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Donahue set to be honored at Wrigley

Female front-office pioneer's memory part of Wrigley celebration

Published: Saturday, May 3, 2014 12:56 a.m. CDT

She was a pioneering major league baseball executive, responsible for a series of groundbreaking innovations during her nearly 40 years as an employee with the Chicago Cubs.

Now, more than 50 years after her retirement, and more than 35 years after her death, Margaret “Midge” Donahue is getting recognition from both the Cubs and the Lakeview community.

On Saturday afternoon, the Cubs will honor Donahue by having her three surviving nieces sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh-inning stretch at Wrigley Field. The tribute is part of Wrigley Field’s year-long centennial celebration: On this homestand, they’re honoring Cubs employees from the 1920s.

Meanwhile, there is strong support for naming a North Side park after Donahue. The park is slated to open later this year on the 1200 block of West School Street – only a few blocks away from Wrigley Field – with the support of the Cubs’ charity arm, which is providing $1 million of the proposed $1.3 million cost.

Groundbreaking is slated for later this month, according to Jackie Earley, the president of the School Street Park Advisory Council, who said that naming the park after Donahue fits in with a Chicago Park District campaign to get more new parks named after notable Chicago women.

Donahue, who worked for the Cubs from 1919 to 1958, was somewhat of a celebrity in her day.

Back in 1926, she made national news when Cubs president William Veeck, father of Bill Veeck, announced her appointment as the club’s corporate secretary, making her baseball’s first female front office executive who was not also an owner.

Donahue justified Veeck’s trust with a series of novel ideas that are now commonplace in baseball. Donahue devised the concept of season tickets in 1929, and she also came up with the idea of selling tickets at off-site locations and offering reduced ticket prices for children, according to contemporary news accounts and Bill Veeck’s biographer, Paul Dickson.

Bill Veeck, the former White Sox owner who was one of the game’s great innovators, worked side by side with Donahue in the Cubs front office in the 1930s, and raved about her. “[Donahue is] as astute a baseball operator as ever came down the pike,” Veeck wrote in 1954. “She has forgotten more baseball in her 40 years with the Cubs than most of the so-called magnates will ever know.”

Dickson credited her with fostering the idea of the ballpark – a haven for primarily men during the early 20th century—as a destination for families.

“If you look at her idea to sell discounted tickets to kids, no one then thought of kids being future customers, but she did,” Dickson said. “Teams like the Dodgers are worth $2 billion because people like Midge and the Veecks determined that the ballpark is for families.”

 

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