It was the summer of 1983 when Waycross Cable got extra channels. One stood out for a certain 13-year-old baseball nut. It was WGN out of Chicago, and it happened to play Cubs games almost every afternoon.
Some of you might remember those days when we actually had to get out of our chairs and turn the dial manually. But when those extra channels were added, we had to turn it on channel three and then punch a set top box that went from channels 14 through 22.
WGN was on channel nine in Chicago, but it was on channel 14 in Waycross. Just like the Atlanta Braves were on TBS all over the country, the Cubs were as well. And it didn’t take long for me to have a second-favorite team.
I had no idea Skip Caray’s dad was also a baseball announcer, but I soon found out Harry Caray was one of a kind. Harry and Steve Stone were the announcers, with someone named Milo Hamilton sitting in during the middle three innings.
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Hamilton had been Braves’ announcer for the team’s first decade in Atlanta, but that was a bit before my time. While many still know Hamilton as the man who called Hank Aaron’s 715th home run in 1974, I’ll always remember him as a Cubs announcer.
Every game wasn’t on television back then. We watched AL games either on NBC on Saturday afternoons or on ABC on Monday nights. The thought of watching a game on the phone would have been something George Jetson might have done. And yes, we got stats once a week in the paper instead of getting score updates on our phones.
But wow, when the Cubs were on TV back then, it was fun. The 1984 season tremendous. They got a former Braves player, Gary Matthews, in a spring training trade. He was one of my favorites when he was in Atlanta. They had Ron Cey, who had finally escaped the Dodgers. They had Jody Davis, who was from Georgia, along with players like Ryne Sandberg, Leon “Bull” Durham and Keith Moreland.
I remember the day they made a huge trade with the Cleveland Indians, of all teams. The Cubs got Rick Sutcliffe, who had struggled in Cleveland, along with reliever George Frazier for two young outfielders — Mel Hall and Joe Carter. That move turned out to help the Cubs win the NL East in 1984.
Summer afternoons were spent watching the Cubs. We would play baseball in the vacant lot across the street, and then when the daily afternoon rain hit in south Georgia, we would go in and watch the Cubs. Talk about a great life. We watched the Cubs in the afternoon and then the Braves at night.
The 1989 season was great for the Cubs. They again won the NL East but again came up short in the playoffs. That’s what the Cubs always did, or so it seemed — at least until last Saturday night.
Harry Caray would be proud. His Cubbies have finally made it. Just put yourself in the shoes of a lifelong Cubs fan. Imagine the euphoria knowing that finally, after all these years, they’ve made it to the World Series.
To think it has been 71 years since they even played in a World Series is nuts, but then when you realize it has been 108 years since they won is even more amazing. No fan base has been through it more, with curses and goats and a man named Bartman jinxing the Cubs along the way.
This should be a great World Series. The Indians haven’t won the World Series since 1948, so one of these two teams will reward a hungry fan base. And that’s what could make it special.
I’ll take the Cubs in seven games. Their pitching seems better, although Cleveland was probably the best team the Braves played this past season. It just might be the Cubs’ year — finally.
It’s a shame the games at Wrigley Field can’t be played in the afternoon, like it was before the Cubs got lights in 1988. But that would be as unusual as having to get up out of my chair and turn the channel to find the game, just like I did so many years ago.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on “Middle Georgia’s ESPN” – 93.1 FM in Macon and 99.5 FM in Warner Robins. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.