My latest Chicago Tribune column is on Al Michaels and how he nearly changed the course of sports history in Chicago.
You also can access the column via my Twitter feed @Sherman_Report.
From the column:
Now this is a good what-might-have-been story.
Al Michaels, preparing to call his ninth Super Bowl on Sunday, was in line to become the voice of the White Sox in 1971. In fact, if the Sox had hired him, there’s a good chance Harry Caray never would have come to Chicago. Talk about altering the history of sports in this town.
Michaels’ first significant play-by-play job had a Sox connection. In 1968, he broke in calling games for their Triple-A affiliate, the Hawaii Islanders.
“Say hello to Bill Melton for me if you see him,” said Michaels, who covered the future Sox star.
When the Angels took over the Hawaii affiliate in 1969, Michaels became close with their farm director, Roland Hemond, and Islanders manager Chuck Tanner. After Hemond was named Sox general manager in August 1970, bringing Tanner along as manager, he wanted Michaels to join them in Chicago in the broadcast booth for the ’71 season.
“Roland kept telling me he was very confident that it was going to happen,” Michaels said. “I’m 26 and I’m going to the big leagues. I can’t wait.”
Then Hemond called one day, and Michaels could tell by the tone of his voice it wasn’t good news.
“Roland said, ‘Chuck and I really battled for you, but (Sox owner John Allyn) said he couldn’t bring in a guy that young and make him the No. 1 announcer,’ ” Michaels said. “I was crushed.”
Instead, the Sox opted for the veteran Caray, who went on to become an icon in Chicago.
More than four decades later, Michaels wonders how his career would have been different had he gotten the Sox job.
“I might still be in Chicago,” Michaels said. “I love Chicago. Back then, the Sox were just getting rolling with Chuck and Dick Allen and Wilbur Wood. I don’t know what would have happened.”
After all these years, and with all the big games on his resume, the essence of Michaels’ success dates to advice he got from Curt Gowdy early in his career: “Don’t ever get jaded.”
“When someone like Curt Gowdy says that to you, you never forget it, and I haven’t,” Michaels said. “I have the greatest job ever invented. I never take these games for granted.”