As a kid growing up in downstate Illinois in the 1970s, we did not yet have "superstation'' WGN-TV on cable. If you wanted to follow the Cubs, the only choice was to listen to the radio and to tune in to WGN-AM 720, and the static covering 300 miles between Chicago and Quincy was sometimes severe.
The payoff was pure joy, however, with the team of Vince Lloyd and Lou Boudreau manning the mike. Boudreau, of course, was well known as the Hall of Fame shortstop and player/manager of the Cleveland Indians who later became the Cubs manager for a brief time before (and after) moving up to the broadcast booth. He was known as the "Good Kid'' doing analysis alongside Lloyd.
Lloyd had a deep, distinctive voice and gave vivid descriptions of the plays. Tiny details were a signature of his calls; for example, "Beckert just fumbled that ball momentarily and then threw'' told us just how Ken Holtzman got his final out and first no-hitter in 1969. His enthusiasm for the Cubs was palpable; a fellow Cub fanatic once observed that he could tell instantly, upon tuning in to the Cubs, whether the Cubs were winning or losing by the tone of Lloyd's voice. "He hits a shot high and deep to right center field. Look out. It's gone, Home run,'' was how he dejectedly described one of Pirate slugger Willie Stargell's epic blasts to beat the Cubs.
Lloyd earned attention early in his career in 1961 when, working for the White Sox on television, he became the first sports announcer to interview a sitting U.S. President when he interviewed John F. Kennedy prior to the Sox season opener in Washington, D.C.
For some reason Lloyd, much praised in Curt Smith's definitive Voices of the Game, a book on baseball broadcasting, has been overlooked for the Ford Frick award inside Baseball's Hall of Fame, despite a distinguished career of 30-plus years in the booth. His signature call was "Holy Mackerel!" It is heard on a Cubs theme song "Hey Hey, Holy Mackerel'' from the album Cub Power also citing TV broadcaster Jack Brickhouse's trademark phrase that still is on display at Wrigley Field. Lloyd is largely forgotten or unknown by today's Cub fans. His Hall of Fame omission is an oversight that should be corrected but probably won't be unless there is a groundswell of support from Cub fans or media of my generation.
Boudreau used the booth to educate fans about the nuances of the game. He would often preface his comments by saying, "Now for you youngsters out there.'' Listening to him was like attending a master class on baseball. When the Cubs swept the Mets in a June 1973 doubleheader to solidify their hold on first place, Lloyd said, "This has got to be shades of 1948!!" -- a reference to the Indians' championship season that a young Boudreau was such a huge part of. But regular references to his playing career and on-the-field exploits were not excessive, as I recall.
Boudreau also conducted interviews with players and the manager's pregame show. Introducing an opposing player he would always refer to him as "the fine player and gentleman,'' or words to that effect. I recall him using that tag on Pete Rose, who certainly was an outstanding player but I'm not so sure about the gentleman part. (Ron Santo in his years in Boudreau's position on the pregame show always put the "fine manager'' handle on Lou Piniella.)
Overall Vince and Lou left a tremendously positive impression on me as a kid and to this day, I hold them up as the gold standard of radio partnerships. With all due respect to Pat Hughes and his analysts (Santo, Keith Moreland and now Ron Coomer), in my view they don't come close to the entertaining byplay and overall excellence of Lloyd and Boudreau. They were an ideal team to document the many highlights and ultimate failures of the Cubs of Durocher's era and beyond.
Although these two are long gone (Lloyd made a cameo in "This Old Cub''), whenever I think of them now I just smile. Because with Vince and Lou bringing Cub baseball to life on the radio, I'm transported to baseball heaven.