Jack Brickhouse Sought Cub Rich Nye’s Wit

This 1989 Pacific set
gave Brickhouse his due!

The best baseball letters I receive redefine eras. The most memorable missives are more than punchlines, answering trivia questions such as “Toughest hitter? Hank Aaron.”

Pitcher Rich Nye, flashing superb storytelling skills, shared one much-needed reminder for me.
Cubs announcer Jack Brickhouse was a real journalist.

By the 1970s, when I was watching the Cubs via WGN-TV syndicated broadcasts, Brickhouse seemed quite low-key for me. Later, compared to Harry Caray, my memory of Brickhouse turned into a cold bowl of oatmeal. The difference? Brickhouse loved the Cubs, too. However, he kept on being a reporter (instead of pure cheerleader).

Brickhouse started on radio in 1934. He started at WGN in 1940. Brickhouse did EVERYTHING — not just baseball. He is a Radio Hall of Famer. Likewise, he appreciated that Nye brought an unusual perspective to the game.

Nye wrote:

“In 1967, the Cubs had the typical mix of old and young. Along with myself there was Ken Holtzman, Joe Niekro, Bill Stoneman, Gary Ross, Alec Distaso, Frank Reberger and maybe a couple of others who were vying for a place on the team. We were led by crusty old Leo Durocher, who had little regard for a college-educated player.

We were, however, well accepted by the media and especially Jack Brickhouse took a shine to me and had me on his show several times. He wanted to talk about my days at Cal in the 1960s when the student body was in an uproar. He knew he would get an articulate interview.”

I learned about DOCTOR Nye’s second career in this fascinating 2008 Sun-Times blog post.

Tomorrow: Nye recalls batterymate Randy Hundley and the feeling of winning on national television.  

Eddie Baskinski, Brooklyn Dodger & Portland Beaver, Earned TWO Nicknames (One From Leo ‘The Lip’ Durocher That’s G-Rated!)

“Eddie Three-Names”?

In 2007, I began puzzling over player nicknames. They aren’t on a guy’s birth certificate. Someone has to create them.

Furthermore, who uses nicknames? Just imagine…

“Hi, honey. I’m home.”

“Mister October, please take the garbage out NOW! Not in October!!!”

I was delighted to learn about Eddie Basinski, whose 1940s stops included the Brooklyn Dodgers and Pittsburgh Pirates. He owned two monikers, “Bazooka” and “Fiddler.” In 2007, with ornate penmanship, his reply shared the history of both names.

“Leo Durocher, my Dodgers mgr., gave me the nickname ‘Bazooka.’ Because of my accurate, strong throwing arm, with the quickest release he ever saw; he compared all that with the U.S. Army weapon ‘the Bazooka.’ It was my first nickname.


‘Fiddler’ came about as I studied classical violin for 16 years, gave concerts, appeared on radio, TV and gave a rendition between doubleheaders while with Portland, in my baseball uniform at home plate before one of the largest at the ballpark.


The press used both nicknames constantly. Opponents used these names, but not favorably. when I failed to get a hit, fans from opposing teams would yell, ‘Why don’t you use your violin?'”

Basinski played 11 seasons with Portland. He was a Pacific Coast League fixture. Check out this Oregonian remembrance of the Beavers, including the nifty photo of a uniform-clad “Fiddler” entertaining teammates.

Tomorrow: Detroit Tigers catcher Lance Parrish explains the origin of his nickname.

Eddie Baskinski, Brooklyn Dodger & Portland Beaver, Earned TWO Nicknames (One From Leo ‘The Lip’ Durocher That’s G-Rated!)

“Eddie Three-Names”?

In 2007, I began puzzling over player nicknames. They aren’t on a guy’s birth certificate. Someone has to create them.

Furthermore, who uses nicknames? Just imagine…

“Hi, honey. I’m home.”

“Mister October, please take the garbage out NOW! Not in October!!!”

I was delighted to learn about Eddie Basinski, whose 1940s stops included the Brooklyn Dodgers and Pittsburgh Pirates. He owned two monikers, “Bazooka” and “Fiddler.” In 2007, with ornate penmanship, his reply shared the history of both names.

“Leo Durocher, my Dodgers mgr., gave me the nickname ‘Bazooka.’ Because of my accurate, strong throwing arm, with the quickest release he ever saw; he compared all that with the U.S. Army weapon ‘the Bazooka.’ It was my first nickname.


‘Fiddler’ came about as I studied classical violin for 16 years, gave concerts, appeared on radio, TV and gave a rendition between doubleheaders while with Portland, in my baseball uniform at home plate before one of the largest at the ballpark.


The press used both nicknames constantly. Opponents used these names, but not favorably. when I failed to get a hit, fans from opposing teams would yell, ‘Why don’t you use your violin?'”

Basinski played 11 seasons with Portland. He was a Pacific Coast League fixture. Check out this Oregonian remembrance of the Beavers, including the nifty photo of a uniform-clad “Fiddler” entertaining teammates.

Tomorrow: Detroit Tigers catcher Lance Parrish explains the origin of his nickname.

Al Spangler Recalls Leo Durocher, 2 HR Day

Snapped At Shea Stadium (?)
before Spangler’s
Atlanta blasts!

Outfielder Al Spangler sounded like he could have been a contestant on the TV reality show Survivor. As an original Houston Colt .45 (and a leading hitter), I asked him about the elements. The weather was nothing like in Milwaukee, when he debuted with the Braves. I asked him about the humidity and mosquitoes.

“Not being used to those elements, it was difficult to adjust but something we had to do. Also, we knew that in three years, we would be playing indoors when the Astrodome was completed.”

Thanks to http://www.retrosheet.org/, I discovered a rare fit of power for the contact hitter. Spangler spanked the Braves for two homers and four RBI on June 12, 1969. Did the Cub recall his fireworks display?

“Remember the game and also remember that some of my teammates were passed out in the dugout after the second homer.”

Was that one detail that Cub broadcaster Jack Brickhouse may have missed?

Spangler’s tenure with Chicago may be remarkable, in that he could be one of the few team members who doesn’t recall manager Leo Durocher’s explosive personality. Spangler noted:

“I enjoyed my years with Leo. My one regret was that he was near the end of his career and I would have enjoyed seeing him operate in his early years.”

Cubs Pitcher Jim Colborn Recalls Stormy Times With Manager Leo Durocher

Pitcher Jim Colborn sent me an early Christmas present. I asked about three topics. He sent me true tales from the diamond. Remember the old CBS “You Are There” programs? He’s that good. Why don’t we see the likes of Jim on This Week in Baseball? Baseball broadcast teams, take note. This guy is a classic storyteller.

First, I asked about manager Leo Durocher.

“Leo had an ego problem. He needed strokes so badly he put people down and manipulated them to make himself feel UP. Sad kind of person.”


Tomorrow: Colborn recounts a never-ending game against the Minnesota Twins!

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