Having moved from western Michigan to the suburbs of Chicago when I was 15, I went through a not all that reluctant transition as a sports fan. It was hard to not get Bulls hysteria during the mid-90s, and I’d always been at least as much of a Bears fan as I was the Lions fan my father’d tried to raise me to be, having been a very impressionable child in 1985, not to mention the fact that we lived approximately equidistant between Soldier Field and the Silverdome, and it was a no-brainer which one would give a young NFL fan the superior experience and memories. I even decided, prior to the start of this past NHL season, to officially forsake the Red Wings in favor of the Blackhawks; I hadn’t followed the NHL since the strike and the Blackhawks have some very promising young talent that I’ll be able to follow for several years (especially now that their home games are finally being broadcast). This turned out to be humorous timing, but I found that the playoffs are at least as fun to watch when rooting against the Red Wings as when rooting for them, anyway (they’re sort of the Yankees of hockey).
Baseball was a different story, though. The fact that there are two very distinct and separate leagues makes it not a big deal to have an “AL team” and an “NL team,” and that is what I did. I have very fond memories of summer afternoons spent watching WGN as a child: The Bozo Show in the morning, a rerun of The Incredible Hulk, then a Cubs game at 1:20. The fact that watching the Cubs did not conflict with rooting for the Tigers, as I was naturally raised to do, made it all the more enjoyable. As such, the Cubs are the only team I can truly say I’ve been a fan of my entire life, and I have WGN to thank for it.
Today, June 12, 2008, marked the 60th anniversary of the first broadcast of a Cubs game on WGN, and both the station and the team chose to have fun with it. Being a sucker for tradition, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
For starters, the first couple of innings of the game were broadcast in black-and-white. Both teams wore throwback uniforms, a first-ever for Wrigley Field. WGN used “1948 camera angles” during these first couple of innings, simulating an era when only a few cameras were available to televise a game (as opposed to the dozens that are now common), and wide shots were how audiences watched most of the game. Going further with the theme, during the black-and-white innings no instant replays were shown, since the technology didn’t exist yet in 1948. I don’t know if they had teletype capabilities at all back then, but WGN did their best to give everything an old-school look in the font department, too.
The Cubs’ announcers, Bob Brenley and Len Casper, played their part by dressing as reporters would have in the 40s, with pinstripe suits, swanky vests, and fedoras. Not only did the channel use an old-time logo, but notice how they even went so far as to print new banners for the announcers’ booth, too.
The Wrigley Field announcer, Wayne Messmer, got into the act as well: in addition to dressing in 1940s attire himself, he also sat in the front row right behind home plate, as the stadium announcer would’ve done at the time. Also during the black-and-white-televised innings there were (presumably simulated) typewriter noises heard in the background, imitating the sound of a pressbox from the era.
In addition to the blocky font used, even the sponsor logos (such as this Pepsi one) were old-style:
Finally, throughout the game, pieces of old-school Cubs and baseball trivia were presented, still in that old-timey blocky font:
And after all of that fun, the Cubs went on to do what this 2008 team has done so many times already: win another game with a come-from-behind victory, another one at home (bringing them to a ridiculous 29-8 in the Friendly Confines so far this season), and enjoying a start to the season that’s better than that of 1948 or any other year before or since.