C-SPAN Founder Brian Lamb, winner of the Medal of Freedom and National Humanities Medal for creating C-SPAN and filling a vacuum that inevitably would have been filled by government, but not as well, recently interviewed syndicated columnist, author and Pulitzer Prize winner George Will for the Q&A series about Will's latest baseball book, A Nice Little Place on the Northside: Wrigley Field at 100. Perhaps it should be called a booklet, since it is only 196 pages. Most of Will's dozen books are on politics, but one, Men at Work, was an especially big seller and may be considered a classic of the genre.
Baseball books can turn up almost without warning when one is browsing in a bookstore. This writer thought he had found a book about the famous British statesman Arthur Balfour, but it was actually Ball Four, by the then-active Yankee pitcher Jim Bouton.
Roughly half of the interview was about the book and the other half about Will's career as a columnist and the recent controversy about a column he wrote debunking reports of a wave of campus rape that led to his column being dropped by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The two men did not talk about their time as Senate staffers in the 1970s, with Lamb serving as press secretary to Sen. Peter Dominick, R-Colo., and Will on the staff of Sen. Gordon Allott, R-Colo. Wikipedia notes that one of Will's colleagues on the Allott staff was the late Paul Weyrich.
Weyrich was himself a journalist and one of the founders of The Heritage Foundation. This writer was working for the fledgling group in 1972 and vividly recalls Weyrich's acute dismay that the National Review had installed a liberal in its Washington office. It was George Will.
In response to Lamb's famously low-key questions, Will said he wrote the book to market the centennial of Wrigley Field and to discover what he thought about it. They discussed the legends surrounding the names of the streets in Wrigleyville. For example, Waveland Ave. is named for the fact that at high tide water would sometimes lap up against the park from Lake Michigan.
Will is an unabashed fan of the city of Chicago, as well as of the Cubs, and he and Lamb shared some of the lore of the relationship between baseball and the growing metropolis and railroad center, known locally as "Chicagoland." They discussed in some detail the circumstances surrounding the transition from the Negro leagues to stardom of Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, famous for his sunny demeanor, who coined a phrase appropriate for any nice day: "Let's play two" — in the days before someone invented the day-night double header, and one ticket bought two games.
As an outgrowth of his journalism career, Will has achieved some success on the lecture circuit. He said he enjoyed this opportunity to get out of Washington and meet people, but he did not mention incidentally that one can earn handsome fees from lecturing. This writer recalls hearing the same excellent speech twice within about eight months. The existence of such a lucrative sideline for journalists and authors raises the inevitable question, Is this a great country, or what?
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