The Wrigley Field Connection
The Who, What and Where of How it All Began
by Lyle R. Hill
I picked up the phone’s receiver on the second ring and offered up my usual salutation.
“Are you Lyle Hill?” the pleasant-sounding voice, with a slight southernism to it, asked.
“Yes I am,” I replied, “and how may I help you?”
“Well I doubt that you’ve ever heard of me, but my name is John Lawo. I am the owner and publisher of a trade magazine by the name of U.S. Glass, Metal and Glazing.”
Now, of course I knew who he was, although I had never met or spoken to him in person. In those days, the early 1990s, there were three magazines devoted to the architectural glass and metal trade, and I read every one of them from cover to cover. I knew the names of the regular writers, as well as the publishers and editors of each.
“Actually Mr. Lawo, I do know who you are. I read your magazine every month.”
“That’s nice to hear, Lyle. Much appreciated. Now if you have a minute, I would like to ask you a question. Kind of a favor, if you will.”
Finally, I thought to myself, I am going to get my break. I had previously submitted a few articles for consideration to one of the other glass-related magazines, but I had been soundly rejected. I thought about submitting them to the other two … one of which was U.S. Glass … but I had been so shot down by the first glass magazine that I had not yet built up enough courage to try another. At the same time, I had submitted editorial pieces to the Chicago Tribune and Suburban Life newspapers and had been published in both. So now I figured Mr. Lawo had noticed one of my editorials and was calling to talk to me about writing for U.S. Glass.
“Sure, Mr. Lawo. Ask away. I would be pleased to help in any way I can.”
“Thank you, Lyle, and please call me John. I would like to talk to you about your parking lot.”
My parking lot??? Did I hear that right? What’s my parking lot got to do with writing?
“Okay Mr. Lawo … I mean John. Did you say you wanted to talk to me about my parking lot?”
“Yes, Lyle. You see, I try to get to as many Cubs games at Wrigley Field as I can, and I ended up taking a wrong turn a few games ago and went by your shop. I had no idea that you were right up Addison just west of the park. Your parking lot is a long walk to Wrigley, but not too bad, and by the time I would get back to your lot after a game, the traffic would be cleared out and I could jump right on the expressway. What do you think, Lyle?”
Of course I welcomed him to use the lot, and over the course of a couple of seasons, we became friends and even started sharing tickets. We often talked about things other than baseball, and I came to appreciate and respect John. So much so that I never brought up the subject of writing. Then it happened … in early 1993 John had a writer go AWOL on him with a deadline breathing down his neck. He mentioned it to me, and I asked him if I could take a crack at filling in. Being the gentleman that he was, he encouraged me to try, and I made him promise to be honest in his evaluation of what I might come up with. By now we had become good enough friends to have developed a level of trust, so I knew he wouldn’t let me embarrass myself, and I wouldn’t want to hurt his magazine either. It wasn’t a great article, but he published it, and I got enough nerve to show him the articles that had been previously rejected by the other glass magazine. I knew they were a little different than what was showing up in the trade magazines at the time, but John encouraged me and gave me honest advice, and off we went. Then one dsy in 1993, I got a call of a different sort from John.
“Lyle,” he began, “I need some help from you, and it has nothing to do with baseball.”
“Go ahead, John, I will help in any way I can.”
“You see Lyle, I have decided to sell the magazine to pursue some other opportunities, and I don’t want to sell to just anyone. I want the magazine to go to someone who will care for it the way it needs to be cared for. Can you help me find a buyer?”
The rest is “history” as they say. I had met Deb Levy while serving on an association board a few years earlier, and I knew her background was in publishing. Deb was respected by everyone that worked for her or with her. When John Lawo was ready to exit, I put the two of them together.
Now, almost 25 years later, Wrigley Field is still the finest baseball park in the world, USGlass dominates the trade publication arena, John Lawo continues to be the wonderfully successful man that he is, and I still get to write my oft-times off-the-wall articles. And it all came to be simply because of Wrigley Field. And now you know! n
Lyle R. Hill is the managing director of Keytech North America, a company providing research and technical services for the glass and metal industry. Hill has more than 40 years of experience in the glass and metal industry and can be reached at email@example.com. You can read his blog on Wednesdays at lyleblog.usglassmag.com.
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No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.