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Jeff Vorva's Im-PRESS-ions: When it comes to steroid suspects, I go with my gut

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

 

Jeffs Col Impressions

A guy by the name of John Bosley Ziegler died of heart failure in 1983.

He suffered from a heart disease and reportedly it was caused by experimenting with steroids.

How fitting.

This is the same guy who was a doctor in Maryland and was known as “the Godfather of Steroids” whom, legend has it, brought steroids into the American sports culture in the 1950s.

Thanks a lot, Dr. Ziegler. Not only have you helped ruin a lot of lives, you have made my Decembers a lot tougher.

After covering the Cubs for 10 straight years from 1998-2007, I was given the honor of having  a Major League Baseball Hall of Fame vote.

Every December I get a ballot and have to turn it in with a checkmark next to anywhere from zero to 10 names. For the second year in a row, I used up all 10. I voted for the four guys who made it – Craig Biggio, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz.

I also voted for Jeff Bagwell, Edgar Martinez, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling, Lee Smith and Larry Walker.

But I did not vote for numbers-worthy candidates Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.  

I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating – this is a vote and it’s up to each voter to select his or her  Hall of Famers based on their own conscience and feelings. There is no right or wrong answer. Another one of the 548 voters of 2015 may think 10 other guys should make it instead of my 10 and there isn’t a thing I can say about it.

Those hardliners who never vote for any first-time player on the ballot? I think that’s flawed reasoning but it’s their vote and their right and I respect that.

Two people this year even voted for former Cubs and Sox pitcher Tom “Flash” Gordon for God’s sake. Do I think that’s a bad choice? Yes. But the voters had their reasons.

By the way, if there was a Hall of Fame for comedic stories that couldn’t be published in the paper regarding “Flash” and cell phones, he would be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

But on to more serious matters, thanks to Dr. Ziegler.

A candidate needs to be on 75 percent of the ballots to get in and I’m not alone in not voting for Sosa (who picked up just 6.6 percent of the vote), McGwire (10 percent), Bonds (36.8 percent) and Clemens (37.5 percent).

 These guys are heavily linked to steroids even though the evidence is more circumstantial than substantial.

Piazza (69.9 percent) and Bagwell (55.7 percent) have had whispers of possible steroid use during their careers and perhaps that’s why they are not in yet.

I don’t know who did what for sure. I was once told in the early 2000s by a player that 80 percent of his peers were juicing at one point. So are 80 percent of the guys on the ballot suspects? You bet.

Are the four guys who will be inducted clean? Probably. But you never know.

I may suspect that Sosa, whom I had a great relationship with when he was with the North Siders, may have taken more than just the Flintstone Vitamins that he joked that he took but I don’t know for sure. Same with the other guys I didn’t vote for.

Meanwhile, I can’t prove Piazza or Bagwell didn’t juice up.

The answer lies in the gut. And I have a pretty big gut.

I have a gut feeling that Sosa and the boys cheated and used illegal steroids and a gut feeling that Piazza and Bagwell didn’t.

These are tough choices and tough decisions and even after I make them, I’m not 100 percent sure I did the right thing.

But that’s how it is and how it will be for several years down the line.

Thanks Dr. Ziegler.

(HEADLINE) Sports and dying

The Will County Old Timers Baseball group has a big banquet in Joliet every year and I used to go to it once in a while.

There is a tradition in which they recognize those members who died the previous year, calling it their “last turn at bat.”

To insiders, they are sincere about this tradition and these folks bow there head and then listen to someone somberly sing “My Buddy.’’

But to outsiders, calling the “last turn at bat” for a dead guy is kind of funny, corny and perhaps a little tasteless.

I see it both ways, but I’ll give the Old Timers the benefit of the doubt on this one.

That brings me to last week, when I saw a copy of the Windy City Bowling News.

This fine paper covers the Chicago bowling scene like a blanket.

But when I saw their obituary section was labelled the “Windy City Final Frame” I have to admit I laughed out loud.

Using sports metaphors and death is a delicate balance.

 

FBI says bank robbery attempts spike in early part of year

  • Written by Bob Rakow

The attempted bank robbery last Wednesday in Evergreen Park is the latest in a statistic the FBI hopes to stifle.

 

There have been 16 bank robberies in the Chicago area in 2015, the FBI reported. There were 192 reported in 2014. The record year was 2006 when 284 bank robberies were reported, the FBI said.

 

A spike in bank robberies during the winter months in fairly typical because bank robbers wearing masks and hoods don’t seem out of place, said FBI Special Agent Joan Hyde, the agency’s media coordinator.

 

The agency is continuing its investigation into the attempted robbery last Wednesday at U.S. Bank, 2917 W. 95th St.

 

The attempted robbery took place at 1:07 p.m., according to BanditTracker, an FBI-run website.

 

The armed offender was described as a black man in his early 20s who wore dark clothing and a black neoprene mask.

 

The offender displayed a handgun but left the bank without taking any cash, an FBI spokesman said.

