Monday, February 06, 2012

Cubs 365, February 6

Every day in 2012, the Just One Bad Century blog will feature a story about this day in Cubs history. We're calling it Cubs 365.

On this day in 1911 the most famous Cubs fan in history was born. His name was Ronald Reagan. Reagan didn't just grow up a Chicago Cubs fan. He owes much of his success to the team.

Following college graduation, Reagan landed a job as a radio announcer at WOC in Davenport, Iowa and later at WHO in Des Moines. Radio was a brand new medium in those days and he discovered quickly that getting in on the ground floor was his ticket to the top.

He began broadcasting Chicago Cubs baseball games he had never seen. His descriptions were largely improvised, and were based solely on telegraph accounts of games in progress. On June 7th, 1934, something dramatic happened. The telegraph went out. This is how Reagan described what happened next.

"There were several other stations broadcasting that game and I knew I’d lose my audience if I told them we’d lost our telegraph connections so I took a chance. I had (Billy) Jurges hit another foul. Then I had him foul one that only missed being a home run by a foot. I had him foul one back in the stands and took up some time describing the two lads that got in a fight over the ball. I kept on having him foul balls until I was setting a record for a ballplayer hitting successive foul balls and I was getting more than a little scared. Just then my operator started typing. When he passed me the paper I started to giggle - it said: ‘Jurges popped out on the first ball pitched.’”

Despite working in Iowa, he was voted as one of the top ten most popular baseball announcers in America. In 1937 his radio station sent him out to California to cover the Cubs in spring training. At that time they trained at Catalina Island. Reagan parlayed that trip into a screen test...and the rest, as they say, is history.

Reagan made one last stop at Wrigley Field the last year of his presidency (1988). He threw out the first pitch, and spent some time in the broadcast booth alongside Harry Caray.

(By the way, I was out of town this weekend, but Cubs 365 did update everyday. Click here to read Feb 5, Feb 4, and Feb 3)