Jim O'Donnell: Departing Pat Foley flew over the blue lines to scale Mount Pettit

  • Blackhawks TV play-by-play man Pat Foley acknowledges the fans during the Blackhawks Convention in 2015 at the Hilton Chicago.

    Blackhawks TV play-by-play man Pat Foley acknowledges the fans during the Blackhawks Convention in 2015 at the Hilton Chicago. Daily Herald File Photo

 
Updated 6/23/2021 4:20 PM

BEFORE PAT FOLEY, all Blackhawks broadcasters could be broken down into two distinct categories:

1) Lloyd Pettit; and, 2) everyone else.

 

Through sheer will, talent and perseverance, Foley expanded that abbreviated shift change.

When the Blackhawks announced Wednesday that Foley, 66, will be departing the team's broadcast roost after the 2021-22 NHL season, none could question that he alone had successfully scaled the imposing Mount Pettit.

Pettit was one of the grand sports sound checks of many Chicago wonder years. The classic segment of his 15-year run with the Hawks came on WGN Channel 9 (1961-70).

With Channel 9 owning winter sports Saturday nights on four-choice Chicago TV, Pettit's "A shot ... AND A GOAL!!!" came to fill out a supersonic trifecta box that would include Jack Brickhouse's "Hey! Hey!" and later Harry Caray's transplanted "Holy Cow!"

Four years after Pettit departed WMAQ 670-AM in 1976, Foley -- all of age 26 -- followed forgettables like Ron Oakes and Andy MacWilliams and Bud Kelly into the icy gap.

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He carried on Pettit's crack excellence in a hyper-energized manner few could have projected.

Some would say the Glenview native took it even higher: He frequently reflected a hard-core fan's frustration and impatience with the franchise's many bumbling years.

That candor even led to an unconscionable two-year separation in 2006-08 when foggy silver spooner Bill Wirtz set Foley free to call Chicago Wolves games.

New team president John McDonough righted that doltish wrong. He paired Foley with matinee idol Eddie Olczyk and all of a sudden, the organization had a national-caliber TV duo.

Team historian Bob Verdi minced no laurels in 2014 when Foley was given The Foster Hewitt Memorial Award -- NHL broadcasting's highest accolade:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"In the worst of times, Foley never insulted audiences by saying things were going swell when they weren't, and although he always wished that audiences enjoy the outcomes as much as the telecasts, he refused to apply perfume when the picture didn't deserve it."

Now for classic Blackhawks broadcast perfumists, the only question is:

Who wears "1" and who wears "1A" atop the microphone mount -- Lloyd Pettit or Pat Foley?

MOST DISAPPOINTING TV VIEWING of the week came for the wee people who tuned in to watch the weekly meeting of the Arlington Heights village board online Monday night.

Some were hoping Mayor Tom Hayes would swoop into the opening frame in Errol Flynn pirate's garb, land atop his seat, rope swaying, saber rattling and declare, "No one will take our racetrack and the Chicago Bears are ours!"

Instead, Hayes and Sominexing mateys spent roughly 20 minutes on a low-level zoning matter related to the redevelopment of Arlington Park. They then browbeat a local chiropractor for close to double that time over the aesthetics of a two-bin "trash enclosure" at the bone cracker's new office building on South Arlington Heights Road.

As evidence the dramatic movements between the Bears and affiliates of Churchill Downs Inc. in the past week, Hayes and associates are now playing in a big league of billionaires hard to imagine six months ago.

Also, as was suggested in this insouciant space last winter, the greater good of the village, the county and the state is more certain to be served if Mayor Hayes and shipmates engage comprehensive outside expertise to supplement their earnest in-house resources.

In the weeks ahead, a much wider world will be watching.

STREET-BEATIN': Phil Rosenthal -- the superior infotainer who took a buyout from the profoundly diminished Chicago Tribune this week -- is the sort of columnist who sharp editors could build a sports section around. (It has to do with intellect, range, touch and refusal to settle.) ...

Jud Sirott, currently of Boston Bruins broadcasting, would be a homegrown natural to pop up in the revamping Blackhawks radio-TV scheme. But is his seasoning a blessing or a curse? ...

That West suburban tornado Sunday night missed the home of longtime WBBM Channel 2 cameraman Chuck Davidson by less than two blocks. The revered Davidson was one of the few to gently traverse the Johnny Morris-Tim Weigel eras at the CBS o-and-o. ...

Perennial free agent Dan McNeil told a Joliet radio station he was "told to punch below the belt" while working in Chicago sports talk. (Obviously, so far away from his genteel Calumet River fishin' pole.) ...

Longtime team chaplain Rev. Scott Bradley has released his new book, "The Bible, Basketball and the Bulls." ($22.50; available at scottbradleyministries.vpweb.com.) ...

And fireproofing Larry Andres, on Javy Baez's glazed baserunning vs. Cleveland: "Maybe someone's been messing with the gummy bowl in the Cubs clubhouse."

• Jim O'Donnell's Sports & Media column appears Thursday and Sunday. Reach him at jimodonnelldh@yahoo.com.

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