Chicago Cubs: Mick Gillispie honored as co-MiLB Broadcaster of the Year

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 10: The scoreboard operators watch the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Colorado Rockies during the sixth inning on June 10, 2017 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 10: The scoreboard operators watch the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Colorado Rockies during the sixth inning on June 10, 2017 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images) /

Mick Gillisipie, the voice of the Chicago Cubs’ double-A Tennessee Smokies affiliate, recently earned a tremendous honor for his work in the booth.

For years, I’ve listened to Mick Gillispie’s broadcasts. Ranging from his nightly call with the Tennessee Smokies to his Cactus League work with the Chicago Cubs, his work has always impressed me. And, apparently, I’m not alone.

Ballpark Digest recently named Gillispie co-MiLB Broadcaster of the Year, sharing the honors with longtime Indianapolis Indians staple Howard Kellman. Kellman, who has been behind the mic in Indy for more than four decades, called his 6,000th Indians’ game.

"“I am deeply touched to receive this honor,” said Kellman. “Broadcasting for the Indianapolis Indians always has been a labor of love.”"

For Gillispie, after being named a finalist for three times in recent years, having his name connected to Kellman’s make winning the honor even more special. As he began his broadcasting career years ago, he had hoped to work with Kellman. Now, they share the top honors bestowed upon Minor League broadcasters.

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When Gillispie found out he earned the honor, he was hosting a get-together for his staff, manning the grill. This was the first thing that tipped me off to how selfless a man the Voice of the Smokies truly is. As our chat progressed, that attribute rang out loud and clear time and time again.

"At the end of the day, it’s the people you surround yourself with. I’ve had an awesome group of guys not just this year but my entire career. It brought back memories from my first season and the guys there and what they’ve gone on to do in their careers all the way up to this year with my buddy Charlie Walter, who’s not only a great friend but a broadcast partner."

A lifelong Cubs fan

Even growing up in Baltimore, Gillispie claimed the then-Lovable Losers as his ‘National League team.’ An Orioles fan, as well, he grew up taking in Cubs games on WGN and then listening to two of his broadcasting icons in John Miller and Chuck Thompson. The latter went on to become one of his biggest mentors.

He said he could call up Thompson and ask him anything – at any time. As his own career progressed, Gillispie realized that these legendary voices, including the Cubs’ Pat Hughes, put a lot of time not only into their craft – but also teaching the next generation of broadcasters.

"You see the amount of time that they don’t have to do things they probably want to do because their time is taken from all of us who want to talk to them – who want to relive great moments or ask questions."

For Gillispie, his ‘pinch-myself’ moment came a few years ago when he was working a Spring Training game on Just one booth over, former Cubs and current White Sox broadcaster Steve Stone worked the same game with Hawk Harrelson.

Now, for Cubs fans, Stone is etched in memory alongside Harry Caray. But the love of Stone runs even deeper for a Baltimore native. He won 25 games in 1980 for the O’s – helping lead the club to a 100-win regular season.

"I was doing the inning so they had me on there and Stoney was on there and was like, “Oh, yeah. That’s Mick Gillispie.” I just thought, “Here’s a guy I grew up watching and he pitched for Baltimore and won a Cy Young with the Orioles. He’s a great broadcaster and he has all these awesome stories and he’s saying my name on a TV broadcast.” I had to pinch myself there."

Watching the next generation of Cubs

Chicago Cubs
Chicago Cubs /

Chicago Cubs

With over a decade under his belt at Tennessee, Gillispie watched the current big-league stars grow from prospects to World Series champions. And, as the Cubs’ players honed their skills, he put his nose to the grindstone, as well, looking to be the best voice in Minor League Baseball.

At the end of the day, he could own this award as something he has achieved. We talked for almost an hour and not once did he take the credit for earning such a prestigious honor. Time and time again, he gave credit and thanks to those around him.

"Something that has absolutely helped me these last three, four years is Pat (Hughes) listens to my tape every offseason and gives me a critique. And he’s hard. But the things he picks up and the advice he gives me, I take it so literal. I write it down, I think about it. Even to the microphone I use – the one he told me to get. I don’t think I get this award if he doesn’t do that."

The most knowledgeable fan you’ll find

At the end of the day, broadcasters aren’t in it to get rich. The percentage of one-time Minor League broadcasters who actually call big-league games is minuscule. To reach that point, you have to truly love the game – and the hours of work that go into a polished calling of a game.

And that love emanates from Gillispie when he talks baseball. It’s infectious – and no doubt makes him one of the most exciting broadcasters to listen to today. And, just like we all were, last fall, he relished in a Chicago Cubs World Series championship.

But don’t think he wasn’t making historical connections the whole time. As Kris Bryant made the final play of Game 7, his mind went back to a childhood idol in Cal Ripken Jr.

"I’m watching the World Series. And I’m thinking, ‘Why wouldn’t he make the last out?’ Cal Ripken made the last out his second year when he was MVP.  A line drive that ended the World Series in ’83 against Philadelphia. Of course Kris is going to get the ground ball. Of course he’s going to win the NL MVP."

Gillispie insists throughout Game 7 – he always believed the Cubs would bring it home. When Rajai Davis tied the game off Aroldis Chapman, he kept the faith. And, after getting to know guys like Bryant and Javier Baez, among others, he believes Chicago is far from done.

Next: Cubs have another postseason berth in their sights

Blurring the lines in broadcasting

He knows players on a deeper level than most fans. These guys aren’t just statistics in his scorebook. He and his team take the time to get the inside scoop, if you will, on the players they cover on a night-in, night-out basis. And it shows in the finished product.

There’s a big difference between a typical Minor League broadcast and those in the Show. But if we’re being honest and frank, the Smokies’ broadcast has blurred that distinction in recent years – led by a man who refuses to take credit for his accomplishments and insists on sharing them with the people who helped him reach this point, the fans in Tennessee  and those he works alongside to this day.

"I know here in our market, our radio broadcasts, our team is so heavily supported by the people in this area in East Tennessee and its not always like that in a minor league city but we’re really fortunate."