My latest Chicago Tribune column is on the end of an era in Chicago.
Consider this: If the Cubs stay on their new radio outlet, WBBM-AM 780, for as long as they were on WGN-AM 720, fans will be listening to games on that station in 2069. Assuming, of course, there’s radio and baseball.
From the column:
Nothing lasts forever, but the idea of the Cubs leaving WGN-AM 720 seemed as unlikely Ernie Banks suddenly proclaiming that the Cardinals are his favorite team.
WGN and Cubs baseball have been such a fixture in fans’ daily lives that only first names were required. For one generation, it was tuning into “Vince and Lou”; for another it was listening to “Pat and Ron.”
This is a relationship that dates back to 1925, with WGN being the exclusive radio home for the Cubs since 1959, currently the longest-running association in baseball. Yet it all comes to an end with the season finale Sunday.
Next year, the Cubs will begin a seven-year deal to air their games on WBBM-AM 780. As usual, money is a prime factor for the switch. WGN exercised an out-clause in its contract after suffering heavy financial losses because of the Cubs’ recent struggles. While the station wanted to keep the Cubs, WBBM swooped in, offering more cash with a multi-platform package that goes beyond airing games.
Indeed, it is the close of a remarkable era in sports radio, and one that could be repeated on the TV side if the Cubs also leave WGN-9; negotiations are on-going for a new deal. The whole situation is hard to digest for Jack Rosenberg, who spent 45 years as sports editor for WGN Sports.
“I know money talks,” said Rosenberg, 88. “We can’t get around that. But I’m sorry to see this happen. WGN and the Cubs were supposed to be forever. It’s hard to believe it won’t.”
If only the Cubs had similar talent on the field as they did in the radio booth. Dave Eanet, WGN Radio’s sports director, noted that Sports Illustrated recently did a long article lauding the Cardinals’ long run at KMOX-AM that featured Caray and Jack Buck.
“It’s hard to argue with those guys, but we’ve had a star-studded roster doing Cubs games here (Harry Caray, Vince Lloyd, Milo Hamilton, Jack Quinlan),” Eanet said. “It won’t be long before Pat (Hughes) is in the Hall of Fame.”