Inspired by a comment made in Friday’s Cubs Mount Rushmore post, I thought I’d make a separate one for broadcasters.
Cubs announcers have, through the entire history of radio and television, had an outsize influence on the fanbase, perhaps more so than for any other single franchise. This could be because of the team’s lack of success, so fans look more toward the announcers for entertainment through bad seasons, or because of the quality of the broadcasts, or because more Cubs games have been televised than for any other team, or for any number of reasons.
We’ve had our share of great announcers, and some not-so-good. Here are my Mt. Rushmore Four of Cubs announcers, not in any particular order.
Love him or hate him, you cannot deny his influence on the Cubs fanbase from 1982 through 1997, 16 years of being the lead TV broadcaster. He came on board after decades of broadcasting for two of the Cubs’ bitterest rivals, the Cardinals and White Sox, yet 15 years after his death, he’s beloved by many Cubs fans. Because he came to WGN-TV and the Cubs right as they were starting to become a better team and WGN was becoming a superstation powerhouse, his broadcaasts became legend nationwide, helping the Cubs create the national fanbase they currently enjoy. That, more than anything else, is Harry’s Cubs legacy. The statue of Harry outside the bleachers at Wrigley is testament to his influence.
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By the time Brickhouse was forced to retire at age 65 — probably before he wanted to go — he had become somewhat of a caricature of himself, with many catchphrases (“Look out now!” “Whoo, boy!” “Oh, brother!” “Watch it, now!”) that became parodied. But before the 1970s Brickhouse was at the forefront of many broadcasting innovations in a relatively new industry. He started with WGN-TV in 1948, when the station went on the air, and broadcast both Cubs and White Sox games, as well as Bears and Bulls games and many other events. By the time he retired he had called more than 5,000 baseball games.
This one could have gone to Lou Boudreau; the team of Vince and Lou might be a better choice, because they were woven together from 1965-86, when Lloyd, like Brickhouse, was forced to retire. Lloyd came into the position by accident after the death of Jack Quinlan in a car accident during spring training in 1965. Before that he had been a fill-in, a sidekick to Brickhouse, and a TV sportscaster at WGN. But his famous “Holy mackerel!” call for Cubs home runs and his enthusiastic accuracy got an entire generation’s worth of Cubs fans enjoying his calls.
It’s hard to give this spot to someone who left in the manner Stone did, and especially since he’s now calling White Sox games. But there is no denying his influence for 21 seasons (1983-2001, and 2003-04 after missing the 2002 season with Valley fever); he taught many about baseball strategy, and his fill-in on play-by-play in 1987 when Harry missed much of the early season with a stroke was a tour de force. Not many could have worked with personalities as disparate as Bob Uecker and Bill Murray so smoothly, but Stone did. I never did understand those who thought Stone would be a great manager or GM — the skillsets are completely different — but in his Cubs TV heyday, he was terrific.
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Others who don’t quite make the cut, but are close: Pat Hughes, Lou Boudreau, Milo Hamilton, Lloyd Pettit, Bob Elson, Bob Brenly, Ron Santo and Len Kasper.