|Cubs Broadcast History - Page 6|
|Written by Ken|
|Thursday, 26 July 2007 12:18|
Page 6 of 12
WRIGLEY FIELD IN YOUR HOME
The Chicago Cubs, in addition to being among baseball’s radio pioneers, were also at the head of the pack in television. Early in 1946, WBKB-TV announced plans to televise opening day at Wrigley Field. Unfortunately, transmission problems involving their downtown antenna and an inconveniently placed office building forced a delay in game telecasts until July 18.
Jack Gibney handled the commentary on the first game, but he was not destined to be recalled as one of Chicago’s great sports announcers. In 1947, “Whispering” Joe Wilson, joined by Jack Brickhouse, took over in the WBKB booth for all 77 Cubs home contests.
Brickhouse, like his mentor Bob Elson, came from Peoria. But Brick ended up sounding completely unlike “The Commander.” Thin and bespectacled in his younger years, the admittedly “gee-whiz” broadcaster soon bulked up and lost most of his hair.
Elson helped Brickhouse get a job on WGN in the early 1940s, and in 1945, with Elson in the military, “Brick” took over as the #1 on White Sox radio broadcasts.
The next year, however, Elson returned from the service, and Brickhouse, out of a job in Chitown, went to New York in 1946 to announce New York Giants games at the Polo Grounds with neophyte Steve Ellis. Brickhouse did not enjoy working with the flinty Ellis, and returned to Chicago the following season to join Joe Wilson at WBKB.
Early on, Brickhouse cottoned onto television as the next big thing. “I wanted to get into this television thing and find out what it was all about,” he wrote years later. At first, it certainly wasn’t about prosperity; WBKB in 1947 paid Wilson and Brickhouse the princely sum of $35 per game—each.
Around this time, Brickhouse developed his signature call for home runs, a hearty and often voice-cracking “Hey, Hey!!” He also used plenty of other terms, like “Whee!” when the Cubs did something well, or “Oh, brother!” when they didn’t, that Elson, who saw himself as more of a serious journalist, would never have used. Unfortunately for Cubs fans, Brickhouse read more “unhappy totals” at game’s end than “happy totals” in his many years reporting Cubs contests.
WGN, Channel 9 on the dial, decided to enter the televising game in 1948, hiring Brickhouse away from WBKB to become the lead announcer. He was joined by Marty Hogan (for one year) and Harry Creighton (through 1956) in the Channel 9 booth, beginning a 34-year association that helped shape the baseball vocabulary and understanding of millions of Cubs fans.
As in the early days of radio, the baby-step years of TV were not about exclusivity. In 1948, three stations televised all 77 Cubs home contests. Besides WBKB and WGN, WENR also was in on things, employing Bill Brundidge and legendary former Cubs second baseman Rogers Hornsby to describe the action.
WENR dropped out after that one year, leaving WBKB and WGN competing for Cubs fans’ eyeballs until 1951. Following that season, Joe Wilson and WBKB whispered their way into memory.
In those days, television broadcasts of ballgames usually featured two or three cameras at most, one in the upper deck behind home plate and one down each foul line, either at field level or in the upper deck. The innovation of positioning a camera in the center field stands, which most credit to WGN, came in the late 1950s.
Back then, teams saw TV as promotion, much as they had done in the early days of radio. Chicago put their home games on the air in order to bring Wrigley Field into homes and taverns as a way to entice people to come out to the park. The idea of taking a television crew on the road was ridiculous; the cost in the late 1940s of hauling crews and cameras around the country was prohibitive, and independent TV production companies were still years away.
Therefore, Brickhouse spent his summers almost entirely in Chicago, giving words to the pictures of WGN’s Cubs and the White Sox home games. The first-ever Cubs road telecast did not come until 1960.
By then, the throaty, friendly, and enthusiastic Vince Lloyd had slid comfortably into the TV booth, backing up Brickhouse following the departure of Harry Creighton. Lloyd did occasional play-by-play, between-inning commercials, and the popular “Lead-Off Man” pre-game interview for both the Cubs and the White Sox. One of Lloyd’s greatest moments was an irreverent Opening Day 1961 interview at Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C. with President John F. Kennedy.
Of course, that moment—and most of the other truly memorable Chicago baseball moments of the 1950s and early 1960s—came with Brickhouse and Lloyd calling the action for the White Sox.
May 15, 1960, however, marked a great Cubs moment. In the first game of a doubleheader against the Cardinals at Wrigley Field, Don Cardwell, making his first Cubs start after being acquired from the Phillies, fired a no-hitter. Tape of the eighth and ninth innings (and the post-game) of this contest still exists; WGN’s feed, with Brickhouse and Lloyd at the mikes, is the earliest video of a regular-season no-hitter.
When the Cubs (and Sox) aired their very occasional road games, the WGN-TV crew split, adding another staff announcer such as Lloyd Pettit or Len Johnson to help deal with the extra work. Only in 1968, after the Pale Hose departed WGN for the greener ($$$) pastures of the UHF dial, did the Cubs ramp up their schedule, increasing road games from a paltry five in 1967 to a hearty 63.
|Last Updated on Thursday, 26 July 2007 12:31|