With only classic games to watch, here are some classic Chicago sports calls
They’re not the most famous calls, but they’ve stuck with me, topped by the great Don Drysdale’s call of a classic Cubs collapse.
Don Drysdale mastered two professions: pitching and broadcasting.
I never saw him pitch during his 14-year career with the Dodgers, but you hear enough stories, you get the idea. Plus, those three letters next to his name (HOF) provide enough evidence.
I did hear him call plenty of games on TV, particularly when he was in the White Sox’ booth from 1982 to ’87. He was fantastic. He had the voice, the command, the enthusiasm. He had it all. And it all has come roaring back to me as I take in classic game after classic game these days. I thought about Drysdale while listening to him and Hawk Harrelson call Tom Seaver’s 300th victory from Aug. 4, 1985, on MLB Network.
Drysdale didn’t just rely on his knowledge of the game. He was as good of a play-by-play man as anyone, sharing the duties with Harrelson on Sox games and handling them alone nationally for ABC.
“To me, the best comprehensive baseball announcer I’ve ever heard was Don Drysdale,” Harrelson told me during his last season behind the mic in 2018. “He had a great delivery, he had a presence and he knew the game.
“Drysdale was something special, and all the years I’ve been broadcasting, when they found Don dead in his room up in Montreal [at age 56 in 1993], that’s the toughest thing I ever had to say [on the air]. Don was my all-time favorite guy to work with, and Wimpy [Tom Paciorek] was second.”
“Big D” had some big calls, too. He called Kirk Gibson’s winning homer in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series for Dodgers radio (“This time, Mighty Casey did not strike out!”). He also called the Sox’ 1983 American League West clincher (“The Sox grab the golden ring!”) and Seaver’s 300th (he interviewed Seaver afterward in the dugout).
But the call that’s burned in my brain is the one he made Oct. 6, 1984, in San Diego on ABC. Before Jack and Joe Buck told us we’d see them tomorrow night, Drysdale told us there would be tomorrow, though it came at the Cubs’ expense.
Steve Garvey’s walk-off, two-run homer gave the Padres a 7-5 victory and tied the National League Championship Series at 2. You know what happened the next day, but that’s not important anymore. What’s important here is the call, and even biased observers must admit it was a good one:
“Deep right field, way back. [Henry] Cotto going back to the wall ... it’s gone! Home run Garvey! And there will be tomorrow!”
It isn’t in the class of Russ Hodges (“The Giants win the pennant!”), Jack Buck (take your pick) or Vin Scully (ditto), but it has the elements: a rising voice with a hint of uncertainty, capped by a dramatic declaration. It’s a lousy memory but a fantastic call.
Here are some other favorite calls of mine from Chicago sports, minus the obvious title-clinchers:
“The good Lord wants the Cubs to win.” — Harry Caray, Aug. 2, 1984
Caray made every call exciting, so it’s hard to distinguish them. But this one has stuck with me. With the Cubs leading the Expos 3-2 in the top of the ninth and a runner on first, Pete Rose hit a line drive back at Cubs closer Lee Smith. The ball caromed off Smith and floated to shortstop Dave Owen, who caught it and threw to first to double off the runner. Which begs the question: Where was the Lord in October?
“Acton a breakaway. Keith Acton moving right in alone, the shot … BANNERMAN did it again! How did he do it?” — Pat Foley, April 30, 1985
The Blackhawks’ longtime voice has a long greatest-hits list, and it began with this call in Game 6 of the Norris Division Finals. He can thank former Hawks and current Wolves analyst Billy Gardner for gifting the puck to the North Stars’ Acton, but the biggest thank you goes to Murray Bannerman for making the save. He made 41 in the game, which the Hawks won 6-5 in overtime to win the series.
“Not his knee. Maybe his wee-nie.” — Dale Tallon, Jan. 22, 1996
Tallon was in the Hawks’ booth for most of the 1980s and ’90s. He was a good analyst, but he was a better comedian. Here, Eric Daze’s shot hit the Senators’ Sean Hill below the belt, but Tallon thought the puck hit Hill behind his right knee. Once he saw a replay, Tallon changed his tune — and tone. After the quip, Tallon and Foley tried to muzzle their laughter on the air, but viewers knew what was going on.
“There is some hookin’ goin’ on in the bottom of two piles.” — Thom Brennaman, May 20, 2006
The former Cubs announcer was paired with White Sox analyst Darrin Jackson on Fox for the pinnacle of Cubs-Sox animosity. After A.J. Pierzynski bowled over Cubs catcher Michael Barrett on a sacrifice fly, Barrett punched him in the face, sparking a benches-clearing brawl. Brennaman alluded to the hooks that were flying in one of the nastier baseball fights you’ll see. The Sox won the game 7-0.