Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Remembering Jack

Today is the tenth anniversary of the death of the great broadcaster, Jack Brickhouse. I say "broadcaster" rather than "baseball broadcaster" because, while Jack was best known for broadcasting the Chicago Cubs, he was one of those early-television guys who came in from radio and did everything. These are the people, of whom far too few are left, who built today's on-camera look and feel. They were pioneers in a medium that we can all agree is important and pervasive.

More personally, as a guy who grew up without a dad (it might not have made much difference; my father was apparently not much of a fan), I learned baseball from Jack Brickhouse. The Cubs played all day games at home, so Jack was on WGN when I came home from school or was inside during the summer. I don't know that Jack was a master of the nuances of the game, but he was able to convey, to a young fellow of seven or eight years old, just how special and fun and rewarding the game could be.

Unfortunately, in his later years, Jack was pushed aside in favor of the more bombastic style of Harry Caray, who seemed, rightly or wrongly, to convey the message that a baseball game was an excuse for having a good time (preferably with a beer in one hand and a blonde in the other). Jack was seen as old-school, maybe boring, certainly not the revenue generator that was the relentlessly commercial Caray.

But, to me, Jack was the uncle who takes you to the game, tells you old stories about people you've never heard of (but builds bridges to the history of the national pastime), loves and respects the game and teaches you to do the same. I had the pleasure of meeting Jack Brickhouse once, very briefly, and he embodied the word "gentleman." Today's broadcasters, who barely seem to fit the game in around promotional announcements and rock group worship, could learn a lot from this very professional broadcaster. I miss you, Jack, and I thank you for my lifetime of enjoyment from the great game of baseball.

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