Ricketts or Rickets? “What’s in a Name?”

When I heard that the Ricketts family had purchased the Cubs, I immediately began to worry. Rickets (note that the name has only one “t,” unlike that of the Ricketts family) is, after all, a childhood vitamin deficiency disease, typically caused by a lack of vitamin D. The bones, as a result, are softened and malformed. Just what we need on the Cubs, I thought.

Names. The value of names. That is really what I’m talking about. (More about the Cubs later in this essay). Early in their life in school, kids find out that names can be a problem. Kids will rhyme and twist names to make you wish you didn’t have one or could crawl under a rock. I remember a girl called Leslie who was the only female in my high school physics class. The class wit called her “Lester” and the over-matched teacher didn’t rein him in. Doubtless, Leslie felt miserable.

Someone I know has a nephew with the initials “F.U.” What were the parents thinking? In fact, it was pointed out to them, very early, that the name they had in mind would, because of these initials, cause the child endless grief. Did they care? Apparently not. Some parents will argue that they do this to “toughen-up” their little guys. I doubt it.

Most of us are sensitive about our names. We want them said correctly and written correctly. They are us, in effect. I’ve been corrected properly when I called a woman “Judy” whose name was Judith. We want to be noted and respected. We don’t want our names besmirched, mutilated, or forgotten. When speakers thank others in public, they often take pains to list everyone who deserves some credit. They do this with good reason. We want to be thought of fondly and well.

Witness Shakespeare’s Henry V motivating his men on the eve of the Battle of Agincourt, which was to occur on St. Crispin’s Day:

“…He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian:’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.’
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember’d.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember’d…”

Of course, being “named,” isn’t always a good thing. Being named in an indictment, for example; or, during the infamous days of Senator Joe McCarthy in the 1950s, having your name uttered by a witness as a possible Communist. The hearings in question concerned alleged Communist infiltration of the Federal Government and the entertainment industry. These could result in the subpoena of the named-individual to testify before the same congressional committee, not to mention the possibility of being fired from his job and being blackballed from making a living. Unless, of course, he too would be willing to go before the committee and “name names,” thus betraying people he knew and even, sometimes, people he was close to.

Back to the Cubs, we are told that there is little possibility that “naming rights” to Wrigley Field will be sold. If that were to happen, however, the fans of the Cubs would have their attachment to a name sorely tested. But, of course, one can only hope that the “Ricketts era” will bring the World Series that we have all been waiting for, and that many have died waiting for after leading long lives that began in late 1908 or later, and ended anytime since. And we’ve heard other, older names carrying the same promise: the infamous “College of Coaches” that was supposed to transform the Cubs in the early 1960s, the hiring of Leo Durocher to manage the 1966 team that finished in 10th place, the purchase of the Cubs by the Tribune Company and the installation of Dallas Green (named General Manager) to produce a retooling that would lead to the World Series; and, who can forget how Dusty Baker was touted as a savior a few years ago, only to be replaced by the naming of Lou Pinella, savior next-in-line, to replace Dusty in the dugout.

Will the Ricketts name be worth the paper it is written on? Will it be a better name than Chicago Tribune? Shakespeare gives us a hint, in the form of Juliet’s words to Romeo, who, after all, has a last name detested by her family, and visa versa:

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

So, it would appear that the real question is whether the “Ricketts Era” Cubs will pass the smell test.

Shakespeare knew everything.