Veteran Chicago sportswriter Toni Ginnetti, who was among the first women to cover a wide range of professional and college sports beats — including both the White Sox and the Cubs — retired Friday after 33 years at the Sun-Times.
Although she’ll continue to write occasionally for the paper on a freelance basis, her retirement caps a Chicago journalism career of outstanding work and groundbreaking achievement.
Calling Ginnetti “a true Chicago trailblazer,” Jim Kirk, publisher and editor-in-chief of the Sun-Times, said: “Toni broke into the male-dominated world of sports newspaper reporting when few women were ever seen on the sideline or in the stadium press box. She helped pave the way for other women writers especially those covering professional baseball. We are grateful we'll still carry her byline from time to time."
Ginnetti, 63, said she chose to retire in part because the hours involved in covering baseball had become all-consuming in the age of digital journalism. “I still love the job but the work time becomes tough for all of us,” she told me. “So I'm fortunate that I could retire — mainly because Obamacare ensured I could get my own medical insurance — and now still be part of the paper but with a much more manageable schedule.
“Our colleague Herb Gould did the same thing, ‘retiring’ last fall but continuing with the paper as a regular freelancer, so he set the precedent. It works for the paper as it continues to go through cutting staff, and it works for us individually.”
Ginnetti joined the Sun-Times in 1981 after nine years at the Daily Herald. She started as a city-side news reporter but gravitated to sports around the time Rupert Murdoch acquired the Sun-Times. “I kept poking my head into the sports department offering ideas on features, special projects and the like,” she recalled. “The Cubs were hot in 1984, so there was plenty for me to do. Then the Bears had their great 1985 season and I kept going, but was technically still assigned to news side.”
It was legendary columnist Mike Royko, who’d bolted from the Sun-Times to the Chicago Tribune because of Murdoch’s ownership, who helped Ginnetti make the switch to sports permanent in 1986. “I was at a Wrigley Field event with the then-managing editor Ken Towers and Mike, and we were talking,” she said. “Mike sort of out of the blue turned to Ken and said: `When are you going to put her in sports?’ It happened the next week! That was the power of Royko, bless him.”
Now that she’s no longer spending days and nights in press boxes and locker rooms, Ginnetti said, she’s looking forward to devoting more time to family and home interests, including volunteer work involving her beloved dogs in animal-assisted therapy.
As for her tenure at the Sun-Times, Ginnetti said: “I feel fortunate to have been among the ‘survivors’ through the many troubled times, and always proud of the good work we've done despite so many, shall I say odd administrations. And I'm glad I'll still be able to contribute.”