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Cronin: Duke O’Malley remembered as fishing’s friend

DUKE ON DUKE

Duke O’Malley, writing Nov. 4, 2007, after receiving word of his Illinois Outdoor Hall of Fame induction:

“To say the least, I was shocked, surprised and floored by this letter informing me of the award. ... This award was made possible by my involvement with the ‘Free For Kids Only Fishing Derby.’ My thanks go out to all who sent pictures and letters to the ICF and the IDNR, showing and describing how much fun the participants were having at the Derby. ... All I can say is thanks from the bottom of my heart.”

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM



His driver’s license said John O’Malley, but that was a mere formality. And Duke O’Malley was anything but formal.

He was always Duke to everyone in this office, and to all of you. If he wore a tie, it was to church on Sunday.

We lost Duke on Friday of complications from a stroke suffered in January. He was 76, and died less than a year after the death his wife, Joan. Yesterday would have been their 53rd wedding anniversary. The funeral is at 9:30 a.m. today at St. Symphorosa, 6135 S. Austin Ave., Chicago.

For 27 years, Duke’s “Fish and Game Report” was a regular feature in the Daily Southtown. In reality, his outdoors column was misnamed. Duke was an old softie. You can count on one hand the number of times Duke focused on hunting deer or other four-legged creatures.

Duke O’Malley was a fisherman, through and through. His idea of a perfect day was rising before dawn and going to a quiet spot on the lakefront or a pond where the fish were biting, and in the company of family and friends.

His other idea of a perfect day was helping someone. For most of the time Duke penned his column, he also ran a unique contest with a unique name: Duke O’Malley’s Free for Kids Only Fishing Derby.

I had no idea how big the Derby was until driving past Tampier Lake one Saturday morning in the early 1980s. Cars were parked on the side of 131st Street from three blocks to the east to three blocks to the west, and up and down Wolf Road as well. There were thousands of people lining the lakeshore. It was amazing.

And it was all because of Duke. After convincing the paper to sponsor it, he went to fishing suppliers and rounded up enough goodies for every kid to get a goodie bag. He conducted fundraisers in order to buy prizes.

After someone tried to cheat, Duke eliminated the contest portion of the program and everyone became a winner. The Derby became so popular, the Cook County Forest Preserve District’s personnel were overwhelmed, and they finally told Duke the Derby had to move. It was conducted at Orland Park’s Lake Sedgewick for the final few years.

He supported habitat protection and other environmental causes, though he was always eager to write about where the fish were biting. Three years ago, the Illinois Conservation Foundation had the great good sense to induct him into the Illinois Outdoor Hall of Fame.

Duke was a Chicago fireman for 41 years, a devoted father to six children, a loving husband and a great guy. Next time you go fishing, make an extra cast for Duke O’Malley.

All smoke, no Fire

What’s called the “Friday news dump” is a way for politicians and companies with bad news to attempt to hide it while everyone celebrates the weekend. The Scrabble triple word score version is the holiday news dump. Ohio State and the Fire tried that tactic Monday. People still noticed.

Most of the world is discussing Jim Tressel, but the Fire’s ouster of coach Carlos de los Cobos is of some local interest. De los Cobos’ year-plus tenure was marked by poor play, confusion and dissension.

The players never bought the offensive concept de los Cobos was selling, essentially sealing his fate. Sometimes a coach loses a team. De los Cobos, the worst coach of a Chicago pro team since Alpo Suhonen mismanaged the Blackhawks in 2000-01 — and that’s saying something — never won his team over. The Fire went 10-16-15 under him, including a 1-4-6 start this year. Only Kansas City, which hasn’t played a home match yet thanks to its stadium not being ready, is worse.

The Fire’s lone win this season was in March. It’s June. What took owner Andrew Hauptman so long?

Frank Klopas has been the technical director — that’s soccerspeak for general manager — since 2008, and was instrumental in hiring de los Cobos and bringing in the players.

Now, having built the operation, he gets to pick up the pieces as interim head coach. If that doesn’t work, maybe the old Mather High grad is out as well.

Great things were expected when the Fire moved to Bridgeview’s Toyota Park in 2006. Since the U.S. Open Cup win of ’06, there’s been nothing. And five years of nothing is not acceptable.



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