Jerry Colangelo took the bus, then the L, to reach Wrigley Field and watch his beloved Chicago Cubs as a kid in the 1950s. When they were out of town, he fell asleep listening to them on a transistor radio near his pillow.
He caught a foul ball off the bat of Hall of Famer Roy Campanella of the Brooklyn Dodgers one afternoon. Instead of fi nding security on Colangelo’s dresser, the souvenir became the Hungry Hill neighborhood ball, even as the cover wore off and was replaced by black tape.
“There are a lot of great memories,” Colangelo said.
So when friends and business associates asked Colangelo if he would be interested in joining a group to purchase the Cubs should they go on the market, his answer seemed a given.
“If they determine that’s the way they want to go, I certainly would be interested. Sure,” said Colangelo, 67, who grew up in the Hungry Hill section of Chicago Heights, a working class Italian neighborhood.
“I’ve had calls from people in Chicago encouraging me to step forward,” he said. “I’ve been told by others: ‘Jerry, if you step in, it’s a natural.’ I’ve always had a great relationship with the city, the people and the Cubs.
“I’m from there. I grew up there. It’s one of the great brands in sports. I’d like to be part of it.”
The Tribune Co., which owns the Chicago Tribune and the Cubs, announced its willingness to sell all or part of the company in September after being pressured by several large shareholders angered by its lagging stock price and sagging fortunes. Some in the baseball industry believe the Cubs’ signing of top free agents Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano to contracts worth about $211 million was done to increase the value of the franchise, one of the oldest and most revered in the major leagues despite not having won a World Series since 1908.
The Tribune Co. purchased the Cubs for $20.5 million in 1981, and the price this time could be 30 times that figure — upward of $600 million — TMB Industries chairman Tom Begel told the Associated Press. The Washington Nationals, nowhere near as valuable as the Cubs, sold this summer for $450 million.
The Tribune Co. is expected to decide in December about proceeding with a sale.
TMB is one of several groups that is attempting to line up financing, the Associated Press said. Gannett Co., a media conglomerate that owns the Arizona Republic, reportedly also has expressed interest, as have four private groups.
Financing is “a whole different issue,” Colangelo said. “It’s going to be an interesting process. I’ve been following the saga of the Tribune Co. and what it may or may not be doing. We’ll see how it goes. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?”
Longtime friend and business associate Rich Dozer, who served as president of both the Phoenix Suns and Arizona Diamondbacks while Colangelo was in charge, said a return to Chicago “would be a nice bookend” for Colangelo.
“It would be a homecoming of sorts,” said Dozer, also from Chicago. “He would be going back to his home city. He would be coming back to a team he always idealized as a kid.”
Colangelo moved to the Valley in 1968 as the general manager of the Suns before putting together a group to purchase the Suns in 1988.
At the encouragement of baseball commissioner Bud Selig and Chicago White Sox chairman and NBA associate Jerry Reinsdorf, Colangelo spearheaded Arizona’s efforts to land a major league expansion franchise in the mid-1990s.
The Diamondbacks were granted a franchise in 1995 and began play in 1998, becoming the quickest expansion team to win a World Series when they did it in 2001, their fourth season.
Colangelo left the Diamondbacks in August 2004 after his power was reduced in a partnership squabble.
He sold his interest in the Suns in 2005, although he has stayed on as chairman and has served as the managing director of USA Basketball’s men’s senior team.
“There are very few things in sports that would entice me and interest me,” Colangelo said of a Cubs deal. “This just happens to be one.”