'Unbelievably pleasant': Former Sox pitcher and EP resident Pierce fondly remembered

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


PAGE-1-Pierce Billy-02-copy

Photo courtesy of the White Sox, inset photo by Jeff Vorva

Former Evergreen Park resident Billy Pierce died Friday at age 88. Pierce’s number was retired in 1987 (inset). 




There are so many people who remember White Sox pitching legend Billy Pierce as a “great guy.’’

After he retired from baseball in 1964, the former longtime Evergreen Park resident became an ambassador for baseball and the White Sox. He showed up at so many functions and seemingly always had a smile and nice things to say to everyone he met at these affairs.

Let’s face it, it’s easy to be a “great guy” at some Hot Stove league events or banquets in which everyone is having a good time and talking about the sport they love. But if they can still be that nice on days when most men to punch a wall or kick the dog…

Pierce died on Friday in Palos Heights and later that day, Oak Lawn’s Ed McElroy, who was a radio announcer in the 1950s when Pierce and the “Go-Go” White Sox were hugely popular in Chicago, remembered a time when the lefthander had a chance to be anything but a great guy.

“The Sunday before the Sox were trying to win the pennant (in 1959) he pitched and got knocked all over the place,” McElroy said. ‘’I got a call at 10 that night about a kid who was so sick, they didn’t think he would live until Christmas and wondered if there was something we could do for him.

“I called Billy at 10:15. I told him the story. This is hours after he got killed at the ballpark that day. He said “I’ll see you there tomorrow.’ That’s Billy Pierce, you know what I mean? You don’t call a guy who gets knocked around like that, but you call Billy Pierce. He was just a beautiful person. He was unbelievably pleasant.’’

Pierce died at age 88 of gallbladder cancer and he spent 18 years in the major leagues. He was with the Sox from 1949-61.

He was one of three Chicago baseball legends to die in 2015. Sox great Minnie Minoso and Cubs legend Ernie Banks also passed this year. Banks died Jan. 23 and Minoso died on March 1.

Pierce had a career mark of 211-169 with a 3.27 ERA, He threw 193 complete games including 38 shutouts and notched 1,999 strikeouts.

But around here, he was known for more than just numbers.

“Billy lived in Evergreen Park for many years, his home was about a block from the Little League Baseball Field,’’ John Halverson of Bradley wrote on “I…remember when a kid would knock on his door and ask Billy to give him a few pointers on pitching and Billy would always come out and help him. He was always helping out whatever way he could for the Shriners Hospital for Children. What a man.’’

The Sox retired his number, 19, in 1987 but he has not been inducted into the Hall of Fame. In 2014, the Hall of Fame’s Golden Era Committee reviewed his case but did not let him in.

Another Evergreen Park native, former major league pitcher and current White Sox radio announcer Ed Farmer, said Saturday during a pregame show that Pierce is HOF material.

“He embodied a Hall of Famer both on the field and off the field,” Farmer said. “He was the same man now as the man I met when I was 16 and you don’t see that very often.’’

Pierce, whose actual name was Walter William Pierce, is survived by his wife, Gloria (nee McCreadie) and children William Pierce, Patricia Crowley and Robert Pierce.

He was a longtime parishioner of Evergreen Park Presbyterian Church and a 33rd Degree Mason of Evergreen Park Lodge.

Visitation was scheduled for Tuesday at the Blake-Lamb Funeral Home in Oak Lawn Oak Lawn while a private funeral service for family and close friends was scheduled to be held Wednesday at Evergreen Park Presbyterian Church with the entombment at Chapel Hill Gardens South Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made in memoriam of Bill Pierce's name to the Chicago Baseball Cancer Charities, P.O. Box 2865, Glenview, IL 60025.


Chicago Ridge shaved ice business no longer on ice

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

The guy who sells shaved ice said he ate some humble pie but hopes his troubles with the Chicago Ridge Village Board are behind him.

Kevin Wright received approval from the board in July to add a gazebo with seating to his Sensational Snow business, a seasonal shaved ice business he has been operating out of a house-shaped trailer at 10600 S. Ridgeland Ave. for about four years.

But it may have been a case of “be careful what you wish for” because after that request led to a background check that turned up delinquent tax issues, the village suspended his business for nearly two weeks.  

Wright addressed the issue at the village board meeting on Tuesday, insisting that he is now in compliance. Hearing that, the trustees agreed by a 4-2 vote to give him a temporary license allowing him to reopen for the rest of this season, with the stipulation that he does not add the gazebo until they confirm his information and resolve other questions that they have about the business.

Village Clerk George Schleyer said an investigation into the history of the business following the expansion request found that Wright had not paid the village’s one-percent food and beverage tax since it was instituted in 2013. 

