Friday, April 18, 2014

Program Alert: Wrigley 100 (on WGN) this Sunday

This Sunday, WGN will air a two-hour special titled: "Wrigley 100: A Century Celebration" to honor the tie between WGN and the Chicago Cubs.  The program will air at 8 pm ET, 7 pm CT.

 This season, WGN's website is running blog posts discussing events that have happened on that day at Wrigley.  Here is the description of the special:
Narrated by WGN Radio’s Steve Cochran and featuring custom drawings by cartoonist Drew Litton, the magic moments and memories of a century of baseball at Clark and Addison are told via interviews with over 60 different people, including Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins, Ron Santo, Andre Dawson, Greg Maddux and Ryne Sandberg; as well as Kerry Wood, Rick Monday, Rick Sutcliffe, and Derrek Lee.  Visiting greats such as Hank Aaron, Vin Scully, Mike Schmidt, Albert Pujols, Bob Uecker and Paul Konerko will add their thoughts as well.  Other segments include Mike Ditka and Gale Sayers on playing for the Chicago Bears at Wrigley, fun and crazy moments at the park described by Harry Caray and Jack Brickhouse, and an in-depth look at some of Wrigley’s greatest games.
Here is a YouTube clip of the intro to the special.

WGN has a special bond with this blog simply because a majority of our color content has come from surviving WGN specials.  I have contacted WGN in the past and they have told me on a few occasions that a cache of classic broadcasts aren't hidden away somewhere.  What we have seen is what exists.  I don't know that to be 100% true, as things can be mislabeled or misplaced but I would imagine if there is something new, we might see it on this weekend's show.

It is worth noting that many are seeing this special as WGN's potential farewell to the Cubs.  The Cubs, still crawling out of debt, have their eyes set on big media bucks.  Since 2010, we have seen the Cardinals, Padres, Indians, Braves and Dodgers set an end to their OTA (over-the-air) broadcasts of their games.  Even though WGN is a superstation, they too offer a localized free broadcast.  Their current contract ends in 2014.

WGN first broadcast a Cubs game in 1948.  That first broadcast, a preseason game between the Cubs and White Sox, took place on April 16.  Jack Brickhouse did the play-by-play and the station employed three cameras to cover the action.  Since then, through the massive reach of their carriage on cable, the Cubs and WGN have been synonymous.  Every child in America who grew up in the 80's and 90's knew who Harry Caray was.  Their reach, much like TBS, was incalculable. 

In the end, though, WGN is still a local television station with a (larger) local budget.  For years, they have been getting the games at a rumored-to-be less than market rate.  With the huge contracts the Dodgers and Yankees have received, the Cubs see that as their windfall.  

As a fan of baseball history and nostalgia, I hope the Cubs and WGN can work something out.  The over-saturation of the FoxSports networks and the ComcastSports channels takes away the charm of local broadcasts.  There is something special about WGN still carrying 'The 10th Inning', a show that once featured postgame interviews of Casey Stengal and more.

Here is a clip of the Cubs media head talking about the future this past winter.

So be sure to tune in and enjoy what hopefully be a special chock full of classic clips.  You can be certain we will see Willie Smith's walkoff homerun on Opening Day in 1969 for the thousandth time.  But who knows. Maybe we will see a clip of the epic Gibson/Fergy duel or some more highlights from the Cubs ending Tom Seaver's no-hit bid.  Whatever the case, we should appreciate WGN while we still have a chance.  They are baseball history.

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