Book recounts Cubs’ golden age where campus now stands

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The West Side Grounds, where the Cubs played when they won the 1907 and 1908 World Series. The College of Medicine stands there today. Photo courtesy Brian Bernardoni

 

The Chicago Cubs are getting ready for Opening Day at Wrigley Field Sunday, but the team didn’t always play at the North Side ballpark.

Before Wrigley Field, the Cubs played on the West Side Grounds, where UIC’s College of Medicine stands today. The Cubs played in the block bordered by Wolcott Avenue, Polk, Wood and Taylor streets from 1893 to 1915. They appeared in four World Series during that time, winning titles in 1907 and 1908.

The Cubs’ connection to UIC is highlighted in the book Before the Ivy: The Cubs’ Golden Age in Pre-Wrigley Chicago, written by UIC graduate Laurent Pernot.

“The book started as a chapter on the old ballpark near where UIC’s College of Medicine is today,” he said. “It was interesting finding out how much history repeated itself about 100 years ago. There was a court battle with rooftops as there still is today. It was fun to see very little is new.”

 

Laurent Pernot. Photo Pascal Bailly

Laurent Pernot, a UIC graduate and former UIC News intern, came to Chicago as a high school exchange student. He fell in love with the city (and the Cubs) and made it his home. Photo: Pascal Bailly

Pernot isn’t a native Chicagoan but his love for the city and its baseball history began when he spent a year at Elk Grove High School as a foreign exchange student. Instead of returning to his hometown of Montbeliard, France, Pernot enrolled at UIC, double-majoring in English and political science with an internship at UIC News.

“I liked Chicago and learning from smart people,” he said. “I got into the Honors College. I just had a great time.”

After he finished his undergraduate studies in 1993, Pernot returned home to serve in the French army as an interpreter. He came back to UIC for graduate school in 1997 and became associate editor of UIC News, later working in media relations in the Office of Public Affairs.

He wrote an article for UIC News about the Cubs’ connection to campus, then a graduate paper that expanded into his book, published in February by the University of Illinois Press.

“It took about four or five years to turn it into a book,” Pernot said.

Before the Ivy contains information and statistics on past Cubs, as well as news articles written about them from the late 1800s to 1916. The historical content in the book gives Cubs fans an appreciation for the team’s long history.

Pernot was excited and nervous to see his work pushed through the publishing process. “The peer review process was interesting,” he said. “It was nerve-racking.”

After working at UIC, Pernot’s writing skills helped him find positions with communications firms such as Hill & Knowlton Strategies.

Since 2011, he’s been at the City Colleges of Chicago as executive director of communications, vice chancellor for institutional advancement and now executive vice chancellor. His responsibilities include overseeing marketing, student recruitment and external relations.

“It is very rewarding and fulfilling to work here,” he said. “Reminiscent of UIC.”

His advice to current students on finding success after graduation: network. “It is the best way to connect with jobs,” he said. “Hands-on experience is a big part of networking.”

And if you want to write a book, pick a topic you truly enjoy.

“It was a fun and humbling process,” he said. “Touching history is a lot of fun.”