 

The incident was described as a non-takeover attempted bank robbery in which no force was used to restrain bank employees or customers, the FBI said.

 

“We’re very interested in identifying that person,” Hyde said.

 

The attempted robbery is one of several throughout the Chicago area that the FBI is investigating. Others include:

 

  • Jan. 14, Oak Bank in Chicago;

  • Jan. 12, the First Merit Bank in Bolingbrook;

  • Jan. 10, U.S. Bank in Chicago;

  • Jan.9, Belmont Bank and Trust, in downtown Chicago;

  • Jan. 9, North Community Bank in Chicago;

  • Jan. 6, Chase Bank, North Riverside

  • Jan. 5, the First Saving Bank, Calumet City

  • Jan. 2, Bank of America, Addison

    The FBI recently arrested suspects in the Belmont Bank and Trust and Chase Bank, Riverside branch, robberies, Hyde said.

    First American Bank in Evergreen Park was robbed in September 2012 when a man walked into the branch, 3221 W. 87th St., pulled out a steel revolver and demanded money, the FBI said.

    He made off with an undisclosed amount of cash.

    Anyone with information about the any of the robberies is asked to call the FBI’s Chicago office at 312-421-6700.

 

 

Rauner’s decision a hit with Bennett

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Page-1--bennett-hit

 

The local face of opposition to the proposed Illiana tollway received some vindication last week when Gov. Bruce Rauner put the brakes on the project.

Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett, the chairman of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), has long opposed the tollway and took a fair amount of grief last year when he described it as “a road to nowhere.”

That caused the local mayor to take some heat in some circles in Will County and Rauner’s decision helped take him off the hook. He may still be the bad guy to Illiana supporters, but they can now take their frustrations out on Rauner.

Suspending the planning and development of major interstate construction projects was Ruaner’s first act after taking office last week.

Rauner also named Randy Blankenhorn, executive director of CMAP, to lead the Illinois Department of Transportation. Blankenhorn, like Bennett, has long been critical of the Illiana project

Bennett stopped short last week of saying he felt vindicated by Rauner’s decision, but believed the new governor made the right call.

“Governor (Quinn) was determined to push this through,” Bennett said. “I think this project was pushed through politically.”

A Joliet newspaper editorial last year chided Bennett for describing Will County as a “wasteland” and opposing the tollway.

“Palos isn’t so far off from Nowhere Land, either. And surely as president of the Illinois Municipal League, Bennett must have ventured through other parts of the state settled after Lewis and Clark took off,” the paper said.

It added that Bennett, who attended Lewis University in Romeoville, should have been “more well-rounded and take into account the possibility (that) another east-west route through an already busy intersection of two cross-country interstates just might help.”

“CMAP officials have staunchly stuck to their parochial ways of protecting funds for their own projects with little regard for an area for which they have little regard,” the newspaper said.

But Bennett said CMAP had several reasons for opposing the plan, among them cost and a lack of advantages for the region.

“Let’s make sure we build a road that is going to have some impact,” Bennett said.

He added that CMAP seriously doubted that the project, which was described a public-private partnership, would pay for itself. The more likely scenario would find taxpayers holding the bag, especially if estimated toll revenue did not meet expectations, he said.

The proposed 47-mile expressway between Illinois and Indiana was designed to provide an east-west link from Interstate 65 from near Lowell, Indiana, to Interstate 55 near Wilmington in Illinois. The cost of the roadway was estimated at $1.5 billion.

Meanwhile, the estimated cost of the interchange connecting the Tri-State Tollway (Interstate 294) and I-57 in the southwest suburbs is $719 million, Bennett said. That project has a greater impact on the area, he said.

“All the facts (indicated) that the proposal should not be considered as a capital project for the region. It’s in southern Will County,” said Bennett, adding that federal and state transportation funds are limited.

CMAP studies have indicated that tollway would have little impact on nearby highways, reducing by only 10 percent the number of the cars that travel on I-80/94.

Bennett was careful to point out that Rauner’s decision to suspended planning and development of the major interstates does not necessarily kill the Illiana project.

“Nobody has said it’s completely over,” Bennett said.

 

Woman accused of bilking Palos Hills senior out of $631K

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Police expect federal charges to be filed against a Joliet woman who allegedly bilked an elderly Palos Hills senior out of $631,000.

 

The woman, Marion Issert, 65, was arrested last Wednesday by Palos Hills police and charged with one count of senior financial exploitation, a Class A felony.

 

Issert, who served as the elderly woman’s live in caregiver, reportedly was working with two other individuals, both who police believe fled to the Philippines. They are being treated as persons of interest, Palos Hills Police Chief Paul Madigan said.

 

“We don’t know the level of involvement they had in this,” he said last Thursday at a press conference.

 

Police believe one of the two individuals introduced Issert to the victim as a caretaker, he said.

 

Police are asking the Cook County State’s Attorney to issue warrants for their arrest before contacting the State Department and Interpol in an effort to locate them, Madigan said.

 

Bond for Issert was set at $500,000. She is being held at Cook County Jail and is scheduled to appear in Bridgeview court on Feb. 5.