Schleyer said that it was also determined at a hearing that “no sales tax (had) been paid to the state of Illinois. The state didn’t even know he was in business because Wright’s tax ID number had been withdrawn.”

The clerk said that he decided then that the best thing to do would be to suspend his business license.

“(Having a problem with taxes) is a first for me, personally or professionally,” said Wright. “I am sincerely sorry. I never meant to avoid paying taxes. This is the biggest piece of humble pie I have ever eaten,” he added, adding that he cleared up the matter within 48 hours of being informed about the issue.

He said that when he opened his business, he allowed a friend, rather than a professional accountant, to do his taxes, and each year afterward just followed his lead.

“I did not even know that a food and beverage tax had even been instituted,” he said. Since it was brought to his attention on July 21, he and Schleyer went over his revenue records and determined that he owed the village a grand total of $243 in back taxes.

“You kept track of your sales during that time?,” asked Mayor Chuck Tokar.

Wright said he also met with officials from the Illinois Department of Revenue, and settled that debt as well. He would not say exactly how much sales tax he owed, but Schleyer told the board he had received documentation from the state that he was now in compliance.

“I’m going to have to learn a lot more about taxes. I’m an engineer by trade,” said Wright, a Chicago Ridge native now living in Schaumburg.

He said he also had not realized that the state had withdrawn or cancelled his tax ID number because no sales taxes were being collected.

Several trustees raised other issues about the business at the meeting, including its exact address, because it is located in the parking lot of a commercial strip.  Wright said his lease agreement lists 10600 S. Ridgeland as his address, but Trustee Amanda Cardin said she wants to check that with the property owner. Trustee Frances Coglianese also questioned how he can have an address without being located in a building.

 Village Attorney Burt Odelson said that since the tax debt, the reason for the license suspension, had now been paid, the board might run into legal trouble if the suspension was not lifted.

Therefore, at Cardin’s request, Wright’s business license was reissued on a temporary basis while the other issues were resolved. The vote was approved by a 4-2 margin, with Bruce Quintos and Frances Coglianese casting the two dissenting votes.

Wright said he has had to put the plans for the gazebo on hold while sorting out the tax issues, and the temporary license stipulates that his gazebo plans remain on hold until the trustees are satisfied that everything is in order.

When Wright questioned wondered why he was being questioned so thoroughly now, after being in business for years, several trustees reminded him that many of them weren’t on the board when he was originally given the license, and they are just doing their “due diligence.”

“You’re the one who brought the expansion request to us,” Tokar reminded him.

“This was all over a $243 debt,” said Wright after the meeting, asserting that he has lost employees and $1,500 in business during the last two weeks while the shaved ice stand was closed.

“I’ve lost a lot,” he said.

Mayor to help oversee $1.7 billion highway project

  • Written by Dermot Connolly


Photo by Jeff Vorva

Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar will have a hand in decisions on a $1.7 billion highway project.

Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar has been selected to serve on the newly formed Central Tri-State Tollway (Interstate 294) Corridor Planning Council, which will have a voice in a $1.7 billion reconstruction project for the section of I-294 between 95th Street in Oak Lawn and Balmoral Avenue in Rosemont.

    Justice Mayor Kris Wasowicz was also named on July 23 to the 33-member advisory board, which is scheduled to meet for the first time at 10 a.m. Friday, Aug. 14, in Room 219 of Illinois Tollway headquarters, 2700 Ogden Ave., Downers Grove.

Tollway officials said in a press release that the advisory board will “provide public input and guidance” as a master plan is drawn up for the I-294 reconstruction project, part of Move Illinois, the Tollway’s 15-year, $12 billion capital program.

    “I was pleased and honored to be asked to serve on it by Palos Hills Mayor Jerry Bennett (president of the Southwest Suburban Conference of Mayors),” said Tokar, noting the close proximity of I-294 to his village. As of early last week, he did not have an agenda for the first meeting, but said he was looking forward to being at it.

    “The Central Tri-State Tollway plays a critical role in the Illinois Tollway system and the regional transportation network, so input from the public and the communities we serve will be an important part of our planning process,” said Illinois Tollway Executive Director Greg Bedalov in a statement. “Working together, we have an opportunity to implement innovative solutions that address travel demand for decades to come while also helping to stimulate economic development and serving local communities’ needs.”

Nearly 22 miles long, the Central Tri-State Tollway Corridor is one of the busiest and most complex segments of the 286-mile Tollway system, serving up to 185,000 daily vehicles. In addition to being a main route to O’Hare International Airport, it connects five other interstates–the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90), I-190, the Reagan Memorial Tollway (I-88), the Eisenhower Expressway (I-290) and the Stevenson Expressway (I-55).

