Illinois Baseball Team to Honor Lou Boudreau

th2 Friday May 19, the University of Illinois baseball team is honoring Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Lou Boudreau with Lou Boudreau Day for what’s now a doubleheader against the Iowa Hawkeyes. The day is being given in recognition of Boudreau being inducted in the first class of the University of Illinois Sports Hall of Fame in the Fall of this year. Boudreau attended the University of Illinois from 1935-1938, playing both baseball and basketball. In the 1936-37 season, both the basketball and baseball teams won Big Ten Conference titles. He attempted to become a three sport athlete at one point, trying out as a kicker for the football team. However, Illinois football coach Bob Zupke forgot about him, and he kicked for two hours. Boudreau’s leg was so sore that he had to spend the night in the hospital, and that was the end of his kicking career. Boudreau signed with the Cleveland Indians to play baseball in 1938, but he was able to finish his bachelors degree in education. He returned to Illinois to coach the freshman basketball team in 1939 and 1940. His baseball jersey number 5 was retired at Illinois in 1992. Red Grange and Dick Butkus are the only other Illinois players to have their numbers retired in any sport.

Boudreau would go on to have an outstanding career as a major league baseball player and manager. He was given thejob of player-manager of the Indians in 1942 at the age of 24. He was nicknamed the “boy manager.” To this day, he has the most wins of any Cleveland manager, with 728. As a player, he was a shortstop, who led the majors in hits in the 1940s, with 1578 hits.

In 1948, Boudreau led his team to win the World Series over the Boston Braves. He was the MVP that season, hitting .355 with 18 home runs and 106 RBIs. At the end of the season, the Indians had one game playoff with Boston Red Sox for the American League Pennant  at Fenway Park. Boudreau had two singles and two home runs to lead his team to an 8-3 victory, and the American League Pennant. Lou Boudreau is credited with being the first manager to use an overshift. An innovation he devised to stymie Ted Williams, who was a dead pull hitter. Boudreau’s career at Cleveland came to an end after the 1950 season. He played a couple of years for the Red Sox, was a player-manager in 1952, and bench manager from 1953-54. From 1955-1957, Boudreau managed the Kansas City Athletics. When he lost that job he was offered the job as color man on WGN radio’s coverage of Chicago Cubs baseball, a position that he held until the end of the 1988 season, except for a brief stint as the team’s manager the second half of the 1960 season. He nearly thirty years in the booth was the longest tenure as a broadcaster for the Cubs on radio. Doing the team’s games for almost twice as long as Harry Carey, who was with the Cubs for only sixteen seasons.  In his time as a broadcaster, he also covered the Chicago Bulls, the Chicago Blackhawks, Big Ten football, and the IHSA Boys Basketball Tournament.

As a player, manager, and coach, Lou Boudreau was involved with Major League Baseball for fifty years. The things that he did after he left the University of Illinois are a credit to the school.

Ernie Banks’ Lost Home Run

Chicago Cubs great Ernie Banks, who died last Friday, is officially credited with 512 home runs. But on June 30, 1969, Banks was robbed of a home run by a silly call by an umpire. It was a rainy night Jarry Park in Montreal. Banks hit a deep fly ball off starting pitcher Howie Reed that reached the other side of the left centerfield fence. Second base umpire Paul Pryor ruled the ball had rolled through a hole in the bottom of the fence, and ruled the hit a ground rule double. Montreal outfielders Ron Fairly and Adolpho Phillips laughed so hard they covered their faces with their gloves. The hole was never found.

Cubs Games on WLS (ABC 7) Should Be On Regional Network

The Chicago Cubs seem to have a three-way television deal going for the next five years with Comcast Sports Chicago, ABC 7 Chicago, and WGN-TV. Word is that an announcement is coming soon that WGN will televise 45 Cub games a year, which means the team will continue on the station that it has been seen on since 1948. 25 games will be carried on ABC 7(WLS-TV) The rest of the local broadcasts will be handled by Comcast Sports Chicago. The ABC 7 games are expected to be on the weekend. But those games will only be seen in the Chicago area, unlike the audience for the other two stations. And Saturday and Sunday are times that people have more of a chance to see a ballgame. So, I suggest the Cubs should revive the network of stations that existed for the team before WGN-TV became a super station. Allowing fans in such places Peoria, Springfield-Champaign-Urbana, Quad City  to see the team on the weekends. I know it’s an old-fashioned idea, but just because it’s old doesn’t mean that it won’t work. And it will allow fans throughout the state to see more Cub games.

It Sounds Familar

In the early 1980s, the Tribune Company, which then owned the Chicago Cubs, was threatening to move its baseball team out of Wrigley Field if they were not allowed to install lights in the grand old ball park. The neighborhood was in an uproar about having to endure night games at Wrigley Field, but eventually an agreement was reached and lights were installed. August 9 will mark the 25th anniversary of night games at Wrigley. Now, owner Tom Ricketts is threatening to move his team if he is not allowed to put signs and an electronic scoreboard up in his ballpark. The problem comes from building owners across the street who seem to think that they have a right to an unobstructed of the ballpark so they can sell tickets to watch the games from their rooftops. My guess is Ricketts will win this battle, the Cubs will continue to play at Wrigley Field, and the signs and electronic scoreboard will be installed. That neighborhood can’t afford to lose the millions of dollars the Cubs bring in every year. I think the business owners in the area will realize this, and persuade their neighbors to be reasonable. Tom Ricketts holds the cards in this situation. The building owners across the street should realize this and stop wasting everyone’s time.

Ernie Banks: Still the Greatest Cub Ever

April 8 the Cubs’ home opener at Wrigley Field, Ernie Banks led the singing of Take Me Out to the Ballgame during the seventh inning stretch. The man known as Mr. Cub has a statue outside the ballpark in his honor. Banks was the first Cub to have his number retired. The number 14 hangs on the left field field foul pole, and will never be worn by another Cub player. His 2583 career hits are the most hits by a Cub since 1900. Cap Anson had 3012 hits for the team in the 1800s. Banks is second all time on the team with 512 home runs is second to Sammy Sosa with 545. But no one has ever accused Banks of using steroids. He is the team’s all time leader with 1636 rbis. He was the first African American to play for the Cubs. Along with Gene Baker at second base, Banks at shortstop was half of the first African American double play combination in the majors. He was also the first man to win back to back MVP awards, in 1958 and 1959. The numbers go on and on, but there has yet to be a player who has accomplished as much as Ernie Banks did at Wrigley Field.

Jack Brickhouse and Wrigley Field: Forever Linked.

2016 will mark the hundredth anniversary of when the Chicago Cubs moved into Wrigley Field. It will also mark the hundredth anniversary of Hall of Fame sportscaster Jack Brickhouse. From 1947-1981 Brickhouse did play by play for the Cubs on television from Wrigley Field. His legendary cry of “Hey! Hey!” hangs on the left and right field foul poles of the old ballpark. All but one year of that tenure on WGN-TV. More than that, Jack Brickhouse did Chicago Bears games on WGN radio, at Wrigley Field from 1954 until the Bears moved to Soldier Field 1971. They’re should be a statue of Jack Brickhouse at Wrigley Field. He was far more connected to the ballpark than Harry Carey ever was. May that great broadcaster be remembered along with that great ballpark.