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How Jerry Krause's Northwest Side Roots Helped Shape Him

By DNAinfo Staff | March 21, 2017 5:01pm | Updated on March 21, 2017 8:36pm
 Jerry Krause
Jerry Krause
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Chicago Bulls

ALBANY PARK — Even as he rose to fame as the general manager of six world championship NBA teams with the Bulls, Jerry Krause never forgot his roots on the Northwest Side.

"There were many who said a little guy from Albany Park couldn't. But I did," he said in a 2016 interview with the Tribune.

Krause died Tuesday at age 77, "a homegrown legend who built a dynasty recognized around the world," noted Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Krause's Chicago roots included a family-operated deli on Lawrence Avenue and later a shoe store, Krause's Bootery, on Northwest Highway.

But Krause's passion was sports.

"I didn't really like the store because I saw [parents Paul and Gertrude] never took a vacation. They were slaves to that store. I said to myself, 'I'm never going to be this way,' " he told the Trib.

Krause attended Taft High School, 6530 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., and is a member of its alumni hall of fame, along with Jim Jacobs, who based his play and movie "Grease" on his time at Taft, and Chicago Bears legend Jim Grabowski.

Though Krause wasn't particularly athletic, his high school coach Jim Smilgoff told the Reader in 1990 that Krause "was a gym rat — you couldn't keep him away."

He was the second-string catcher on his high school baseball team and could be found playing pickup basketball in Edison Park.

Krause was the son of a Russian Jewish immigrant. He told the Reader that in the 1950s, "It could have been a real anti-Semitic situation when my dad went out to the Northwest Side. He was the only Jew out there."

But his father "knew how to get along," Krause said. "He treated you the way you would want to be treated."

At Taft, a young Krause did get into some fights, he said. 

"It was the same old thing, a guy called me 'kike,' and I took a swing, and the next thing you know we were fighting. I must have got into a dozen fights," Krause said.

"Only this time Dick Petersen came along. We called him Pete. He was 6-foot-8. And Pete says, 'The next guy who fights Jerry fights me.' After that, there were no more fights."

After Sports Illustrated reported Krause's similar accounts of anti-Semitism in a story headlined "The Sleuth," Jewish former classmates disputed those accounts in letters published by the magazine.

"The impression that Taft was a hotbed of anti-Semitism is ludicrous. In fact, in the late '50s Taft was considered one of the most progressive high schools in Chicago," one wrote.

Krause covered sports for the high school newspaper and later worked as a copy boy at the Chicago American. He would go on to work not only in basketball but in baseball, too, including for the White Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks. Indeed, he once told a reporter that he wanted his headstone to read: HERE LIES THE HEART AND SOUL OF A SCOUT.

Michael Jordan once said he thought Krause's childhood provided insight into the man he famously clashed with.

"My whole definition of Krause is that he favors the underdog," Jordan told Sports Illustrated in 1993.  "He wants that diamond in the rough.

"I figure that he had a tough childhood, that he was always picked on, and this is his way of compensating, of becoming someone," Jordan said.