As the school year ends, I can’t help but remember some of the best summers of my life that I spent in Chicago. Not literally, of course, but as a youngster around the advent of cable television in these parts, being able to watch WGN-TV out of Chicago. Namely, the Chicago Cubs were a mainstay of my summer from about 10 to 13 years old.
Think about it. At the time the whole world had literally just become available on our television sets, and WGN-TV out of Chicago and TBS out of Atlanta were the two “superstations” we received. The beauty of WGN and the Cubs was that they played the majority of their games during the daytime, considering Wrigley Field had just turned on their lights in 1988. A few years later they still elected not to use them very often, so in an era before the internet and online content, Cubs games it was for me during those dog days of summer.
Chicago was a big city to get lost in and watching those games, the shots of the Wrigley rooftops, the out-of-commercial shots of Lake Michigan and the Miracle Mile captured my imagination. Not to mention there was Wrigley itself with the ivy, the “Bleacher Bums” and what was at the time some fairly mediocre baseball explained by the legend himself Harry Caray. The "Friendly Confines" didn’t look like much on TV but at the same time they looked like everything a ballplayer could ever need.
It was a world that I think ultimately served me well. While I certainly never emulated Harry Caray’s unique style as a broadcaster, I always remembered to have just as much fun as he was having in the booth, less a few Budweisers. It was an early-'90s version of the story I heard growing up about parents and grandparents listening to radio broadcasts from baseball teams hundreds of miles away thanks to the frequency of AM radio. Mine just happened to be through the fairly new advent of cable television.
While I never considered myself a Cubs fans, I certainly have a grasp on their history and some of the names that wore those uniforms. All thanks to the time I spent in that city every summer, so to speak.
I worry that those type of things don’t happen anymore. With a constantly connected youth who can get in touch with their friends with the clicks of a few buttons, I wonder if those summer days when you simply have to find something to keep you entertained might not include the wonders of baseball. It’s actually easier in today’s world with Major League Baseball streaming packages that will literally give you access to every game for one yearly fee. However, it seems to be more that the fantasy worlds our young people live in during summer vacation deal with augmented reality and online gaming. That’s a shame.
Those Chicago afternoons always gave me something to look forward to and eventually I made it there. In 2014, I took part in Wrigley’s 100th Anniversary season, taking in a day game against the St. Louis Cardinals. Of course, I paid my respect to Harry’s statue and even returned two years later for another ballgame, one more before they renovated the confines and added the modern touch of video boards and technology. The beauty is I got to see it twice the same way I remembered it as a kid. I’m sure I’ll go back again with my own kids and take in the new modern ballpark, and I’ll tell them of the way things used to be.
Summers can be special for lots of reasons, and while parents arranging vacations and finding things to keep their kids busy are all fine and dandy, allowing their young minds to wander to faraway cities and appreciate professionals honing their craft can certainly be productive as well.
Had I not watched Harry Caray and those “lovable losers” for so many summers, I probably would have never come to appreciate baseball the way I do today. My imagination and appreciation for travel and adventure might have suffered as well. And that would have been the biggest shame of all.
Corey Costelloe has covered NCAA, professional and local sports for more than 20 years as a reporter and broadcaster. A THS graduate, he now resides in Tehachapi. He can be reached at email@example.com. The opinions expressed are his own.