Historian and baseball scout shares stories of Marx Brothers at LTHS
Updated: March 10, 2012 8:19AM
Even as a kid, I was a nerd about the news, regularly paging through the city’s daily newspapers and tuning into local news broadcasts. I loved Fahey Flynn’s bowties, Johnny and Jeannie Morris’ married-sportscaster banter, a boutonniere-wearing Harry Volkmann’s forecasts and Bill Kurtis’ deep, soothing voice.
I was particular fan of a segment on the Channel 2 news called “Someone You Should Know.” If you were around here in the 1970s and early ’80s, you might remember that long-running feature on WBBM-TV, in which reporter Harry Porterfield would profile unique people in the Chicago area and interview them about their intriguing job, interest or background.
In my early days in journalism school and as a feature writer for newspapers and magazines, I took a cue from those types of stories, always looking for folks who had fascinating stories to share and often flew under the proverbial radar. I interviewed a guy who rode his bike across the country, a couple who started their own mustard company, a woman who gave up her family’s enormous wealth to start a service organization and countless other people who had or did something that set them apart.
Meeting such interesting people in La Grange has been my joy in writing this column over the past few years. It’s truly a privilege for me to meet and talk to those who make our community what it is and learn a bit about their lives.
I was thinking about those old “Someone You Should Know” segments when I recently heard about Terry Sullivan of La Grange.
Sullivan is one of those men who is as all-American as baseball, hot dogs and, if not apple pie, then pizza pie.
He’s definitely got the baseball thing down. A longtime teacher and baseball coach at Lyons Township High School, he is now a Midwest scouting consultant for the Boston Red Sox. For the past nine years, he has hosted a show called “The Inside Corner” on the local channel LTTV, on which Sullivan and guests discuss a variety of topics relate to sports, both locally and around the country.
As for the hot dogs and pizza, Sullivan is also all-American, in that can tell you were to find the best iconic Chicago foods. A few years ago, he started his own company Walk Chicago Tours, specializing in foot tours of downtown Chicago.
“When I retired from teaching and coaching at LT, I was looking for something to do,” he recalls, adding that he turned his love for the city into a stint as a volunteer greeter or the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs. “That convinced me that I loved showing Chicago to visitors and I said, ‘I’ll try this on my own.’”
Although he has hired several guides for his company, Sullivan gets on the street for many of the downtown tours once baseball scouting season is over, usually after June.
“I got into scouting as a result of coaching, because there were so many fine players at LT,” he says.
He was an Illinois Scout for the Florida Marlins before he started scouting for the Red Sox a few years ago, a gig that has him traveling all around the state during the peak baseball season.
In La Grange, you can check out Sullivan on his LTTV show, which has earned him some broadcasting awards over the years. While he enjoys talking with guests about a range of sports subjects, he also likes that it is a local venture.
“This keeps me connected to LT,” he said.
Indeed, while the former English teacher and coach can share plenty of stories about his time working there, he also likes to share little known facts about LTHS.
Like the one about the famous Marx Brothers.
“It was the official school historian who discovered that Groucho Marx once walked the halls of LT North. Groucho, Harpo and Chico Marx went to LT for a couple of years, and they lived at the corner of La Grange Road and Joliet Road,” he reports.
According to archival information, says Sullivan, the Marx Brothers’ parents were Vaudeville performers in Chicago and bought a chicken farm on the outskirts of La Grange so their sons would not have to fight in World War I.
“If you owned a farm, your sons were except from fighting,” explains Sullivan, adding, “It still floors me when I think about, that they lived here and went to LT.”
He says he appreciates such fun stories, whether about La Grange and LT or about Chicago, as he leads walking tours. He is even mulling over helping write a book about Chicago history.
“I love the city — hearing about it, knowing about it and talking about it,” he notes.
In the words of Harry Porterfield, that is something, and someone, you should know.
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