opened my door with a flourish. I stepped out onto a red carpet.
Charlie O. Finley’s chauffeur, Howard, and Finley’s sidekick, Condon, kept a straight face as they walked slowly behind me right up to the restaurant door, where my new colleagues in the sports department watched the scene from the window, laughing to the point of tears. “Welcome to Chicago,” I said to myself. “You’re with the Tribune now.”
Due to the graciousness of Condon, an established journalist who became my mentor, my first day at the Tribune could not have been more memorable. In short order, he introduced me not only to Finley, but made certain that I met Bill Veeck, George Halas and Arthur Wirtz — owners, respectively, of the White Sox, Bears, Blackhawks and Bulls.
Through this largesse, I got to know the legendary builders of Chicago sport. Condon wanted me to understand where it all started. He wanted me to have a solid foundation for my reporting. He wanted to transmit a precious body of knowledge to another generation.
His example followed me to Concordia, where as teachers, we play much the same role that Condon played for me. We attempt to provide our students with context, depth, texture and passion. We transmit a body of knowledge that we feel is precious. We serve as guides and often as mentors.
And, if we are fortunate, we sometimes leave a lasting impression.