“Don't you wish you could take a single childhood memory and blow it up into a bubble and live inside it forever?”
― Sarah Addison Allen, Lost Lake
Isn't that the truth? It most certainly is for me.
There are so many memories I'd like to stuff into that bubble, I'm sure many more than would fit. Most of them involve my family — my Mom, Dad and sister Dorothy, now all passed, and sisters Jean and Mary, to whom I remain very close — but also the places and times I'd love to keep, too. My first school, Roosevelt Grade School is now a storage space for the other schools, and my Washington Junior High is now rubble, as is the Peru Swimming Pool where I worked my summers all through high school.
And it saddens me even further to know that very, very soon, I'll be losing yet another piece of my youth, one that I'd live to store forever.
From the time I was just nine years old until I got well into junior high, it was always my habit in the months of April and May, then again from August through September, to rush home from school as quickly as I could. We lived close enough that Mary and I could walk most days, but during those times, for me it became a flat-out sprint to get home to catch the tail end of the Cubs games at Wrigley Field.
I would burst in the door and hope that my mom wasn't watching General Hospital or my older sisters were not around to try and switch it to Dark Shadows before the game was over. I would turn it to WGN-TV on Channel 9 and stare at the fuzzy black-and-white images of my favorite team while listening to Jack Brickhouse describe the action, hoping he'd soon give a recap on how they came to be, say, leading the Phillies 3-1 or trailing the Dodgers 5-4.
When it was over, I'd savor Jack giving "the happy totals" while in the background, you could hear kids in the stands stomping on empty paper beer cups to make them "pop" as they exited the "Friendly Confines." It was that sound that reminded me it was time to start my homework before dinner.
But when my Dad got home from Westclox, over dinner I'd tell him all about the line-drive home run that Ernie Banks had hit with Brickhouse shouting "Hey! Hey!", the annual inside-the-park home from Don Kessinger, the dozen strikeouts posted by Fergie Jenkins and much, much more.
Now that era of the Cubs on WGN will come to an end later this week. After 72 years of broadcasting the club's battles with the National League's best teams and players that would eventually be enshrined in the Hall of Fame, the station will cover its last home game on Saturday, Sept. 21 against the Cardinals. The last game ever will be on Saturday, Sept. 27 at St. Louis.
From then on, the Cubs will no longer be free to see, as it has been since its first broadcast on April 23, 1948. Starting in 2020, it'll cost you $6 a month to see it on the team's Marquee Sports Network.
I have to say it hurt a little when in 2014 the Cubs switched from WGN Radio, 720-AM on your radio dial, to WSCR 670-AM "The Score" Sports Radio, but this is a whole other matter. The Cubs on "the G" was my pre-adult sports staple.
This was Willie Smith pinch-hitting a home run in the ninth to win on Opening Day.
This was Ron Santo clicking his heels after a victory.
This was rookie Burt Hooten throwing his "knuckle-curve".
This was George Mitterwald hitting three home runs in a game.
This was producer Arnie Harris finding the wildest hat in the stands.
This was Rick Monday saving an American flag from being burned.
This is Jose Cardenal trying to hide a ball in the ivy in right field.
This was Harry Carey slurring his words by the fourth inning.
This was Bill Buckner hobbling to first base after another base hit.
This was the emergence of Bruce Sutter and Lee Smith as HOF closers.
This was the "Daily Double" of Bob Dernier and Ryne Sandberg.
This was Carmen Fanzone, "Tarzan" Joe Wallis, Ivan DeJesus, Chuck Rainey, Jimmy Qualls, Rich Nye, Vic Harris, Brian Dayett, Dick Ruthven and hundred and hundreds more Cubs that everybody once knew but had probably forgotten about. Everybody but me, that is.
There will forever be a place in my Cubbie heart for WGN and I thank everyone involved with those games and those broadcasts, both TV and radio. Thank you for making the run home from school every day very much worth it.