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Carol Felsenthal
On politics

Vice President Mitch Daniels?

A conversation with his wife, Cheri, about whether he’d accept the nomination… and about the similarly grueling life choice of being a Cubs fan.

Cheri Daniels

Indiana’s First Lady Cheri Daniels is known for her skill at milking cows; often seen at the Indiana State Fair doing just that.

 

If Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is the man  who many establishment Republicans believe could have sent the Obamas packing in 2012, his wife Cheri is the reason the Obamas will likely, I believe, keep their digs for another four.

“I love my country; I love my family more,” Mitch said in late May, explaining that his wife and four daughters had vetoed what seemed to be his desire to run for president.

I wrote previously about Cheri, 62, when Mitch was still in the mix. “The Women’s Caucus,” as Gov. Daniels called it, was then  still considering the possibility, but ultimately its members did not want  the scrutiny that Cheri’s leaving the family in 1993 to move to California and marry another man would invite. (She returned in 1996 and she and Mitch remarried in 1997.)

When I set up a telephone interview with Cheri after Mitch had ruled himself out of the looming primary battles, her press secretary warned me not to ask about politics—to limit our conversation to Cheri’s lifelong love of the Cubs,  for which her grandfather, Hall of Famer Billy Herman, played second base.

I couldn’t resist asking her an obvious political question that no one else, in my hearing, was asking.

Carol Felsenthal: If your husband were tapped as VP by Mitt Romney or one of the others vying for the Republican nomination, would he accept?

Cheri Daniels:  That is such an out-there question. I can’t even imagine that happening.

CF: I can; in fact I’d expect Mitch Daniels to be in the top tier of possibilities. Would you be willing to go along with his running for the second spot?

CD: I don’t know how that would really be any different than running for President. The process would be just as grueling, and a lot of the very same issues would also be present. So again it would probably have to go through the family powwow.

CF: I know you have long wanted to throw out the first pitch at Wrigley. Why haven’t you?

CD: They never ask me.  At one point, I believe someone in the Governor’s press office contacted someone in the Cubs’ press office to try to see if I could just before a game or even a day when there wasn’t a game go out on the field. I wanted to stand on second base and look at it like my grandfather did. They wouldn’t do it.

CF: Your father was also Billy Herman. Did he have any ties with baseball?

CD:  He played second base in the minors, but after my sister was born, 11 months after me, he left baseball and worked for the Kentucky/Indiana Railroad for the rest of his life…. My grandfather held the record for most double plays in the major leagues; my dad held it in the minor leagues.  [She mentions later that father and son also loved golf and that her grandfather was a “scratch golfer” and her father a “very good golfer.”]

CF: Any memories of Chicago when your father was coaching for the Cubs.  [She had not been born when her grandfather played for the Cubs or for her other favorite team, the Brooklyn Dodgers; Herman’s playing years were 1931-41 for the Cubs; he retired as a player in 1947, most of those years as a Dodger.  He then coached/managed for several teams, including the  Pittsburgh Pirates, Boston Red Sox, Dodgers, Milwaukee Braves.]

CD: When we were growing up in New Albany, which is in the southern part of Indiana, right on the Ohio River, we would drive up to Chicago…. We had this tradition. My grandfather would take my sister and me out to dinner at a nice restaurant. I remember Al Farber’s [a popular steakhouse no longer in business but formerly in the Belden-Stratford Hotel]…. My sister and I were maybe seven and eight years old.   There was a picture of my grandfather over the bar, and I remember there were some other ballplayers in the restaurant that night and they sent us over Shirley Temples and we thought we were the biggest deal ever.

CF: Did your grandfather have any political ties in Chicago?

CD: I don’t think so, but for a time he was very good friends with Ronald Reagan because he announced the Cubs…. One year when my grandfather was manager of the All-Star team, and they played in Washington when Reagan was President, my grandfather went to the White House for a luncheon.

CF: Any rivalry with the White Sox in your family?

CD: We were always National League fans … so really any team in the American League was the enemy to us…. We have a friend who’s a very big White Sox fan,  but we don’t talk about that very much.

CF: Is your husband a Cubs fan?

CD: He’s a diehard Dodgers fan. He always says when we first met the first thing he noticed in my apartment was that I had a Brooklyn Dodgers World Series bat with the names on it. He says that that immediately cinched it, that he thought I might be date-worthy because he saw the Brooklyn Dodger bat.

CF: What do you think of the Cubs this season? [Her grandfather helped the Cubs reach the World Series in 1932, 1935, 1938, but they never won the championship.]

CD: Well, it’s hard to be a Cubs fan, isn’t it?

 

Photograph: IN.gov

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