WGN production head Bob Vorwald focused on finishing strong before teams leave
The Cubs will honor their TV partner of 72 years during the Sept. 21 game against the Cardinals, WGN’s last game at Wrigley Field.
WGN director of production Bob Vorwald knows the end of an era is coming, but he’s not thinking past baseball season.
That’s because after the White Sox’ home game against the Tigers on Sept. 28, WGN will lose the Cubs and the Sox. In February, the Cubs will appear on their own network, Marquee Sports Network. On Oct. 1, the Sox will join the Blackhawks and Bulls exclusively on NBC Sports Chicago.
“We’re focused on the short term, which is finishing the season as strongly as possible,” Vorwald said. “We understand what everybody has to do that is best for their business. These are great partnerships, and we’re just trying to stay great partners through the season. Then we’ll see what the future holds.”
It’s hard to imagine a future without sports on WGN. The station’s first broadcast, in March 1948, was Golden Gloves boxing from Chicago Stadium, and the Cubs and Sox were on WGN from the beginning. That will be an issue for new owner Nexstar, whose purchase is awaiting approval from the Federal Communications Commission.
In the meantime, Vorwald will aim to keep WGN’s final game broadcasts centered on the Sox’ young talent and the Cubs’ playoff push. It might not be easy. Emotions figure to flow Sept. 21, when the Cubs will honor WGN during its last broadcast from Wrigley Field, and Sept. 27, the Cubs’ last game on the station. It will end a run of 72 consecutive years airing Cubs games.
“The most important thing is that we do a good game that night,” Vorwald said. “We want to tip our hat to Jack Brickhouse and to Harry Caray and all the people that have announced and the thousands of men and women that have worked on the games. But the best way to do that is by having a great telecast. That’s always been our mission, and it’s important that we uphold that to the very end.”
WGN and the Cubs are working together to celebrate their relationship during the Sept. 21 game on the air and at Wrigley Field. And the finale will be capped by a video. But Vorwald has no plans to be self-indulgent. Both games are against the division-leading Cardinals, and they could be very meaningful.
“I don’t want our situation to impact the enjoyment of the game,” he said. “The last game, there’s not going to be just 4,000 highlights from our past.”
It’s the future that will be interesting to follow at WGN. A station that was synonymous with local sports, college and pro, will be left without games. But Vorwald isn’t going down that road yet, choosing to look at what WGN has done as opposed to what it won’t do.
“It’s no fun to think that we’re not going to have the games anymore,” he said. “But it’s more important that we didn’t leave anything on the table and never have. We’re proud of the work that we’ve done, and we’re proud of what we’ve built.
“These brands are still partly because of what we’ve done, and our partners have always been great about recognizing that when they talk to us. So, yeah, you’re bittersweet, but you really have to focus on how cool it’s always been, how cool it is each time we still get to do it.”