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Column: It’s hard to keep a hiring search secret in Chicago — just ask the Bears fan who shot the video of Ryan Poles at O’Hare. ‘(Bleep), that’s George McCaskey.’



Column: It’s hard to keep a hiring search secret in Chicago — just ask the Bears fan who shot the video of Ryan Poles at O’Hare. ‘(Bleep), that’s George McCaskey.’

Noah Pinzur had a piece of advice for Eric Bohn.

Enjoy your 15 minutes of fame. It goes by fast.

Bohn and Pinzur never have met and probably never will. They’re just a couple of Chicago sports fans who religiously follow their teams in and out of season.

The strange tie that binds them is that both had accidental run-ins with future Chicago sports executives and felt the urgent need to let their fellow fans know about the imminent hiring.

In an age when teams go to great lengths to prevent the media from reporting the news before having a chance to leak it themselves, Bohn and Pinzur were flies in the ointment.

Bohn’s proverbial 15 minutes began Monday night at O’Hare International Airport, where he had returned from a skiing trip to Stowe, Vermont. Coming down an escalator in Terminal 1, he was surprised to see Chicago Bears Chairman George McCaskey, who Bohn correctly theorized was there to pick up a coaching or general manager candidate.

“If it was a crowded airport, I probably wouldn’t even have noticed him,” Bohn said. “But he was literally the only person standing there.”

McCaskey held a sign that said “Canandaigua,” a reference to GM candidate Ryan Poles’ hometown in western New York. But Bohn said McCaskey wasn’t holding it up “and doing the whole limo chauffeur” thing, as many imagined when his story came out.

So was Bohn sure it was McCaskey? Yes, he was, in spite of McCaskey’s brilliant disguise.

“It didn’t help him that he was wearing a Bears jacket and a Bears mask,” he said, laughing. “I was like, ‘(Bleep), that’s George McCaskey.’”

Sightings of Chicago sports executives at O’Hare are rare. The last memorable one occurred in July 2000, when Bulls general manager Jerry Krause, nicknamed “The Sleuth,” was seen hugging free agent Tracy McGrady as McGrady stepped off a plane, back before 9/11 security measures banned visitors from going to the gate. The Luvabulls were also there to cheer on McGrady, and a band played “Sweet Home Chicago.”

The recruitment effort failed, and Krause was criticized for making Chicago seem like Hooterville. But McCaskey is no Krause, and apparently he was working undercover, waiting to pick up Poles. As the old Chicago saying goes: “Nothing says I love you more than picking up someone at O’Hare.”

Bohn, a 41-year-old realtor from Glenview, did what any navy-and-orange-blooded Bears fan would do at a George McCaskey sighting. He took out his phone and surreptitiously shot a brief video.

“I lingered there for a minute and took a quick little video to send to my buddies and we’ll all get a good laugh,” he said. “Then a minute later Ryan Poles comes down the escalator (and) they head to the luggage carousel. George graciously picked up his bag and rolled it for him and they went on.”

After a quick Google image search to confirm it was indeed Poles, Bohn sent a text to his friends. He said he didn’t want to bother the two, so he didn’t introduce himself. One of Bohn’s friends suggested he alert ESPN 1000 to the video, which he did, tagging the radio station’s Twitter account and some of its personalities.

By Tuesday morning, Bohn’s video had been discovered on Twitter. He was asked to talk about it on ESPN 1000. Before long the video was on almost all of the local TV stations and Bears fans were on social media debating the meaning of the pickup, judging McCaskey’s attire and wondering whether he actually drove Poles back to the North Shore.

It wasn’t long before news leaked that Poles would be the next Bears GM.

Pinzur followed the Bears saga with great interest, having been in Bohn’s shoes more than 10 years ago. Pinzur was at a North Side Starbucks in October 2011 when he ran into someone who looked conspicuously like Boston Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein, rumored to be the top candidate to run the Chicago Cubs.

Pinzur asked the man if he was Epstein. “No,” the man replied. “I get that a lot. … Who is Theo Epstein?” Pinzur told him this Epstein guy was the one most fans wanted to head the Cubs front office. After the man left, Pinzur did a Google search of “Theo Epstein” and “Theo Epstein’s wife” to confirm what he had just seen.

Then he did what any blue-and-red-blooded Cubs fan would do in 2011 at a Theo Epstein sighting at a Lincoln Park Starbucks. He left a voicemail with a Chicago Tribune writer advising him Epstein was in town.

