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Cubs Make It Official: 'You Can Catch It All On WBBM'

The Cubs will have a new radio partner for at least the next seven years.

Left to right: Rod Zimmerman of CBS Radio, Dan Mason of CBS Radio, Pat Hughes, Crane Kenney, Ron Coomer
Left to right: Rod Zimmerman of CBS Radio, Dan Mason of CBS Radio, Pat Hughes, Crane Kenney, Ron Coomer
Photo by Al Yellon

This isn't "news" -- it's been all over this site and other local media for several days -- but the Cubs made their new partnership with WBBM and CBS radio official at a Wrigley Field news conference Thursday afternoon.

The deal, for undisclosed monetary terms, will run for seven years. Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney did reveal a couple of new things that were either new or clarified.

First, Cubs games will exclusively run on WBBM-AM. In the event of a big breaking news situation, Cubs listeners would be directed to switch to 105.9 FM for news information, and news will run on the FM station during Cubs games. The Cubs, however, will move to the FM station if and when there are Bears conflicts. The WBBM/CBS executives at the news conference said that they intended to try to keep White Sox rights when their contract expires; Sox games currently run on CBS-owned WSCR.

Rod Zimmerman, who is Senior Vice President and Market Manager for CBS Radio Chicago, said, "This is a truly historic day in Chicago radio," and noted that he himself is a big baseball fan. Dan Mason, President and CEO of CBS Radio, added that the CBS radio group now has 25 sports deals and seven with major-league teams. The executives also confirmed that the affiliate network that now brings you Cubs radio broadcasts on these stations in 2014 in Illinois, Iowa and Indiana will remain, and possibly expand -- they noted that they had already received a call from a station in Nebraska that was interested.

The team and the station also announced a one-hour show called "Cubs Corner" will run on a weekly basis during the season with highlights, features and interviews, and will also run occasionally during the offseason.

The joint music venture that the Cubs and CBS are forming will provide "access to top talent across all genres," according to both the CBS execs and Kenney, and in addition to promoting concerts at Wrigley Field, there will be promotions for the Cubs across all the CBS Radio properties. The CBS execs noted that they have a similar deal with the Brooklyn Nets, and recently promoted a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert in conjunction with the Nets at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn, to give you an idea of the sorts of things that could be coming to Wrigley.

Kenney mentioned that the Cubs were on WBBM radio from 1929 through 1940, a period that encompassed four National League pennants, and of course they hope this new partnership will be able to broadcast many more N.L. pennants (and World Series) in the future.

The team insisted that Pat Hughes and Ron Coomer accompany them from WGN to WBBM. Don't expect the style of the broadcasts to change at all; Hughes told me: "I'll keep doing things the same way until they tell me to change," and expressed the wish to continue past the end of his contract, which has one more year to run. 2015 will be Hughes' 20th season as the play-by-play voice of the Cubs; as I noted earlier this week, only Hal Totten (1924-44) and Vince Lloyd (1965-86) have been the principal play-by-play voices of the Cubs for longer than Hughes' tenure. As you might remember, Pat wrote an article for me for one of the Maple Street Press annuals a few years ago, and he's just as gracious a man now as he was when I was working with him then. I enjoy his radio calls and I hope he's calling Cubs games on radio for many years to come.

Of course, the subject of Wrigley renovations was broached. Kenney said that no date has been set for presentation of the new proposals to the Landmarks Commission, but that the bullpens were not a "required" part of the proposal and are probably "off the table," according to Cubs spokesman Julian Green.

So -- your Cubs radio listening habits will change, but likely, only pushing a different button on your car radio, or switching frequencies from 720 to 780 if you live in Chicago. If you live outside Chicago, it'll likely be very much the same. Nevertheless, a relationship with WGN radio -- which Kenney praised -- that's lasted 57 consecutive years is ending, a milestone in Chicago broadcast history.