WGN has televised Chicago Cubs games since 1948. After 72 years, that long, storied relationship is coming to an end this year.
WGN and the Chicago Cubs: It’s one of the most important media-sports team relationships in American history. It’s safe to say that millions of people have become Cubs fans because they have been able to watch the games on WGN over the years.
But that 72-year relationship will come to an end on September 27, when WGN airs its final Cubs game against the St. Louis Cardinals. Starting next year, all the Cubs games (except for national telecasts) will air on the new Marquee Sports Network.
Though it is a sad day in some respects, it’s also not a surprise. Sports broadcasting, in general, is becoming more specialized, as many teams have been starting their channels or otherwise airing their games exclusively on cable regional sports networks. It’s the direction the industry has been going for quite some time.
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The Cubs’ relationship with WGN started to end years ago. As recently as the 1990s, WGN carried almost all the Cubs games nationally on its superstation. It was through the superstation that I became a fan of Cubs baseball. I watched my first game on there as a nine-year-old on Opening Day of 1994, when Tuffy Rhodes hit three home runs against Dwight Gooden.
Over the years, WGN started carrying fewer games, as many of the games went to regional sports networks. This made it harder for fans outside Chicago, including myself, to follow the team. Thankfully, with the advent MLB.TV, I’m now able to watch most of the games over the internet.
After the 2014 season, when WGN America (what used to be WGN Superstation) stopped airing games nationally altogether, many fans lamented their inability to no longer follow the team. It was also in that year that the team ended its relationship with WGN Radio. We’ve known this was coming for a while, though the reality of it is just now starting to settle in.
Cubs fans should have many great memories of watching the Cubs on WGN, starting in 1948, and Jack Brickhouse called those games for many years. He was the voice that accompanied the heroics of Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins, and many other great Cubs.
Then came the great partnership of Harry Caray and Steve Stone. My first few years as a fan, I spent many afternoons after school watching those two call the games. Though those were some not-so-great teams back in the mid-1990s, it still was always an entertaining broadcast.
After Harry Caray passed away prior to the 1998 season, his grandson Chip took over until 2004, when Len Kasper was hired for the 2005 season. Amazingly, Kasper is already in his 15th season with the Cubs, and he and Jim Deshaies still do a great job with the broadcasts.
Though I’m looking forward to lots of great coverage of Chicago Cubs baseball from the new Marquee Sports Network, I’m also sad to see the Cubs’ relationship with WGN end. I have lots of great memories watching the Cubs on WGN, and hopefully, all you other fans out there do as well.