Farewell fellow local sports fans

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By Brad Spencer

Sports Editor

It's been a good run, but the time has come. After 12-plus years, I've decided it's time that this section needs a fresh perspective, so I'm leaving Wednesday Journal. It's been a great dozen years, with many highlights, too many to fill this column but I'll try to squeeze in a few:    

Kristin Heidloff's three-pointer at the buzzer at Marshall. I nearly jumped on the celebratory pile myself. Good thing I didn't, probably would have thwarted her college career at Georgetown.

Mike Brennan's slap-blooper to right field to win the state championship for the OPRF baseball team in Joliet last season. There were also those state baseball games in Geneva in the early 2000s — took my wife to one on our first wedding anniversary, and, I think, she was delighted. She's still my wife.

The Fenwick girls basketball state title runs. Those trips down to Illinois State University's Redbird Arena were special not only because I'm a former Redbird, but the Friars were (and still are) exciting to watch.

OPRF football's overtime game against Hinsdale Central that ended with the Red Devils quarterback intentionally fumbling the ball into the end zone where his teammate fell on it to win the game. That's right, it was intentional. No doubt about it. That was a marathon of a game on a day where the weather gave samples of all four seasons.

For a story once, I worked out with Fenwick graduate and River Forest native Tricia Liston, who now stars for the Duke women's basketball team. I still ache in some places because of that workout.  

Some of the unusual events that have taken place during my time have included a triple play that ended a game on a sour note for the Fenwick baseball team. (Dave Hogan's hair became a little grayer after that). Or Mel Kolbusz's player interference call at third base (a call that had never been made in all of his coaching years). Or how OPRF baseball coach Chris Ledbetter tried desperately to save an umpire who suffered a fatal heart attack during an away game. (A couple of years later, Ledbetter did save another man who suffered a heart attack in a restaurant in Elmhurst. His number resides in the Favorites category of my iPhone. You never know when you're going to need a Ledbetter.)

This job has also had its perks. Who else can say they hung out with Meat Loaf in the Cubs dugout before a game, or that Greg Maddux stood next to them while watching a game on a flatscreen in the Cubs clubhouse? Because of this job (and Oak Parker Stephen Green, God love him), I shook Ron Santo's hand in the radio booth at Wrigley while Ron Santo was on the air!

Who else can say they watched a food fight unfold between Mike Bibby and Jared Jeffries in the Knicks locker room at the United Center? Okay, I also saw Amar'e Stoudemire in his underwear that same night, but that's an image I'd like to erase from my brain.

One non-sports assignment had me hanging out with Bruce Springsteen's drummer, Max Weinberg, in a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home in Oak Park one evening.  

It's been both a blast and a challenge covering local sports in the area. I was a young 28 when I started, newly married, no kids (have four now). I'm excited about the future of the section. I leave not angry or sad. I'm not happy to be leaving either. I'm just leaving. The time has come.  


Contact: bspencer@oakpark.com

Twitter: @oakparksports

Reader Comments

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Katy O'Grady Pyne from Bloomington, Illinois  

Posted: May 1st, 2013 2:42 PM

Good luck to you, Brad. While I haven't read all your work, what I have read has been witty and well done. Also, I want you to know that once a Redbird, always a Redbird, so just move on downstate and come see me. I have sports editor opening...

WJ fan from Oak Park  

Posted: April 11th, 2013 10:52 PM

I have always enjoyed Brad's column. I think he had a good balance between serious and fun - always entertaining.

Rory J from Oak Park/Forest Park  

Posted: April 11th, 2013 10:20 PM

Good to see you go Brad. Never a great journalist, but until recently, considered you harmless. Your fairly recent major lapse in journalistic integrity regarding privacy issues made me sick to my stomach. I can only hope you remember this at your next job and learned something from it. I understand this is your farewell column so respond if you feel the need, just please keep names and situations out of it. You owe that much.

Norma Duran from Oak Park  

Posted: April 10th, 2013 7:56 PM

Jim, Sam and I will miss reading your column and seeing your pretty face! :)

Brad Spencer Sports Editor for Wednesday Journal  

Posted: April 10th, 2013 7:38 PM

David from Oak Park: Get your facts straight, I don't giggle, I laugh. And right now I'm laughing at the fact that you waited 12 years to post a nasty comment on a column about me voluntarily leaving my job, and did it without having the fortitude of putting your name on it. Good luck to you in life.

Deb Quantock McCarey from Oak Park  

Posted: April 10th, 2013 3:43 PM

I really enjoyed working with you as my Homes.com editor, Brad. Best of luck on what comes next!

David from Oak Park  

Posted: April 10th, 2013 11:52 AM

The Wednesday Journal publishes great stories every week, but there is no doubt in my mind that this is the best Wednesday Journal story I've ever read. I can only hope that the next Sports Editor will be more concerned with accurately covering local sports, rather than writing sarcastic pieces designed only to make himself giggle at his own cleverness. Farewell, Brad, it's been a fun game of "Where's Waldo" spotting misreported facts and glaring omissions for the last 12 years.

Dan Haley from Wednesday Journal  

Posted: April 9th, 2013 11:01 AM

Brad, you've done great and you've been great to work with. Thanks for everything.

Julie from Oak Park  

Posted: April 9th, 2013 10:45 AM

Have loved your articles. You will be missed with your fun-loving coverage of our local athletes and coaches. Thanks for all the time and work.

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