 

Meanwhile, police continue their investigation.

 

“We are researching other things that they may have done and others acts that they may have committed, and we anticipate more charges at a later date,” Madigan said.

 

“There were some Social Security checks that were signed by this woman and cashed, and that money was diverted to these other people as well. I would think there are going to be some federal charges as well as we develop this,” he said.

 

Issert’s arrest came about three months after Palos Hills police received information from the Plows Council on Aging about a possible financial scam involving an elderly woman from Palos Hills. Plows was notified of the activity of suspicious activity by Bank of America, Madigan said.

 

Police subsequently worked with Plows and Cook County Public Guardian and put a lock on the victim’s accounts, Madigan said.

 

Working with Plows and the Cook County Financial Crimes Unit, police identified the two banks where the offenders deposited the money. The accounts were frozen, Madigan said.

 

“What we found was that in the course of about two months the caregiver along with two other people had taken this elderly woman to a few different banks where she had accounts and they transferred $630,000 out of this woman’s accounts,” Madigan said. “It’s kind of amazing that this amount of money was allowed to be transferred out of this woman’s accounts. I’ve never seen anything like this.”

 

On one occasion, $317,000 was transferred out of the woman’s account. Other transferred amounts included: $39,000, $35,000, $15,000 and $202,000, Madigan said. Police have recovered all but $88,000 of the victim’s money, he said.

 

“There was some information that they were trying to get the woman to donate all this money to a Filipino church group. The woman did not want to do that and told them so.”

 

‘Water is gold’

  • Written by Michael Gilbert

But taxpayers have to come up with that gold in Palos Hills

The cost of water for Palos Hills residents has gone up nearly 100 percent in the last five years.
That sobering fact came from Mayor Gerald Bennett at the City Council meeting last Thursday – the same meeting that during which Alderman Frank Williams (5th Ward) confirmed there was another double-digit percent increase coming to residents in 2015.
“When we warned about [the spike in water costs] five years ago, I used the term ‘water is gold’ and it’s certainly moving in that direction,” Bennett said. “In tallying, over the last five years there has been an increase of $1 million in purchasing consumption by residents of the City of Palos Hills.”
The climb in water rates is a trickle-down effect that starts with the City of Chicago. Palos Hills and 12 other nearby municipalities receive water from Oak Lawn via Chicago. Roughly five years ago Chicago announced it was going to increase its cost to Oak Lawn to pay for repairs to its water system. Oak Lawn had to pass along those rate increases to its clients as well as impose its own increase to help pay for a $180 million overhaul to its own water system. Palos Hills then tacks on a small increase to its residents to cover operational and maintenance costs, Bennett said.
The minimum monthly water bill for a Palos Hills resident in 2015 is $55.95, which translates to $34.88 for the first 4,000 gallons used as well as $11.50 for sanitary sewer service and $9.57 for general capital improvement, Williams said. The cost of a minimum water bill in Palos Hills is $3.18 more than last year, Williams noted.
The overall percent increase from last year is around 10 percent, which is actually less than the 15 percent to 17 percent city officials were expecting back in the fall. Oak Lawn decided to use a new rate model that basis the increase on the proximity of its clients, Williams said. Communities further south of Oak Lawn will see a larger increase, he said.
Palos Hills residents are charged for a minimum of 4,000 gallons whether used or not. Bennett said this is done to cover the operational costs of the water system.
“People sometimes think all they pay for is when they turn it on and water is coming out, but there are water lines that need to be maintained,” Bennett said. “When you turn on the water it has to go somewhere so we charge a minimum to cover our operational costs.”
The good news is that after this year residents aren’t expected to see a double-digit increase for the foreseeable future. Bennett said Chicago has already stated its increase will be based on the consumer price index and then Oak Lawn will pass along a minor charge making the increase around 4 percent for 2016.
In other news, Alderman Ricky Moore (4th Ward) warned residents of a phone scam in which the caller identities himself as a ComEd employee and claims the residents’ electric service will be disconnected unless the payment is made.
“These impersonators instruct customers to buy a prepaid credit card and call back to a different phone number with the personal identification number or other personal information,” Moore said. “Remember that ComEd representatives will never call you to ask you for cash or request that you purchase a prepaid credit card to make a payment on your bill.”
Moore said scammers are even using a tactic called “Caller ID spoofing” to manipulate the displayed phone number so that it appears as a different number.
“Your display can say Bank of America or Internal Revenue Service but don’t believe it,” Moore said. “The display [number] is not hard to change.”
Bennett said the city puts information on the latest scams on its website, but often that is not enough to thwart con artists.
“We will continue providing the information as best we can but people have got to be aware,” Bennett said.
“These scams are just crazy – they are off the chart,” Moore added. “Whether it be email or phone the key term is ‘be aware.’ No valid institution will call you to ask your personal or sensitive information over the phone. If you get a phone and they do then that is your first red flag that it is a scam.”
Moore said anyone who believes they received a phone call matching that description should visit Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s website at www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov for more information.