The staging of these weekly Thursday night races here at the Ed Rudolph/Meadowhill Park is the result of efforts by some very dedicated individuals. One of those experienced racing enthusiasts is currently the secretary of the Northbrook Cycling Committee – and one of the real veterans of Chicagoland bicycle racing – Mr. Dick Bagger.
Our Committee’s secretary’s interest in competitive racing was motivated by a casual visit with a friend to a six-day professional race that was being held at the Chicago Stadium in 1933. This was the year of the opening of Chicago’s last World’s Fair – “The Century of Progress.” Dick Bagger had wanted to see the Isham Jones Orchestra at one of the downtown theaters that evening, but his friend convinced him to go to the bike race. Bagger’s visit to the Stadium that night developed into a profound turning point in the young man’s life. He literally was entranced with the speed, technique, and daring excitement of the celebrated professional racing cyclists at the deeply banked wood track at the big hall on Chicago’s West Side. Dick Bagger was “hooked” on bicycle racing. The youngster saw almost every six-day race after that here in Chicago as well as special races in Milwaukee, Cleveland, Buffalo and Des Moines until their demise after World War II.
Dick Bagger became very interested in the amateur activities in Chicago during this era, and the Windy City was fortunate enough to be home of one of the most beautiful outdoor wooden tracks ever constructed in America. The Humboldt Park Velodrome hosted weekly bicycle races every Wednesday from the early 1930’s to until the last race late in August of 1942. Probably the most outstanding and certainly most publicized events held on the Humboldt Park track were the Amateur six-day bicycle races promoted by the old Chicago Times in 1935 and 1936. The newspaper that many years later amalgamated with the Chicago Sun sponsored these two exciting events just as the country was fighting it’s way out of the Great Depression. Amateur bicycle racers from the Chicago area presented a most thrilling contest both of these years at the venerable old track, and young Dick Bagger cheered for his favorites almost every evening along with the thousands of cycling fans in the specially constructed bleachers at the side of the velodrome. It was probably these two races more than anything else that influenced Dick Bagger to purchase his first racing bicycle.
Dick Bagger made friends with some of the most prominent cyclists of the time. He helped out the Oscar Wastyn Bicycle Shop located on Milwaukee Avenue and there he met Charlie Yaccino, Frenchie Gilles, the Ligman Brothers and many others. Each one of these established riders provided both racing tips and encouragement to the young cyclist. Dick’s first racing bicycle was a used Schwinn Paramount that had once belonged to Jerry Rodman, one of Chicago’s most famous professionals.
Dick Bagger started racing as a novice one Wednesday evening during 1940 as an unattached rider. After two or three weeks of competition he was approached by Mr. Jerry Hyerdahl, manager of the prominent George F. Barrett Racing Club with an invitation to join this organization. The young cyclist felt quite honored at the invite, and the following week Dick Bagger was sporting a bright new blue and gold jersey that distinguished the Barrett Cycling Team. Dick won his share of prizes both on the track and a number of placings on the road. Two years later, Dick joined the prestigious CYO racing team. It was during this year that the now seasoned cyclist enjoyed training evenings on the Humboldt Park track with Chicago’s most successful racing stars. . . Ed Carfagninni, Marvin Thompson, Johnny Fitzpatrick, Fred and Erv Pesek, Frank and Bill Bina, Bill Jacoby, Sears Taylor, Ted Scarpelli and so many more. The experience of just training at the dramatic facility was quite thrilling for young Bagger. The board track measured exactly one-eighth of a mile. . . just one half the size of our layout here in Northbrook. The velodrome was much more highly banked and therefore even at the same speeds the sprints on the old track appeared considerably more sensational than on the larger track here at Meadowhill.
Dick Bagger spent his working years with the Pennsylvania Railroad, mostly in Philadelphia and consequently he was separated from Chicagoland racing for quite some time. The railroad finally saw fit to bring Dick back home in 1958. Shortly after the opening of Northbrook in the 1960’s, an old friend, Jerry Hyerdahl convinced Dick to assist up on the judge’s stand, and the Northbrook Cycling Committee has been fortunate to have his expertise of this dedicated gentleman as part of it’s management team ever since. Although Dick and his wife reside in Janesville, Wisconsin these days, he still attends every meeting of the Northbrook Committee during the winter season and has accepted the responsibilities of the organization secretary these past two years. It’s a sure bet that each and every race night at Northbrook these coming years you’ll find Dick Bagger totaling up the team-race points following the feature race of the night. Don’t bother him just then, but as soon as he steps down from the stand ask him about his greatest thrill observing bike races. You can rest assured Dick Bagger will provide every detail about the last hour of the Stadium race of 1940 when Norman Hill and Charley Winters tried to gain back that one lap they lost to the leaders during the week. They didn’t get back that lap, but they accomplished the incredible feat of winning every 2-mile sprint during the last hour at 72 points per sprint. Dick Bagger might get a little carried away with his six-day recollections, but none-the-less he has provided an extra-worthwhile contribution to cycling here at Northbrook for many years. Dick Bagger, we appreciate your expert assistance, and will look forward to having you with us in the years ahead.