HEY-HEY! Jack Brickhouse is smiling down on Wrigley

By Bill Dwyer For Chronicle Media
Jack Brickhouse statue on the Magnificent Mile. (Photo by Antonio Vernon)

Jack Brickhouse statue on the Magnificent Mile. (Photo by Antonio Vernon)

The Chicago Cubs’ historic World Series victory last Wednesday has me recalling simpler, if not so successful, times.

Recalling an era when baseball was more accessible to the average fan and television sports coverage wasn’t so overproduced. And also a time when newspapers were still the mirror people relied upon to reflect their joy and disappointment with the Cubs specifically and Chicago sports in general.

Last Friday, as the Cubs prepared to bus to Grant Park for a delirious celebration more than a century in the waiting, tall stacks of Chicago Tribunes and Sun-Times sat in grocery stores like ghosts of an earlier time, back when the bulk of our news came via words on newsprint and voices on the radio.

My thoughts turned to the man who bridged Chicago’s radio and television eras and formed the soundtrack of my baseball youth, the legendary Jack Brickhouse.

Somewhere amidst all the fireworks and cheering last Wednesday, you could almost hear his joyous exhultation.


Brickhouse, who died in 1998, would have celebrated his 100th birthday this past January. Were he still around, he would have yelled himself hoarse over the Cubs 2016 season, and I would have relished every word.

Growing up in an era when the Cubs were the last remaining bastion of day baseball, I loved getting home from school in time to catch the final inning or two of Cub’s game, win or lose.

It was a time when baseball fans didn’t feel the need to have every single meaningless statistic noted by announcers, and didn’t have to endure an endless stream of blather by multiple commentators apparently intent on showing us how much they knew about the game while all the while talking over it.

When announcers knew when to shut up and let the drama on the field speak for itself, as it does for fans at the park.

Brickhouse literally helped launch WGN’s televised sports empire. He did Cubs play-by-play from 1948 through 1981, including announcing WGN’s first television broadcast on April 16, 1948, a 4-1 White Sox victory over the Cubs in an exhibition game at Wrigley Field.

Brickhouse’s voice, longtime Chicago sportscaster Tom Shaer said, was “the sound of summer for generations of baseball fans.”

“The Chicago Cubs are on the air,” Brickhouse would intone to start each broadcast. He would call more than 5,000 Cubs and White Sox games, in the process bringing us many great Cub moments, including eight no-hitters and, of course, Ernie Bank’s 500th home run.

A total professional in the booth, Brickhouse could also wear his heart on his sleeve. On Sept. 2, 1972, with Milt Pappas’ no-hitter on the line, Billy Williams raced out of nowhere to make a catch in front of a fallen Cub outfielder to steal away a hit.

“Oh, brother!” breathed a relieved Brickhouse. “Whooo. Man alive!”

Unfortunately, Cub fans heard Brickhouse utter “Oh brother!” — and not in a good way — far too many times over that terrible September in 1969.

While he never saw the Cubs play in a World Series, Brickhouse did call three World Series, including in 1954, when he described “The Catch” by San Francisco Giants’ legend Willie Mays.

And when the first U.S. television images were broadcast to Europe via the new Telstar satellite in July 1962, they heard not just Walter Cronkite and President John F. Kennedy, but also Brickhouse, who was calling the Cubs-Phillies game.

By the 1966-67 professional sports seasons, Jack was calling games for the Cubs, Sox, Bears and Bulls.

Of all the things I liked about Brickhouse, it is his “Hey-hey!” I remember most fondly. Mike Royko, another Chicago media giant who bled Cub blue, quoted Brickhouse in a 1986 newspaper column, recalling first exclaiming “Hey-hey!” in 1952, after the Cub’s Hank Sauer belted a home run.

Royko noted that Brickhouse could have said just about anything in response to the homer, saying, “He could have just as easily shouted, “Yum, yum,” or Bebop, bebop. But “Hey-hey” is what popped out …”

Harry Caray statue outside Wrigley Field.

Harry Caray statue outside Wrigley Field.

He made it into a Chicago Cubs icon.

At the end of the 1981 season, Brickhouse bowed out before a deliriously roaring crowd in Wrigley Field. The following season former St. Louis Cardinal and White Sox announcer Harry Caray took over in the broadcast booth.

Current Cub’s radio announcer Pat Hughes mentioned Brickhouse Friday in his comments before the massive crowd at the Grant Park celebration. Brickhouse’s name elicited some cheers, but the fact is that, in the years since he retired, Brickhouse’s legacy has gotten lost in the shadow cast by his garrulous successor.

That hasn’t sat well with me. While Caray’s statue stands outside Wrigley Field, it’s Brickhouse’s spirit that reigns over the “Friendly Confines” at Clark and Addison.

I don’t want to take anything away from Caray, but long before there was “Holy Cow!” there was “Hey-hey!” a sentiment that graces both foul poles in Wrigley Field.


Unlike Brickhouse, who covered some of the worst Cub teams in history and still managed to make it entertaining, Caray had the good fortune to broadcast Cub games in an era when they actually managed to make the playoffs from time to time.


But Caray, with his over-sized glasses and amiably goofy, alcohol fueled antics in the booth, the bleachers and during 7th-inning stretches, was basically a carnival barker, an outgoing personality that St. Louis Cardinal owner Gussie Busch reportedly valued more for his ability to sell Budweiser beer than for his play-by-play. A mercenary who, when his 25-year career in St. Louis Cardinals was over, pulled up stakes and took his schtick to Oakland for one season before coming to Chicago to announce White Sox games for 11 years.

Caray simply couldn’t touch Brickhouse when it came to play-by-play. While he was every bit the “homer” as Caray, Brickhouse was a professional who approached televised play-by-play with the attention to detail required of a radio announcer and the excitement of a dyed-in-the-wool fan.

When I think of the Cubs, I think of Jack Brickhouse. And I can’t help wondering how even better this delirious season would have been with Brickhouse’s voice and spirit gracing it.

We have a few words from a speech he gave in retirement.

“In the fantasy of my dreams, I envision myself as the announcer for a Cubs-White Sox World Series. With the final games going extra innings, being suspended because of darkness at Wrigley Field.”

Your dream has finally become reality, Jack. The Cubs are World Champions. So let’s hear it one more time:





— HEY-HEY! Jack Brickhouse is smiling down on Wrigley —