Former Chicago Athletes: Where Are They Now?

What do star athletes do after their playing days are over? We tracked down a onetime Bears cornerback who’s now a practicing dentist and a missionary; a former Blackhawks star who copilots jetliners; an ex-Cub who became a jazz trumpeter; and more

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TURK WENDELL

THEN Pitcher, Chicago Cubs (1993–97)
NOW Rancher

A career reliever, Turk Wendell saved 18 games and posted a 2.84 ERA in 1996, his best season for the Cubs. But his eccentricities on the field were what captivated fans. Before leaving the dugout to pitch, he’d stuff five pieces of black licorice in his cheek; then he would leap over the foul line on his way to the mound. Once there, he would draw three crosses in the dirt, slam down the rosin bag, and point to the center fielder until the other guy waved back. Returning to the dugout, he’d jump over the foul line again. He brushed his teeth between innings. Oh, and he never wore socks.

His antics inspired Men’s Fitness to name him the most superstitious athlete of all time. “We as humans are very habitual,” he explains. These days, his habits involve daily chores at Wykota Ranch, a 210-acre spread in Larkspur, Colorado, that he named after his children, Wyatt and Dakota, and calls “the Redneck Country Club.” Wendell, 43, grows millet, sorghum, corn, alfalfa, and sunflowers, among other crops, which he does not harvest—instead returning their nutrients to the soil to promote land conservation. He breeds game birds such as pheasant, quail, and chukar partridge—future quarry for when he hunts. He also raises goats, chickens, and turkeys. At first glance, it might appear that the ranch is a going business concern—on its website is an elaborate pricing schedule for hunting trips. But closer inspection reveals that only the connected need apply—the bottom of the page says that the trips are solely for family, friends, and friends of friends. And the price for them? According to the site: “What kind of asshole would charge his family and friends?” Grooming and manicuring the land, shoveling and plowing in winter, and general maintenance are all Wendell’s responsibility. “I’m busier now than when I played, for sure,” he observes. Sometimes he gets calls from former teammates who complain about insomnia in retirement. “You can’t sleep? That’s ’cause you ain’t working hard enough,” he tells them.

 

Photography: (Wendell, now) James Chance

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3 years ago
Posted by Thane Of Cawdor

You'd think this guy growing up in Gary, Indiana and playing for the White Sox and he appeared as being a small town guy who found suucess and that he would be a decent guy but from all the accounts I've heard this guy is a total a**hole! Jerk!!!

3 years ago
Posted by OneTimeBlue

It's interesting that I came across this article, because it had recently crossed my mind as to what had become of some college athletes. In particular, Mark Aguirre, Teddy Grubbs and Terry Cummings from DePaul's NCAA glory days. Maybe you could do a follow-up story on these guys and other college and high school phenoms that did not complete a pro career, but were still a part of Chicago's sports history. As for this article, I am very impressed and pleased at the way you have taken several excellent role models for young athletes and shown them in a positive light. Please continue the good work.

3 years ago
Posted by left out

What about Tom O'Hara, the first native of the U.S. state of Illinois to break the four-minute barrier for the mile run. He accomplished this feat in 1963 when he ran the mile in 3:59.4.

He also held the world record for fastest mile in indoor track, which was set when he ran the mile in 3:56.6 on February 13, 1964. He later beat that record on March 6 of the same year with a time of 3:56.4, a world record that stood for fourteen years.

3 years ago
Posted by kjbsawb

THANE OF CAWDOR: you are a buffoon. An individual as uneducated (look at your grammar) and uninformed (White Sox?) should not be permitted to post comments to any blog. Carmen was a fan favorite and player's player because of his generosity and fiery competitiveness, among many other great qualities. It is obvious you have some personal ax to grind, and I doubt you you have ever held as much as a minimum wage job. Carmen was the ultimate in class as Cub, and he is certainly all of that as a human-being. Several friends of mine and I know this from personal experience.

3 years ago
Posted by HOME RUN BANGKOK

@THANE OF CAWDOR...u must be talking about a different Steve Trout...the one I know who pitched for the Cubs/White Sox/Yankees and Seattle,is a classy gentleman and one of the nicest guys I have ever met. One I am proud to call a friend!

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