An article on the alleged Starbucks sighting appeared in the Tribune the next day — and was widely mocked. But it wasn’t long before news leaked that the Cubs indeed would hire Epstein as president of baseball operations.

At his introductory news conference, Epstein admitted his cover had been blown at Starbucks.

“When I’m somewhere when I don’t want to be recognized and someone recognizes me, I have a couple standard lines I go to,” he said. “I usually always say, ‘Oh, no, that’s not me, but I guess I kind of look like him. I get that a lot.’ Or I say, ‘Theo Epstein? Who’s that?’

“And I was so excited to be in Chicago and so surprised to be recognized that I dropped both lines on this guy without stopping to think they really don’t work very well in concert with each other.”

Pinzur, who had been mocked by his buddies for spreading a false rumor, was finally vindicated.

“My 15 minutes were extended by a few minutes,” Pinzur said that day. “But it was fun while it lasted.”

The moral of the story is it’s hard to keep a secret in Chicago, no matter how much effort a team puts into keeping things under wraps. Someone always is looking for clues, and with smartphones and social media, everyone is an amateur sleuth.

“That’s the world we live in now, right?” Bohn said. “If you see something, say something.”


Ravens sign versatile LB Vince Biegel, helping defensive depth and special teams



Ravens sign versatile LB Vince Biegel, helping defensive depth and special teams

The Ravens signed linebacker Vince Biegel to a one-year deal Monday, adding a versatile veteran to a position with limited depth. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Injuries have limited Biegel, 28, to just five games over the past two seasons, but he’s played both inside linebacker and outside linebacker and contributed regularly on special teams over his four-year NFL career. He tried out during the team’s rookie minicamp earlier this month and has ties to first-year outside linebackers coach Rob Leonard, who overlapped with him in Miami.

After missing the Dolphins’ 2020 season with a torn Achilles tendon, the 6-foot-3, 246-pound Biegel opened last season on injured reserve before returning to action in late November. Over his five games with Miami, he had two tackles and played primarily on special teams.

Biegel’s best season came in 2019, when he had 2 1/2 sacks, seven tackles for loss and 59 tackles over 15 Dolphins games (10 starts). The Wisconsin product started his career with the Green Bay Packers, who drafted him in the fourth round in 2017. He was cut before the next season and signed with New Orleans in 2018, playing a reserve role and contributing on special teams for the Saints.

The Ravens, who lost inside linebacker and special teams stalwart Chris Board in free agency, didn’t draft an inside linebacker last month and are cross-training Malik Harrison at outside linebacker this offseason. Biegel could also see snaps this offseason at outside linebacker, where Tyus Bowser and rookie Odafe Oweh are recovering from torn Achilles tendons.


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Pedro Martinez joining Mets’ Old Timers’ Day



Pedro Martinez joining Mets’ Old Timers’ Day

Mets Old Timers’ Day is quickly becoming the hottest ticket in town.

On Monday, the team announced that Pedro Martinez would join the festivities on Aug. 27 at Citi Field.

Martinez, a first ballot Hall of Famer, spent four seasons with the Mets, racking up a 3.88 ERA in 79 starts. He was an All-Star for the team in 2005, a year in which he led the major leagues with a 0.949 WHIP, and again represented the Mets at the Midsummer Classic in 2006.

Martinez joins other big names including Mike Piazza, Mookie Wilson, Robin Ventura, John Matlack, Cliff Floyd and Ron Swoboda as participants in the game, which is being held for the first time since 1994.

Martinez has been a staple of MLB Network for years now, and this summer he will make his first appearance in a Mets uniform since 2008.

The Mets take on the Rockies on Aug. 27, with the Old Timers’ Day shenanigans beginning earlier in the day.


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Abbott says agreement reached to reopen baby formula plant



Abbott says agreement reached to reopen baby formula plant


WASHINGTON (AP) — Infant formula maker Abbott says it’s reached an agreement with U.S. health officials to restart production at its largest domestic factory, a key step toward easing a nationwide shortage tied to the plant’s shutdown earlier this year.

Abbott did not immediately detail the terms of the agreement reached with the Food and Drug Administration, which has been investigating safety problems at the Sturgis, Michigan, facility. The consent decree is a binding legal agreement between the company and the federal government.