    According to the Tollway Authority, the Move Illinois Program currently includes $1.7 billion for the Central Tri-State Tollway Project, with advance work tentatively set to begin as early as 2018 and reconstruction scheduled for 2020-2022. In addition to planning for roadway reconstruction, the master planning process will allow the Illinois Tollway to consider improvements to several major bridges and local interchanges, accommodations for commercial vehicles and transit, as well as explore the addition of active traffic management similar to the eastern segment of the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90) Rebuilding and Widening Project.

Tollway officials said the Corridor Planning Council is expected to help develop a common understanding of the issues and concerns that should be considered as the Illinois Tollway undertakes this reconstruction project.

 Therefore, in addition to mayors from Cook and DuPage counties, the Council membership will include railroad and trucking industry officials, tollway representatives, and leaders of business organizations, such as Donna Smith, executive director of the Bedford Park-Clearing Industrial Association.

    Move Illinois, the Illinois Tollway's 15-year, $12 billion capital program, is aimed at improving mobility, reducing congestion and pollution, and creating as many as 120,000 jobs in the Midwest.

    Other Move Illinois projects include rebuilding and widening the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90), constructing a new interchange to connect I-294 to I-57, building a new, all-electronic Elgin O’Hare western access, and funding planning studies for other emerging projects. 

Biss and vinegar toward Bruce

  • Written by Dermot Connolly



Photo by Dermot Connolly

State Representative Mary Flowers and Senator Daniel Biss, at the CEDA office in Oak Lawn, criticized moves by Gov. Rauner that they say are hurting women and children.


               "A new low."


                Those are a couple of sharp descriptions a state senator called Gov. Bruce Rauner's actions to hold up funds that could affect mother's and children.

Two state legislators, with Community and Economic Development Association of Cook County  officials and local families spoke at a press conference at the CEDA/Women Infants and Children food progam office in Oak Lawn on July 31 about the importance of restoring funding to the programs that parents and young children depend on.

Margaret Saunders, who oversees the WIC program, said 48,000 mothers and children depend on the WIC vouchers for milk, cereal, peanut butter, bread and other healthy staples. She said that although the program for low-income mothers and children up to four years old is federally funded, it has become a pawn in the wrangling over the state budget crisis in Springfield because the program is coordinated through state agencies.

While the officials said the money being held up to run the program amounts to about $26 million, Saunders said that studies have shown that the WIC program has actually saved the state much more than that in healthcare costs because WIC families maintain their health better.

“We’re talking about a new low here,” said state Sen. Daniel Biss (D-9th). “Literally the care for almost 50,000 women and children is being put in jeopardy. “It is unconscionable that this program will have to begin winding down if legislation is not passed (this week) to keep it open.”

“The human consequences of the stalemate are beyond debate,” he added.

“This is not costing the state of Illinois a penny,” said state Rep. Mary Flowers (D-31st), in whose district Oak Lawn CEDA/WIC office is located. “In fact, it is adding money to the state,” she said, asserting that the program generates $125,000 a week for stores and other businesses where WIC families shop.

Flowers said she would like to see Rauner investigated for his actions, pointing out that he vetoed a bill that would have provided the “pass-through” funding needed by the state to operate the federally funded programs. 

She and Biss said the governor is holding up the funding, and refusing to deal with the budget crisis in general, until the Legislature passes a series of bills hed wants that deal with issues like tort reform, workers compensation, and other issues mainly targeting unions.

“These are not budgetary issues,” she said.

“I am not a politician so I am not going to get into Republican and Democrat, but this is about human lives,” said Harold Rice, the president and CEO of CEDA He said that CEDA did not receive any funding in July, due to the budget crisis, and by this week, if the necessary pass-through legislation was not passed to free up the federal funds, “I will have to make some unfortunate decisions.”

He pointed out that a program assisting struggling families with utility bills has already been suspended, and employees laid off. Next to be cut will be the WIC program, he said.

“We’re at the point of shutting down. It is imperative to end this travesty. They are negotiating over lives here.” he said.

Jerry and Ariadna Bosch of Evergreen Park, with their son, Timothy, 3, listened to the officials with some concern.

“It would affect our food budget a lot if this WIC program was cut,” said Jerry Bosch, explaining that they also have a five-year-old son, who is no longer covered by it. “Many people who are not making a lot of money need it,” said his wife.

A native of Panama, Ariadna said people there would be marching in the streets of her home country if programs like WIC were eliminated.

“Minimum wage is not enough to support a family. Programs like this are really needed,” said Mariana Mendez, a single mother with three children.

Sarah Post of Oak Lawn, who is expecting her second child, was there with her 11-month-old son, Julian. She explained that Julian, who is underweight, has a deficiency that requires special food.

“It would be very difficult,” she said, when Flowers asked if she would be able to afford her son’s food without WIC.

“See, here is a boy with special needs. Why should he be damaged because people in Springfield cannot agree? This is unacceptable. The governor should really be ashamed of himself.” Flowers said.

