Tim Weigel

Were it not for last year’s Media inductee, columnist Mike Royko, this year’s inductee Tim Weigel, may never have played 16″ softball. It was Royko, who in 1971 upon hearing that the Lake Forest native had been a starting halfback for Yale’s football team, drafted him onto the Chicago Daily News 16″ softball team. An excellent athlete, Weigel helped the Daily News, and later the Sun Times softball squads win numerous Grant Park and Thillens Stadium titles, playing right field. According to biographer F. Richard Ciccone, Royko always said that Weigel made the greatest catch he’d ever seen in softball. It was on a line drive down the right field line, which Weigel dove for, caught, rolled over, and fired to second base for the double play. He also suffered the slings and arrows of Royko’s legendary barbed wit. Weigel, who had never seen the city game played, swung at and missed the first 16″ pitch he ever saw. “How the fuck could you miss a sixteen inch softball?” exclaimed Royko. In 1974, according to Ciccone, Weigel, who’d been installed as manager of the News team, tried unsuccessfully to take Royko out as pitcher after he’d given up six straight homers, but not even he could get Royko off the mound. Later that same year Weigel helped boost the game’s profile by working with Royko and organizer Tom Bonen on the 1974 broadcast of the World Series of 16″ Softball from Soldier Field on WTTW television.  Weigel began his thirty year career at the Chicago Daily News in 1971. He moved to the Chicago Sun Times when the News folded in 1978. After reporting for both WLS-TV and WMAQ-TV, as well as WLUP and WMAQ radio, he was named Sports Director at WBBM-TV in 1995. Throughout his TV career Weigel relished his role as Chicago’s Clown Prince of Sports. Blessed with both a quick wit and articulate manner, Weigel was a pioneer in bringing comic relief to our often over serious local sports scene. Underneath that jocularity, however, was an intelligence that saw him graduate at the top of his Lake Forest High School class, and earn degrees from Yale and Northwestern, and ultimately garner four local Emmy Awards for broadcasting excellence. The Northwestern degree was a masters in film, which Weigel’s wife, Vicki Truax, believes held the germ of the famous “Weigel Weiner’s” blooper award. Our beloved 16″ game wasn’t safe from Weigel’s sense of humor either. Asked by a reporter during one of Rich Melman’s celebrity games how it was to be playing softball again, Weigel laughed and said, “Just great! I can never get enough of jammed fingers and hip pointers.” Chicago lost that warm, humorous voice in 2001 when Weigel succumbed to a brain tumor. “Tim Weigel brought enthusiasm , humor, warmth and intelligence to his coverage of sports for three decades.” said Mayor Richard M. Daley, after Weigel’s passing, expressing well what many people felt about Tim. “He could be serious when the situation warrented, but he never let us forget that sports are supposed to be fun.” “He was taken much too soon.” Clearly many others felt the same. Loud speakers had to be set up in Raymond Park, across the street from Weigel’s funeral at First Congregational Church of Evanston, due to the number of people wishing to attend.  As warm hearted as he was funny, Weigel took great satisfaction in helping those in need. He served on the boards of the Off The Street Club, the Evanston Shelter for Battered Women, the Evanston Homeless Shelter and the Chicago Chamber of Commerce Youth Motivation board. And Cub super fan Ronnie “Woo-Woo” Wickers singles out Weigel as one of those who helped him get back on his feet when he was homeless. This is not Tim Weigel’s first posthumous honor. Last November he was honored by The Chicago Athletic Association – Chicago’s oldest amateur athletic, social, and business club – as one of three inaugural Ring Lardner Award winners.