Posted by mike in Entertainment,Sports at 2:21 am on June 13, 2008

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.

Don't adjust your set
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.

Bob and Len
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:
1948 Cubs lineup
Old-school score

Finally, throughout the game, pieces of old-school Cubs and baseball trivia were presented, still in that old-timey blocky font:
1940s schedule

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.

Comments (3)

3 Responses to “Tradition”:

  • Could be the year for a Wrigley/Fenway series. If the Sox can find consistency, that is.

  • I mentioned the game on my Thursday blog entry. It was the first home TBTC for the Cubs, but somebody screwed up and ordered 1958-61, 1963-64, 1970-71 Cleveland Indians hats. But I really liked the old camera angles, tame graphics & both retro uniforms. Kudos for implimenting the high genuine stirrups as well.

    I grew up a Bears fan in the early 80s watching games with my dad. Bulls fan around ’86 with Doug Collins. I started watching White Sox games in ’87 on WFLD, and started watching Cubs games in ’89. I was still deciding on which team to pick and I shortly picked the White Sox for good. I still watch both teams & to see National League baseball. The 1990 Sox is still one, if not the most exciting baseball team I have ever seen. Blackhawks I started around probably 1990, and listened to the Stanley Cup finals in ’92 on the radio because we had no cable. I followed them until the early 00s, but I’m excited again because I’ll finally be able to watch games on WGN. And hey, Pat Foley is BACK with the Hawks!!!

    Yes, tradition is a good thing. I take it you have old school feelings about Interleague Play, expansion, juiced balls, etc. You have any favorite baseball announcers or writers? I was wondering if you could recommend any good baseball books. Sorry to rattle on so much.

  • Comment by Carl at 12:45 pm on June 26, 2008

    Mike Chesnut, one of the few respectable Cub fans. Good story. I guess there are some pretty cool Cub fans out there. They just don’t seem to cross my path very often. Your one of the only Cub fans I can talk baseball with and not want to punch.