The Obit For Jack Brickhouse

Jack Brickhouse
Longtime Cubs' Announcer,82

August 7, 1998

   Jack Brickhouse, whose avuncular cheer and exuberant storytelling imbued his calls of more than 5,000 Chicago Cubs and White Sox games, died Thursday of cardiac arrest at St. Joseph Hospital in Chicago, said a spokeswoman. He was 82.
   Within six months, Chicago fans have lost two beloved baseball announcers, Brickhouse, and the flamboyant Harry Caray, who died on Feb. 18. Brickhouse has been rehabilitating from surgery to remove a brain tumor last March 3, but was seen recently at various events in Chicago. In late June, he was a guest announcer for three innings of a Cubs game on WGN-TV. He was supposed to attend a Cubs' charity event Wednesday night but called to say that he was feeling ill, said Jay Blunk, the Cubs' advertising director.

   Born in Peoria in 1916, Brickhouse chose breeziness over bombast as his broadcasting style. He was short on criticism, long on hope and simple charm. "I regard sports first and foremost as entertainment," he once said. "I like the 'let's forget our troubles and have some excitement' approach."

   Not surprisingly, his home run call was a simple, friendly, rumbling exclamation, familiar to denizens of Wrigley Field or Comiskey Park. "Back, back, back!" he started, then pausing to see if the ball was struck far enough. "That's it!" he added. "Hey-hey! Hey-hey!"

   Chet Coppock, a Chicago sportscaster, said, "In the 1950s, 'hey-hey' meant the Eisenhower administration and a wonderful stock market. In the 1960s, it was a dose of reality during a changing America." Brickhouse's career began at age 18 at a radio station in his hometown of Peoria. He came to Chicago in 1940, and with breaks for military service and a year to call New York Giants baseball games, Brickhouse called Cubs games from 1941 to 1981 and White Sox games from 1940 to 1967 on WGN Radio or TV. For more than two decades, he would call the home games of the crosstown rivals, an unusual feat in local sportscasting. "You'd have thought some people would hate him for that, but he was manifestly a person of good will," said Curt Smith, a sportscasting historian. Like many sportscasters of the 1940s and 1950s,

   Brickhouse covered myriad events, and was part of the transition from radio to television. His was the first voice heard on WGN-TV when it signed on in 1948. With the Chicago Sun-Times columnist Irv Kupcinet, Brickhouse called Chicago Bears games for 24 years. He also called Chicago Bulls, Zephyrs and Packers basketball games, Notre Dame football games, wrestling, golf and boxing, and covered five national political conventions and Franklin Roosevelt's 1945 inauguration.

   Brickhouse retired as one of the Cubs' regular announcers after the 1981 season -- succeeded by Caray, who left the White Sox -- and received the Ford C. Frick for broadcasting excellence by the Baseball Hall of Fame two years later. Thursday, fans flocked to his "Walk of Fame" stone outside Wrigley to pay their respects. The famous red Wrigley sign said, "We'll miss you, Jack." Brickhouse is survived by his second wife, Patricia; a daughter, Jean Sky, from his first marriage, and a grandson.