Lashandra Gholar, of the Chicago Lawn neighborhood, was also there with her young daughters, Makayla, 1, and Makenzie, 5.

“This program really helps us get healthy food,” said Gholar. She said the program allowed her to keep a supply of eggs, which Makenzie really likes.

“Hopefully, we can work together and sort this out,” said Flowers, who was hoping to vote on a new bill to provide the funds this week. “WIC is essential.”

Some Palos residents plane angry over Midway noise

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

The rise in Midway Airport noise complaints, coming from as far away as Palos Hills and Palos Park, was among the issues discussed at last  Thursday's second-quarter meeting of the Midway Noise Compatibility Commission at The Mayfield banquet hall, 6072 S. Archer Ave., in Chicago.

Sarah Contreras, of aviation consultant Landram & Brown, reviewed the quarterly report showing that noise complaints lodged with the Chicago Department of Aviation from April to June, 2015 were more than twice the first-quarter numbers, up from 2,277 to 4,844. There were 135 total complainants, but she also said that 76 percent of the complaints came from just six addresses.

The 4,844 second-quarter complaints were scattered across 14 communities. Understandably,  almost 75 percent (3,048) came from 67 Chicago addresses. But they also included 31 from Palos Hills (four addresses) and 665 complaints from Palos Park came from a total of nine addresses. One Palos Park address accounted for 633. Many reports were complaining of noise at night, between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.

Complaints, which are made through the city Aviation Department’s toll-free hotline (800-914-8537) or online at, rose significantly in the fourth quarter of 2014, when they amounted to 1,995. In most quarters since the Department of Aviation began tracking complaints in 2006, the number usually didn’t amount to more than 500.

Some of the increase has been attributed to a change in flight paths that the FAA instituted last year, resulting in more arriving flights coming in from the northeast over Chicago neighborhoods such as Bridgeport and McKinley Park, more than five miles from the airport, where residents weren’t used to be affected by aircraft noise. Departing flights also are heading southwest, causing unusually high noise and subsequent complaints in Burbank.

In order to gather conclusive data regarding increased noise in those areas, Chicago Deputy Commissioner of Aviation Aaron Frame said that a temporary noise monitoring device was deployed in May on the grounds of Reavis High School, at 6034 W. 77th St. in Burbank. He said that in June, that monitor registered an average of 55.2 decibel noise levels, below the 60 level required for schools to be soundproofed. Homes within the 65 DNL sound footprint are eligible for soundproofing.

Another permanent monitor is also being installed northeast of the airport, at 40th and Albany Avenue in the city, Frame said.

Commissioner Gail Conwell said in her report on the residential sound insulation program that 1,396 qualified dwellings (single-family homes and apartments and condos in buildings up to four units) had been inspected for illegal conversions, which are banned from the program. She said 151 units, in 69 buildings, were forwarded to the Chicago Department of Buildings for further review. It was then determined that 57 dwellings in 25 buildings included illegal conversions, and were removed from the list to be soundproofed. These included 12 in Archer Heights, seven in Clearing, four in Garfield Ridge, and one each in West Elsdon and West Lawn.

Frame said they had to eliminate entire buildings if there was one illegal conversion because of common walls and utilities shared between units.

“We have always been very strict about that,” said commission chairman Thomas S. Baliga. “We are not going to pay for new windows and doors on an illegally converted property.”

According to Conwell’s report, there are currently 2.142 dwelling units in various stages of the process of being soundproofed as part of what is called “Phase 15”—the largest package of homes ever soundproofed since the commission was formed 19 years ago.  They are divided into five bid packages, and are in various stages of completion. They are all due to be completed by spring of 2016.

Baliga and others on the commission were surprised to hear from city officials that residents of as many as 1,400 units in 900 buildings offered soundproofing have not responded to efforts by city officials to get in contact with them and start the process.

“There are just some people who don’t want to let people or anyone from the government into their house,” said Stan Lihosit, a commissioner from Archer Heights.

Baliga said he was “shocked” to hear that many people turned down the program. “Who wouldn’t want to get new windows and doors?,” he wondered. When he and other commissioners suggested there might be a language barrier, because many residents speak either Spanish or Polish as their first language. But Frame said the Department of Aviation took that possibility into consideration when the program began.

“We do have staff who speak Spanish and Polish,” he said. “They do make calls (in those languages), Frame said.

When the floor was opened for public comment, a lifelong Garfield Ridge resident who said she first heard about the 19-year-old commission that day questioned how she could live blocks from Midway and not qualify for soundproofing under the current FAA noise contour map. But Baliga said “the word is out there” about the program. Because so many people with broken English ask him about soundproofing, he said he is inclined to agree with Lihosit that the problem is a reluctance to allow government workers inside homes, for whatever reason, rather than a language barrier.