Saturday, November 19, 2005

media creature: Discovering a Voice of the Past

I contend that baseball fans form a bond with their team's broadcasters that is greater than that of any other sports fan. It has got to be the amount of time we "spend" with our guys. Whether it was Lou Boudreau teaching us the fundamentals--"for all you youngsters out there..." or Pat and Ron peeling oranges, we grow to love "our" announcers. A baseball teams radio and tv broadcasters are a conduit between the action on the field and the millions of fans that wish they were in the ballpark on any given day.

Growing up in the 70's and 80's following the Cubs I always felt was great. Yeah, the Cubs were usually horrible. Still, there were only day games at Wrigley Field and our broadcasters were fun! Vince Lloyd and Lou Boudreau on the WGN radio and of course the Hall of Famer Jack Brickhouse on the tv side. The voices kept us from being too discouraged and always told us that there was reason for hope.

Still in my Cub family every now and again my Dad or Grandpa would mention a name from the past. A name that I was not familiar with: Jack Quinlan.

When you grow up in a family that loves Cub baseball you seem to discuss everything about the team umteen times. You can only talk about the backup middle infielders for so long. Eventually you drift off of the field and talk about the guys in the booth. As a kid I would ask "who's the best announcer the Cubs have had?" The easy answer is of course Brickhouse or years later Harry Caray. Somehow the name that would always pop up along with Jack and Harry would be that of Quinlan.

Until this week, Jack Quinaln was the same to me as Bert Wilson--a guy who had broadcast the Cubs before I was alive. A few weeks ago, Sports Central's Dave Kaplan had a gentleman named Ron Barber on his show along with Bob Costas. They were talking about Quinlan. I stopped and listened. Barber's gotta be close to the same age as my Dad. I wondered to myself: what is the Baby Boomers fascination with this Jack Quinlan? At the end of the interview Barber pitched an audio book on Quinlan called Jack Quinlan: Forgotten Greatness. I jotted the website down and it sat on the kitchen counter a few weeks.

This week, I started to really miss Cub baseball. So I decided, I'd order the audio book and figure out what was so special about Jack Quinlan. When the CD's arrived I popped them into my car stereo and began listening. There's a lot of narration by Barber. Barber talks about growing up in Glenview in the 50's and 60's as a young Cub fan. The narration is kind of like that on the tv show The Wonder Years. That's ok but the real highlight on the CD's are the audio clips of Quinlan calling ball games.

There were highlights of Quinlan calling All Star games, the 1960 World Series, Don Cardwell's no hitter, and several Cub low lights from the era. There is a hillarious episode where Jack and Lou try to read commercials for women's's classic! A favorite of mine was the Cubs first game in Los Angeles at the LA Coloseum. You actually hear two innings of Quinlan and Lou calling the ballgame from the West Coast.

Listening to Quinlan's calls I finally realized what the Baby Boomers enjoyed about Quinlan. Quinlan described the ballgame with precision. As I was listening I could see a player jump into the vines to take a double away. I also heard enjoyment in Quinlan's voice. You could tell that he really enjoyed bringing the action to the fans. So many of today's baseball announcers have a shtick. Listening to Quinlan, I realized this guy didn't have a shtick, because he didn't need it. I realized what the Baby Boomers know Jack Quinlan was a damn good Cub broadcaster.

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