A daughter's memories of a legendary Cubs broadcaster

First of 2 parts

Jack Quinlan was born to broadcast the Chicago Cubs.

"At the age of 4 he told my grandmother he wanted to be the Cubs announcer," said his daughter, Evanston resident Susie Quinlan.

Quinlan attained his dream in 1955 and made an immediate impression.

On April 18, 1955, columnist John Whitaker wrote, "Jack Quinlan, Bert Wilson's play-by-play helper, talks like one of the better young announcers. ... Nice voice and thorough knowledge of the situation at hand."

When broadcasts moved in 1958 from WIND to WGN, the team of Quinlan and Lou Boudreau became a fan favorite.

Today, Quinlan still has his fans. His career was tragically cut short March 19, 1965, during spring training in Arizona. He died after his rented car crashed into the rear of a parked truck on a highway near Mesa. He was only 38.

His legacy lives on thanks to enthusiasts like Ron Barber, who has lobbied incessantly to get him into Cooperstown, posted his idol's work on Facebook, and published the audio book, "Jack Quinlan - Forgotten Greatness."

In 2015, Quinlan was one of 10 finalists for the Ford C. Frick Award from the "Living Room Era," the mid-1950s through the early 1980s and one of three finalists chosen by the fans on the Hall of Fame's Facebook page.

The hall of fame presents the annual award to a broadcaster for "major contributions to baseball." Frick was Major League Baseball commissioner from 1951 to 1965.

On YouTube, you can hear his calls of the 1960 World Series and the 1962 All-Star Game at Wrigley Field.

His style is glib, smooth, and engaging and holds its own with such greats as Scully, Harwell and Caray.

Although the years were lean ones for the Cubs, Quinlan called some memorable games, including Don Cardwell's no-hitter, and moments, such as Kenny Hubbs breaking a major league fielding record.

Born during spring training in 1956, Susie Quinlan was 9 when her dad died, but retains a treasure trove of fun memories - snowball fights in the winter, playing in the pool, games of shuffleboard, piggyback rides up to bed, and playing catch in the yard.

"It was really only later that I realized he was really good at what he did," she said.

When she hears his work, it reminds her of the voice she heard at the dinner table.

"I always felt like part of his talent was he didn't yell. You know how a lot of sportscasters yell? You have to turn the volume down," she said.

She retains vivid memories of joining her dad at spring training in Arizona during spring break and, during the regular season, sitting in the press box next to the broadcast booth at Wrigley Field where her dad and Boudreau would be calling the game.

She and her sister Marni would even have the chance to participate in a commercial.

"It was for McDonald's, and it was like, 'Kids, where do you want to go?' Of course, we scream out McDonald's, but we had threatened him we were going to scream Burger King," she said.

She recalled piling in with neighborhood kids in Evanston into her dad's red convertible to drive to Wrigley.

When they reached the ballpark and parked, she recalled, "All these kids would be coming over and asking for my dad's autograph."

There would be barbecues involving Cubs players and their families.

"So I was kind of used to seeing the ballplayers, even though I was a shy kid," she said. "One time we were out there and they were playing music, and my dad said, 'Susie go over and do the twist with Ron (Santo).' "

She demurred, but her dad offered 50 cents. "I'm like, make it $1 and I'll do it." Susie also remembered Boudreau teaching her how to swim - a remarkable feat considering Boudreau could not swim.

Susie's parents, both Peoria natives, met at Bradley University. Her mom Marilyn, a Bradley graduate, was working for the athletic director and her dad was calling Bradley basketball games.

Jack Quinlan, who attended New Trier High School before transferring to a military academy and later graduated from Notre Dame, showed promise as an athlete, meriting a minor league offer from the Brooklyn Dodgers.

But his home was in front of a microphone.

Susie remembered her aunt, Pat Quinlan Gudgeon, telling her Jack would practice in front of a fake microphone.

Susie recalled her father's professional dedication.

"When he'd be home before going on a road trip, I would quiz him. I'd be sitting on his back. He would be laying on the floor, and I would have to either call out numbers or positions and he would have to tell me which player it was and we would go through the various teams that the Cubs were going to be playing."

Susan said that in 1965, "I was trying to talk my mom into letting me go out to spring training early, and I would have been there on March 19."

Today, she says, "If I had gone out there, he wouldn't have been in that car in that moment."

She said it appears the brakes went out, because there were skid marks for "I forget how many feet."

Years later she asked her mom why she didn't seek legal recourse and was told, "It's not going to bring him back."

• Next: The quest for the Ford C. Frick Award

Susie Quinlan with her dad's sister, Pat Quinlan Gudgeon. COURTESY OF SUSAN QUINLAN
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