Time Waits for No Man … But Don’t Underestimate Illinois Politics

Time waits for no man but don’t underestimate Illinois politics

Baseball is one sporting event that doesn’t use a clock to regulate the length of its games. Ironically, it was a clock that was very much at the heart of one of Baseball’s most dramatic moments.

The date was June 30, 1988. The Chicago White Sox wanted a new stadium to replace the run-down Cominsky Park. The team’s owner, Jerry Reisendorf, negotiated with Illinois officials on a plan that will provide the funding to build a new stadium, but negotiations seemed to be stalling.

In hopes of moving things along, Reisendorf opened negotiations with officials of St. Petersburg and Tampa, Florida, who desperately wanted a professional baseball team of their own. They agreed to put up the money if Illinois failed to act.

The big day was June 30. By law, the Illinois legislature had to finalize all legislation relating to the fiscal year before adjourning that day.  The Senate had already approved the $200 million bill, but the proposal was still a couple of votes short in the House.

As midnight approached the intensity of negotiations reached a fever pitch. Supporters in St. Petersburg gathered and prepared to celebrate the stroke of midnight, which would usher in a new chapter for professional sports in Florida. Meanwhile, back in Springfield, Illinois, some of the most intense political lobbying in recent memory was going on. Governor Jim Thompson personally came to the floor of the House to persuade representatives to support the bill.

The clock continued to tick, and in St. Petersburg it took on an atmosphere akin to New Year’s Eve, as celebrants prepared for the final countdown to midnight and the ensuing celebration.  With less than a minute to go before the mandatory adjournment of the House, the Florida celebrants started popping the corks from the champagne bottles, in preparation for the midnight toast.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Mike Madigan decided that if time wasn’t on his side, he could figuratively shoot the messenger, so he gave the order to unplug the chamber’s clock — seconds before midnight. While the champagne flowed in Florida in the opening moments of July 1, as far as the House of Representatives of Illinois was concerned, it was still June 30.

Several minutes later — who can say how long, when time has stopped? — Thompson secured the necessary votes. Speaker Madigan called for the question, and the White Sox bill passed by one vote. Madigan then ordered the clock restarted and declared that since the hour of midnight had arrived, this session of the Illinois House of Representatives was adjourned.

The folks in Florida never knew what hit them. They simply hadn’t considered the power of Illinois politics to transcend space and time.

Read more fun facts about time.

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