After production resumes, Abbott has said it will take at least eight weeks to begin shipping new product to stores.

The Biden administration has come under intense pressure over the last week to do more to ease the shortage of formula that has forced parents of infants to go to significant lengths to feed their children.

Abbott’s plant came under scrutiny earlier this year after four infants became sick with bacterial infections after consuming powdered formula from the Michigan factory. Two of the babies died.

In February, the company halted production and recalled several brands of formula. Those steps squeezed supplies that were already strained by supply chain disruptions and parents stockpiling during COVID-19.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Under fire from parents and politicians, President Joe Biden’s administration on Monday is expected to announce an agreement to reopen the largest domestic manufacturing plant of infant formula and to ease import rules to allow supplies in from overseas, amid a nationwide shortage spurred by the Michigan plant’s shutdown earlier this year over safety issues.

A consent decree between the producer, Abbott, and the Food and Drug Administration that would pave the way for reopening the plant is “forthcoming,” said Brian Deese, the director of the White House’s National Economic Council. He added the agency would also take steps Monday to allow more foreign imports into the U.S. to address the urgent supply constraints.

It comes as the Biden administration has come under intense pressure over the last week to do more to ease the shortage of formula that has forced parents of infants to go to significant lengths to feed their children.

Over the weekend, the White House offered formula manufacturers and retailers transportation and logistics support, and working with all major formula producers to boost production, including reaching out to their suppliers to encourage them to prioritize production and delivery of formula ingredients.

Deese said the administration “made clear to all of them that federal resources, including transportation and logistics resources, are available and on call and we are prepared to move assets in coordination with them as and when we identify need.”

The shortage stems from a February recall by Abbott, the nation’s largest formula maker, that shuttered the company’s Michigan plant and exacerbated ongoing supply chain disruptions among formula makers, leaving fewer options on stores shelves across much of the country. The shortage has led retailers like CVS and Target to limit how many containers customers can purchase per visit and forced some parents to swap and sell formula online.

On Monday, FDA Commissioner Robert Califf told ABC News’ “Good Morning America” that the federal agency is “working really closely with Abbott” to reopen the closed Michigan factory and he expects that “in a very short period of time we’re going to have an announcement about the path forward.”

Califf said an announcement is forthcoming about importing baby formula from abroad, noting that the key is making sure the instructions for the formula are in languages that mothers and caregivers can understand.

The FDA warned families against making their own baby formula because it has 30 distinct constituents that have to be in the right amount, otherwise the formula can possibly be dangerous to consume.

Abbott’s voluntary recall was triggered by four illnesses reported in babies who had consumed powdered formula from the Michigan plant. All four infants were hospitalized with a rare type of bacterial infection and two died.

Abbott is one of just four companies that produce roughly 90% of U.S. formula, so its shutdown squeezed already tight supplies.

After a six-week inspection, FDA investigators published a list of problems in March, including lax safety and sanitary standards and a history of bacterial contamination in several parts of the plant.

But Chicago-based Abbott has emphasized that its products have not been directly linked to the bacterial infections in children. Samples of the bacteria found at its plant did not match the strains collected from the babies by federal investigators. The company has repeatedly stated it is ready to resume manufacturing, pending an FDA decision.

The terms of the consent decree were not immediately clear, including what steps Abbott was taking to remediate issues raised by the FDA or how quickly production at the plant would be restarted.

Former FDA officials say fixing the type of problems uncovered at Abbott’s plant takes time, and infant formula facilities receive more scrutiny than other food facilities. Companies need to exhaustively clean the facility and equipment, retrain staff, repeatedly test and document there is no contamination.

Even if the facility reopens soon, the FDA will still face scrutiny for its handling of the issues at the plant.

FDA inspectors visited the factory in September for a routine inspection, around the time that the first bacterial infection was reported in an infant. Although inspectors uncovered several violations— including standing water and unsanitary conditions— the FDA did not shut down the plant or issue any formal warning.

Only after several more illnesses were reported did the FDA return to the plant in January, this time finding a history of bacterial contamination in several parts of the plant. Abbott then shut down the facility and recalled several powdered formulas in mid-February.

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro reported last month that a whistleblower had contacted the FDA in October about unsafe conditions and practices at the plant, including falsifying plant records and failing to properly test formula for contamination.

She and other lawmakers are set to question FDA Commissioner Califf about that issue and others at a hearing scheduled for Thursday.

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