A Heartwarming Baseball and Classic Midwestern Story: The Sale of the Iowa Cubs

Published January 9, 2022

As I write at this moment from my perch immediately on the shore of Lake Michigan in Chicago, the temperature outside my window is 0 F. This story, however, will warm hearts all over Chicago and the world of baseball fandom.

It is a report in the Chicago Tribune this morning (subscription required) on the recent sale by an ownership group, Raccoon Baseball, Inc.,  led by Michael Gartner, of the Iowa Cubs to Diamond Baseball Holdings, a subsidiary of Endeavor Group Holdings, the publicly-traded  (NYSE ticker symbol:  EDR) successor to the William Morris Agency (no relation) and a giant in the talent-agent and literary-agent businesses.  (The CEO of Endeavor is Ari Emanuel, one of the three celebrated Emanuel brothers of Chicago and, according to his brother the former Mayor, the only one who has ever held an honest job.)

The Iowa Cubs is a minor league baseball team whose home field is in Des Moines.  The team used to be in the AAA league, now defunct, known as the American Association;  since the realignment of minor league baseball last year, the Iowa Cubs are one of 20 teams in the league now known as Triple A East.  They are the AAA (top-tier) farm team affiliated with the Chicago Cubs.

The hero of the story is the Iowa-born Michael Gartner, who turned 83 on the day after my own birthday last October.  Mr. Gartner is a most interesting character:  As a teenager he covered sports for the Des Moines Register.  He went on to college in Minnesota (Carleton) and then to law school at NYU.   He made his career in journalism, and served for several years as the Page-One Editor of The Wall Street Journal, overlapping there with the late, great Vermont Royster who was Editor of the Editorial Page at the same time.  Mr. Gartner still writes op-eds/essays for the Journal.

At various times Mr. Gartner has been the editor and the top executive of the Des Moines Register, The Daily Tribune (Ames, Iowa), and the Louisville Courier-Journal.

But here’s the most amazing Gartner story, a story of real integrity in journalism:  He was President of NBC News from 1988-1993.  On his watch “Dateline NBC” ran a story on the dangers of GMC pickup trucks.  The “Dateline NBC” story included dramatic footage of the explosion of a GMC pick-up truck.  What the report did not disclose was that the explosion had been staged by NBC for for the broadcast.  When Mr. Gartner learned about the deception, he publicly exposed it;  he called it a mistake and he apologized for it;  and he said that, because it had happened on his watch as president of NBC News, he was responsible for the mistake and he resigned.

I am not sure what they call a guy like that in New York, but out here on the prairies of Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, and Iowa we’d call him a mensch!

I thought you’d enjoy the Iowa Cubs story.

This is also an opportunity for Tribune readers and Chicago baseball fans to meet the story’s writer, Meghan Montemurro, who has recently joined the Tribune and whom the Tribune has now assigned to cover the Chicago Cubs.