John Beasley "Jack" Brickhouse (January 24, 1917 – August 6, 1998) was an American sportscaster. Known primarily for his play-by-play coverage of Chicago Cubs games on WGN-TV from 1948 to 1981, he received the Ford C. Frick Award from the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1983. In 1985, Brickhouse was inducted into the American Sportscasters Association Hall of Fame along with the Voice of the Yankees Mel Allen and Red Sox Voice Curt Gowdy. Brickhouse also served as the organization’s Secretary/Treasurer and was a member of its Board of Directors.
Brickhouse also called Chicago White Sox games prior to that team leaving WGN in 1968. He also covered national events from time to time, including three World Series for NBC television, although the Cubs never got there during his tenure. The voice on the audio track of the famous Willie Mays catch in Game 1 of the 1954 Series at the Polo Grounds belongs to Brickhouse, who was calling the Series along with the New York Giants' regular broadcaster, Russ Hodges. (Brickhouse himself had called Giants games locally in 1946.) Brickhouse also called the 1959 Series, which featured the White Sox with Los Angeles Dodgers announcer Vin Scully, and the 1950 Series with Jim Britt. In addition, Brickhouse partnered with fellow baseball broadcasting legend Mel Allen for NBC's coverage of the 1952 Rose Bowl, and with Chris Schenkel for the network's coverage of two NFL Championship Games (1956 and 1963).
Brickhouse also covered many other events, sports and otherwise (such as professional wrestling for WGN and political conventions for the Mutual radio network). And for many years he called Chicago Bears football on WGN-AM radio, in an unlikely and entertaining pairing with the famous Chicago Sun-Times gossip columnist Irv Kupcinet. Brickhouse was also a boxing commentator. Fights he called include the 1949 fight between Jersey Joe Walcott and Ezzard Charles and the 1951 fight between Johnny Bratton and Charley Fusari. He did Chicago Bulls basketball games for WGN-TV from 1966 until 1973 as well.
Brickhouse was born in Peoria, Illinois to Will and Daisy Brickhouse. His father died when Jack was just two years old, and he was largely raised by his mother. He started his first job when he was only eleven, delivering the Peoria Journal and Peoria Star, and subsequently attended Peoria Manual High School.
He began his long broadcasting career when only eighteen, at Peoria radio station WMBD in 1934. Chicago radio station WGN hired him in 1940 to broadcast Cubs and White Sox games, largely on the recommendation of their top announcer, Bob Elson. He was also the very first face shown when WGN-TV, Chicago's Channel 9, began broadcasting in 1948 after his U.S. Marine Corps service in World War II, when he missed the 1945 season, the only time in his long tenure that the Cubs would win the National League pennant. His only pennant as a broadcaster would belong to the White Sox in 1959, but neither the 1945 Cubs nor the 1959 Chisox won the World Series.
He broadcast both Cubs and White Sox games until 1967, which he was able to do because they almost never played at home on the same day, and retired in 1981.
Even in retirement, Brickhouse maintained a high profile as a Cubs and WGN ambassador. He would occasionally return to the booth for special events, such as Wrigley Field's annual "70's Night". He also guested with Harry Caray when the Cubs secured their first postseason berth in 39 years, as they clinched the 1984 National League Eastern Division title in Pittsburgh.
They won the first two games at Wrigley but lost the last three to the Padres in San Diego, in the last year the LCS was only a best-of-five series.
Brickhouse tried to let the pictures speak for themselves. In contrast, his successor as Cubs announcer, Harry Caray, a radio broadcaster by training, tended to describe the game on TV as if he were doing a radio broadcast. Brickhouse was sparer with his descriptive prose; perhaps not as spare as Vin Scully of the Los Angeles Dodgers, but talking in quick bursts rather than long sentences, knowing that the well-established camera work of WGN-TV and of producer Arne Harris would tell much of the story.
Instead of over-describing the action, "Brick" was more likely to add "flavor" to what was obviously happening, with almost childlike enthusiasm. He would pepper his play-by-play with various old-fashioned expressions, such as "Whew, boy!" after a close play that went the home team's way, or "Oh, brother!" when it went the other way, or "Wheeeee!" when the team would do something well. During games at Wrigley Field, if the score was tied going into the bottom of the ninth inning, Brickhouse would retort, "Any old kind of a run wins it for the Cubs."
His best-known expression was "Hey-hey!" after an outstanding play by the home team such as a homer in baseball or a touchdown in football, or even after taking a trick in a card game. But it was when he used it for a home run call that stuck in fans' memories, and that phrase now vertically adorns the screens on the foul poles at Wrigley Field.
Chicago columnist and lifelong Cubs fan Mike Royko's annual Cubs quiz, April 11, 1968, included the following question:
- Q: Quick - When a ball goes over the left field wall, what street does it land on?
- A: Waveland Avenue. But to hear Jack Brickhouse yell, you'd think it landed in his eye.
(One More Time: The Best of Mike Royko, University of Chicago, 1999, p. 29-31)
Some examples of Brick's calls:
September 22, 1959; White Sox at Cleveland in the 9th inning of what would be the A.L. championship pennant-clinching game.
"[Carroll] Hardy on second, [Jimmy] Piersall on first, and 'dangerous' Vic Power is up ... one out. Power ... is 1 for 4, an infield single ... there's a ground ball ... [Luis] Aparicio has it ... steps on second, throws to first ... The Ball Game's over! The White Sox are the Champions of 1959!! a forty-year ... wait has now ended!!!"
May 15, 1960; pitcher Don Cardwell, in his Cub debut, is trying to get the last out of a no-hitter, against the St. Louis Cardinals; the batter is Joe Cunningham, the left fielder is Walt "Moose" Moryn...
- "Watch it now ... Hit on a line to left ... Come on, Moose! ... He caught it! Moryn made a fabulous catch! ... It's a no-hitter for Cardwell! ... What a catch that Moryn made; what a catch he made!"
- "Here's the pass ... picked off by Whitsell! ... He's gonna go!! ... He's gonna go!!! ... Touchdown!!!! ... Hey-Hey!!!!!"
- "Jarvis fires away ... That's a fly ball, deep to left, back, back ... Hey-Hey! He did it!! Ernie Banks got number 500!!! The ball tossed to the bullpen ... everybody on your feet ... this ... is it!!!! wheeeeeee!!!!!"
Illness & Death
On February 27, 1998, Brickhouse himself fell ill and collapsed while preparing for the funeral of fellow Cubs' legendary broadcaster Harry Caray. Following brain surgery on March 3 to remove a tumor, he quickly improved, even making a few on-air appearances in the spring and early summer. Though burdened with a gravelly voice (which he attributed to the surgery and said would soon pass), Jack seemed on the road to recovery until his death on August 6 from cardiac arrest. He was interred at the Rosehill Cemetery and Mausoleum in Chicago.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Jack Brickhouse.|
- Baseball Hall of Fame - Frick Award recipient
- Jack Brickhouse Memorial in Chicago
- WGN Radio's page for Jack Brickhouse
- Jack Brickhouse at Find a Grave.
- http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=3500 Find a Grave entry