Bidding season

Who'll step up to buy the Cubs, a real fixer-upper of a franchise?

The Lighter Side

The Kickoff

April 03, 2007|By Bill Ordine | Bill Ordine,Sun Reporter

It's not often that a familiar piece of Americana goes up for sale, like one of the presidents on Mount Rushmore or maybe the Lincoln Tunnel.

But with yesterday's announcement of the sale of Tribune Co. - primarily a media business that counts among its holdings this newspaper - those beloved Chicago Cubbies, poster urchins for the downtrodden, are apparently headed for eBay.

OK, so not eBay exactly. But the Cubs, who are in Tribune's portfolio along with a bunch of newspapers and TV stations, are destined for the auction block to help cover the bazillions of dollars it's costing Chicago real estate mogul Sam Zell to pull off this media buy.

With a Cubs following that is fatalistic and fanatical, there will be no shortage of hopeful buyers willing to fork over the $600 million or so it'll take to close the deal. Here's a list of contenders, a few of whom actually have been mentioned as real prospects.

Michael Jordan: His name has not come up, as far as we know, but we love the idea. For years these two Big Shoulder icons occupied Chicago's sports world in parallel dimensions, the pratfalling Cubs collecting bruises and the high-flying Jordan collecting NBA titles. Finally brought together, whose karma would prevail?

Hollywood consortium: The Cubs have attracted their share of Chicago-native celebs who go all gooey for this team. Comedian Bill Murray has surfaced in reports as an actual possible owner. But there's a whole slew of show-biz types with Windy City roots who probably would love a piece of this team, such as Second City veterans Jim Belushi and George "Da Bears" Wendt, and even Joe Mantegna and Dennis Franz, actors and co-authors of the cult play Bleacher Bums, set at Wrigley Field.

Maryland ties: Baltimore-based Under Armour, makers of that sleek, sexy sheathing worn by sleek, sexy athletes, already has purchased the rights to advertise on Wrigley's hallowed outfield walls. Founded by former Maryland football player Kevin Plank, UA is so hot and successful, these corporate young guns probably could pull off the deal. Now, if there was just a way to ship Peter Angelos out there with them. Look, it's a natural, he already has shown how well he can run a fourth-place team - just what they're used to on the North Side.

Right-wing cabal: Conservative columnist George Will, an Illinois native and baseball nut, has come up in speculative reports. While George probably would need some cash help, he probably runs around in some pretty well-heeled circles. But we wonder if a staunch conservative like Will did own the team, whether he'd actually allow a - gasp! - left fielder. Maybe if the guy didn't shade too close to the line.

Alex Rodriguez: As most baseball fans have heard by now, A-Rod would love to escape those Yankees ingrates and reunite with new Cubs manager and best bud Lou Piniella. This actually makes a lot of sense. We all know Rodriguez can afford the team and since the Cubs haven't been to a World Series in more than 60 years (and made the playoffs just four times since then), it's unlikely he'll ever have to worry about gagging in the postseason.

bill.ordine @baltsun.com

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