Chicago Baseball History
On a February night in 2002, I stood outside Vince Lloyd’s Green Valley, Ariz. retirement home with the host. We both looked to the countless stars in the desert sky.
The previous year, Lloyd’s old WGN comrades-in-arms-Lou Boudreau and Arne Harris had died. Back in 1998, Jack Brickhouse and Harry Caray passed away. Talking about Brickhouse, Vince said he had a telling feeling that Jack had died earlier that day, before he heard the news. That’s how connected the WGN boys were through what Brickhouse called “80-hour work weeks” and rotating poker games at the sports staff’s homes.
“They were my friends,” Lloyd said, looking up.
Nothing is forever except friendship and great memories. A year and a half later, the man born Vince Lloyd Skaff in South Dakota in 1917 also was consigned to fond remembrance, his stout heart, trademark baritone voice and old Marine Corps toughness unable to outlast cancer at 86. I cherished Vince’s good fellowship and support of my career in his later life, after he had served as a youthful soundtrack of summers as he did for several million Midwest listeners as a verbally animated Cubs radio voice.
I committed to the concept to garner honors and recognition for Vince, probably underrated during his prime since Brickhouse had the highest regional profile as Cubs TV play-by-play with the most games on video in the majors. But the Ford Frick Award, baseball’s highest honor for an announcer, seemed beyond Lloyd’s reach posthumously. Soon after his July 2003 death, I added Vince Lloyd at the last moment to my “Where Have All Our Cubs Gone?” book, published in 2005, as a means to remember him.
Pat Hughes probably merited the Ford Frick Award simply for being on duty and keeping his composure as the only Chicago announcer ever to call a Cubs World Series clinching out.
After all, radio was in the hands of hobbyists and experimenters – the Marconis of the world — in 1908, the last Cubs world’s championship. Commercial radio did not start ’til 1920 and the first baseball game was not aired ’til the next year, in Pittsburgh.
But even if the Cubs had blown Game 7 in 2016, Hughes surely deserved the top broadcaster’s honor given out by the Hall of Fame for lifetime achievement. Few can match Hughes’ smooth-as-silk baseball voice or his wry, dry and sly sense of humor around boothmates such as the two Rons, Santo and Coomer.
Hughes beat out former Cubs colleague Steve Stone and a host of other contemporary announcers for the 2023 Award on Wednesday, Dec. 7, hard on the heels of his induction into the Cubs Hall of Fame under the left-field bleachers. He is truly one of the golden voices of our time.
We go back to his first season in Chicago in 1996, when Hughes had to maintain interest as the Cubs, a marginal contender at mid-season, lost 14 of their final 16. An announcer had to keep it interesting until the last out on the final day. As Harry Caray advised the newcomer then, a Cubs voice does not just sign up for winning seasons, which were then at a premium at Wrigley Field.
Those memories and more flowed in a phone conversation, the day after receiving his Ford Frick honor, that was as much congratulatory as interrogatory.
“It’s as good as it gets,” said Hughes, who said his emotions ranged from “shock” to being “on Cloud Nine. You work hard, you really don’t think about the award while you’re (on the air). It’s such a lofty achievement.”
In July 2012, Hughes was in Cooperstown for Ron Santo’s posthumous induction into the Hall of Fame.
Baseball Under Glass
Thom Ross makes his point – very sharply – about the Black Sox via his art in the most publicized exhibit commemorating the 100th anniversary of sports’ biggest scandal.
All of Ross’ drawings of the celebrities, sanctimonious arbiters and shadowy characters involved in the attempting throwing of the 1919 World Series have angular, almost severe lines. He did not sketch rounded, softer edges. The style makes everyone seem taller.
In fact, Ross’ depiction of Kenesaw Mountain Landis required a rectangular display case. The judge who threw the book – and then some – at the Black Sox almost seems to grow out of his confines with the artist making him long, lean and spare.
A lot of the motivations of the 1919 White Sox who took gamblers money and those who judged them are still up for debate. But not Ross’ MO in his sketching style. He has put it all together in an exhibit, “The Black Sox – A Century Later,” running through July at the Beverly Arts Center on the southwest corner of Western Avenue and 111th Street in Chicago. Commuters from nearby I-57 on 111th go up a sudden incline at Longwood Drive to Chicago’s highest point to gain a special perspective into baseball’s lowest moment that has been made into books, movies and endless recrimination.
“It’s just who I am,” Ross said, appropriately dressed in 1919 garb, complete with straw skimmer, for the opening of the exhibit. “My theory is things like mythology and legend are inspired by historical stories and truth. But it gets warped (over the decades). That’s why these figures (with sharp edges) don’t look like photographs. In that mythic world, you appear like you do in a dream. (more…)
Some kind of middle ground in apparel must exist between Andre Dawson‘s funeral suit for his family business and the T-shirt and trunks for the youth swimming program that bears his Hall of Fame name in west suburban Lombard.
Like a Cubs uniform?
In an under-publicized manner, Dawson has indeed worn the Cubs uniform officially for the first time in 26 years in spring training, and hopes to do so again sometime this season for Cubs minor leaguers. Add in more brightly-colored business casual wear for meeting fans and sponsors in other duties as a new team ambassador, and you have the perfect balance in the life of one of the most respected Cubs in history.
“Let’s say I’m all over the place,” Dawson, tracked down in Chicago the other day, said of his 2018 schedule. His base is hometown Miami, but much of his heart is in the city that he claims vaulted him into Cooperstown via six memorable Cubs seasons from 1987 to 1992. Mention that he’d spend even more time in Chicago if the temperature did not drop below 50 and he’d not have to wear anything heavier than a windbreaker, and Dawson breaks into a knowing laugh.
He was cast aside in the off-season, along with fellow Hall of Famer Tony Perez, as a Miami Marlins special assistant by budget-slashing Fish boss Derek Jeter. Regrets are few because Dawson can now work for the Cubs — a longtime goal — while still tending to the funeral home he operates with wife Vanessa and two uncles, earning him national profiles such as respected baseball scribe Bob Nightengale in USA Today: