Have broadcast, will do.
That was Jack Brickhouse’s modus operandi in an unparalleled career that took him from modest beginnings at WMBD in Peoria in the depths of the Great Depression as a teenage announcer in 1934 to the Ford Frick Award at the Hall of Fame in 1983.
Brickhouse is best known for his baseball work on WGN-TV. But he did so many kinds of broadcasts, sports and otherwise, in his career that what he didn’t do is almost as newsworthy. He literally was the man for all seasons in sports, from World Series to NFL championship games, from Rose Bowls to the NBA playoffs. And away from the field and arenas he handled political conventions, man-on-the-street sessions, kids shows, prime-time network TV dramatic programs and earth-shaking bulletins, such as announcing on WGN Radio that President Franklin Roosevelt had died.
Brickhouse enjoyed a life of firsts. He was the first voice heard on WGN-TV when it signed on 1948. He was the first Chicago voice heard on a trans-Atlantic satellite broadcast in 1962. He called eight no-hitters, six Gale Sayers touchdowns in one game and the better part of 45 runs scored in a 1979 Cubs-Phillies contest.
The Chicago Baseball Museum pays tribute to Brickhouse in this special web site at a time the Cubs are honoring him with a special bobblehead day, as part of their Wrigley Field 100th anniversary celebration. Brickhouse was so much a part of the old ballpark’s history from his arrival in Chicago in 1940 to on-air reunions with WGN colleagues like Vince Lloyd and Lou Boudreau in the 1990s. He was present both when the ivy was just three years old and when the lights were in their 10th season of illumination.
This web site recalls different facets of Brickhouse’s life. In addition to stories, the Chicago Baseball Museum is presenting photos, largely from the collection of Pat Brickhouse, Jack’s wife.
Also featured are a wide variety of video and audio highlights from his career. Our thanks go to WGN-TV production director Bob Vorwald for key video highlights. Appreciation also must go to lifelong Cubs fan Al Fujara, who recorded the audio of Brickhouse highlights off his home TV set going back to 1966. If not for Fujara’s then-youthful enthusiasm, most of those calls and the narration by the likes of Wendell Smith and John Drury would have been lost to history. Overall audio production duties, as he does for the Chicago Baseball Museum’s vintage Diamond Gems podcasts, were handled skillfully by “Sweet Lou” Carlozo. And a helping hand was lent by Lance Tawzer, curator of the Elmhurst Historical Museum, which has a dandy baseball exhibit on display with the Chicago Baseball Museum’s assistance.
Last but never least, the production of the site could not have taken place without the creativity and attention to details from web masters Carol Kneedler and Marissa DeWeese at O3 Internet Consulting.
Jack Brickhouse’s life timeline
1916 — Born John Beasley Brickhouse in Peoria.
1934 — Joins WMBD-Radio in Peoria as 18-year-old announcer.
1938 — Begins popular Bradley University broadcasts with unprecedented format of recording games for playback later in the evening.
1940 — Joins WGN Radio as announcer.
1945 — Broadcasts White Sox games on WJJD Radio.
1946 — In only season working away from Chicago, serves as New York Giants radio baseball announcer.
1947 — Teams with “Whispering Joe” Wilson as broadcasters on pioneering Cubs telecasts on WBKB (Ch. 4).
1948 — Signs on WGN as Chicago’s second TV station in April and begins decades-long tenures as Cubs and White Sox TV voice.
1951 — Announcer for popular 2 ½-hour Saturday night wrestling telecast from Marigold Gardens that is fed over DuMont Network.
1953 — Begins 24-season stint as Bears radio voice, teaming with Irv Kupcinet on WGN.
1954 — Behind the NBC-TV mic for Willie Mays’ famed World Series catch on Vic Wertz in Polo Grounds.
1954 — Broadcaster for “Boys Baseball” Little League telecasts out of Chicago’s Thillens Stadium, where center-field camera was first used.
1955 — Broadcasts first of eight no-hitters when Sam Jones nervously blanks Pirates at Wrigley Field.
1956 — Behind the NBC-TV mic for Bears-Giants NFL championship game at Yankee Stadium.
1958 — Broadcasts WGN’s first road baseball telecast, from St. Louis.
1959 — Behind the WGN-TV mic for Sox’s pennant-clincher in Cleveland, then broadcasts live from team plane on WGN-Radio all the way through to taxing up to ramp at Midway Airport.
1959 — Teams with Vin Scully to broadcast Sox-Dodgers World Series in NBC-TV.
1960 — Begins color telecasts of Cubs and Sox games on WGN-TV.
1962 — Play-by-play voice on short live cut-in of Cubs game beamed to Europe as part of first commercial Telstar satellite broadcast.
1963 — Call on Davey Whitsell’s interception and runback for TD against the Detroit Lions is one of his most memorable.
1963 — Broadcasts Bears-Giants NFL championship game with Chris Schenkel at Wrigley Field for NBC-TV.
1966 — Begins tense relationship with Cubs manager Leo Durocher; somehow co-exists with panelist Durocher on Monday night “Sports Open Line” WGN-TV live studio show.
1966 — Negotiates first Bulls TV contract with owner Dick Klein on restaurant placemat, then serves as Bulls’ first TV announcer on WGN through 1973.
1967 — Broadcasts only Sox no-hitter when Joel Horlen masters the Tigers at Comiskey Park.
1968 — Overall celebrity profile and identification with Cubs rises even higher when Sox bolt for WFLD-TV (Ch. 32) and P.K. Wrigley permits WGN to televise 60 or more road games each season.
1969 — Call on Willie Smith’s walkoff pinch-hit homer on Opening Day is his best-remembered and served as symbolic soundtrack for memorable ’69 season.
1975 — P.K. Wrigley considers him for job as Cubs president, but Durocher nixes plan by refusing to serve as Brickhouse’s general manager.
1975 — Quietly helps Bill Veeck put together ownership group to prevent Sox from moving to Seattle.
1979 — At the mic for second-highest-scoring game in MLB history, the Phils’ 23-22 slugfest triumph over Cubs that is replayed in its entirety on WGN the following winter.
1979 — Broadcasts 5,000th baseball game and is honored at Wrigley Field by Illinois Gov. Jim Thompson and Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne.
1979 — Announces that 1981 will be final season behind Cubs mic.
1981 — Interviews President Reagan at the White House.
1981 — Amid fan acclaim, does final telecast at Wrigley Field.
1983 — Inducted into broadcaster’s wing of Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
1984 — Works as third man in WGN booth with Harry Caray and Steve Stone for Cubs’ NL East clincher in Pittsburgh, then conducts clubhouse interviews afterward.
1988 — Officiates at pre-game ceremonies for the first scheduled night game at Wrigley Field.
1997 — Participates in career retrospective on “Diamond Gems” radio show, segments of which are replayed on Chicago Baseball Museum site.
1998 — Dies at age 82 in Chicago.