Since 1925, the Chicago Cubs’ radio outlet has been WGN-AM 720. Both entities were even under the same ownership for a quarter-century (1981-2007) by the Tribune Company.
WGN-AM is best known as the place where former Cubbies third baseman Ron Santo worked as a color commentator for the team’s radio broadcasts until his death in December 2010.
And it was also the station that headphones-clad Cubs fan Steve Bartman was listening to on the night of October 14, 2003, when he interfered with a fly ball – and with that, the Cubs’ best chance of advancing to the World Series in six decades.
With the Cubs once again looking up at everyone else in the NL Central division, it looks like they’re going on seven decades and counting with regards to missing out on the Fall Classic.
So with Jimmy de Castro, whose The Content Factory was responsible for Dan Patrick’s current hit sports radio program, taking the reins at the station, it was an opportune time to quiz him on the team’s future on their air. “I don’t know the answer to that,” he said. “I absolutely believe you can create a personality-driven news station and a personality-driven sports station.” Just not a hybrid of the two, was the point taken away from his comments.
While a source claims the Cubbies games will remain on WGN-AM for the remainder of the decade, de Castro might find a way to let them loose, if he has his druthers.
“Most researchers agree play-by-play is not very PPM friendly,” observed Radio Ink. “When you add the dismal performance of a team like the Cubs, that play so many day games, on an aging frequency on a station trying to successfully execute both news/talk and sports in a major market, you have to wonder if de Castro will look to make major programming changes to drive revenue and grow the audience younger.”
Which brings us from the Second City, Chicago, to the first, New York City, and the current baseball broadcasting conundrum that is the New York Mets. Like the Cubs, they have been underachieving on the field for years. Their current radio contract with WFAN expires after this season. Just to put things in perspective: the last time the Mets won it all, their radio partner was country music station WHN, which would eventually be the precursor to WFAN. Since then, the New York Giants, for whom WFAN serves as their flagship, has won four Super Bowls (two of them on WFAN’s air), and the New York Yankees have won five World Series.
And oh, by the way, the Yankees’ current radio contract with WCBS-AM, sister station of WFAN, also expires after this year; it was curiously re-upped for just one more year in 2012.
For America’s first 24/7 sports radio station, it would make sense for them to part ways with the longtime losing franchise that is the Mets and bring the Yankees into the fold (okay, so they have not necessarily been winners for the last few years, but they certainly have a better outlook than the Mets, in the pocket as well as the win column).
Meanwhile, it’s also expected that the Cubs’ local television broadcasts on WGN-TV could go by the wayside after 65 years. Then again, with so many “free TV” baseball broadcasts across the country usurped by regional sports networks, it’s a bit of a surprise that Cubs games are still on broadcast television in Chicago at all.
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However, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Chicago Cubs’ radio broadcasts are heard on a station other than WGN by the time they reach the World Series again.
And that means a different frequency piping into the headphones of Steve Bartman – provided he’s still alive by then.