Speaking up for late Cubs broadcaster Jack Quinlan for Hall

Written By BY DAN McGRATH For Sun-Times Media Posted: 07/27/2014, 02:31am

Never mind the America’s Cup or the NFL draft. If it really wanted to brand the city as a sports destination, the Chicago Sports Commission would have gone after this year’s Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

As if it could be pried loose from the quaint village of Cooperstown, which would be nothing more than a remote dot on a New York state map if not for the Hall’s presence.

Nonetheless, there will be a distinctive Chicago flavor to Sunday’s festivities, with Frank Thomas, Greg Maddux and Tony La Russa comprising half the membership in the Class of 2014.

Susie Quinlan dreams that the flavor lingers into next year, when her dad, Jack Quinlan, is eligible for the Ford C. Frick Award, which bestows Hall of Fame recognition on a baseball broadcaster. Jack Quinlan, having called Cubs games on WGN Radio from 1957 to 1964, is up as a member of the ‘‘Living Room Era,’’ which encompasses the mid-’50s through the early ’80s and reflects the arrival of television as a broadcast medium.

The ‘‘Pioneer Era’’ covers the mid-’30s to the early ’50s; the ‘‘High Tide Era’’ the mid-’80s to now, which includes this year’s winner, Eric Nadel of the Texas Rangers. The 2015 candidates are Living Roomers.

Susie Quinlan is mounting a one-woman campaign on her father’s behalf. He would join Chicago icons Bob Elson, Jack Brickhouse, Harry Caray and Milo Hamilton (well, sort of) as Frick winners. She knows it’s a long shot; Quinlan was lead man in the Cubs’ radio booth for only eight seasons, and longevity is a common characteristic among honorees — Nadel, for instance, has worked Rangers games for 36 seasons.

‘‘Without the name recognition that longevity provides, it’s going to be tough,’’ Susie said.

Jack Quinlan was only 38 when he was killed in a car accident at spring training in 1965, 50 years ago next March. Those who remember him ‘‘range in age from 60 to 90,’’ Susie said, and are less likely to participate in online voting that begins in September on the Hall of Fame’s website and Facebook page. It’s the first step toward Frick Award consideration.

Susie Quinlan’s best memories are of Jack piling his four kids and others from the neighborhood into his red Pontiac convertible for trips to Wrigley. ‘‘People were all over him when we got to the park, and it was impossible for him to eat a restaurant meal without being interrupted,’’ she recalled. ‘‘I never thought of him as a celebrity. He was just my dad.’’

Susie was only 9 when Jack died, but over the years she has heard so many testimonials to his greatness that she believes the Frick Award is appropriate recognition.

‘‘I got to spend a game in the booth with Jack as part of a Buick promotion when I was 12 years old, and it definitely planted a seed in this feeble brain,’’ said Pat Foley, the Blackhawks’ Hall of Fame TV voice. ‘‘Calling a ballgame seemed like such a cool thing to do, but what I really remember was how nice he was.’’

Jack Quinlan devotees (myself included) are like aging cultists — small in number but unwavering in our loyalty to his memory.

‘‘He was my idol growing up,’’ Chicago radio fixture Bob Sirott said on a recent broadcast of his WGN mid-day program. ‘‘I loved his humor, I loved the sound of his voice. I really got the radio bug from listening to him.’’

The voice — think faster-paced Pat Hughes with sharper Midwest intonations — wrapped up a package of reporting, humor and effortless rapport with analyst Lou Boudreau that made the broadcasts more entertaining than the team; the Cubs played .434 baseball on Quinlan’s watch, with one winning season, and finished, on average, 26 games out of first.

‘‘My aunt, Dad’s sister, always said he’d be in by now if the Cubs were any good,’’ Susie said.

Susie’s quest is about baseball and broadcasting and how Hall of Fame recognition enhances a legacy, but it’s also about a daughter’s simple desire to fill a void and honor the memory of a dad gone way too soon.

‘‘My grandma told us that when dad was 5 years old, she asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. He said, ‘The announcer for the Cubs.’ After his death, people would tell us how tragic it was that he died so young. It was sad, and it was hard on us. But he got to live his dream. How many people can say that?’’

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