Tuesday marks 40 years in broadcasting for veteran Chicago White Sox color commentator, Steve Stone. If you’ve lived in Chicago at any time during the last four decades, you’ve at least heard of him. And if you’re a baseball fan, he called games for your favorite team as he’s been in the booth for both the White Sox and the Cubs.
Like most sports broadcasters, they have their fans and their critics. Personally, I’ve always been a fan of Stone. He’s always seemed to fit perfectly with whoever he was working with. And he’s worked with some characters. From Al Michaels and the Monday Night Baseball crew of the early ’80s to Harry Caray, Chip Caray, Hawk Harrelson, and now Jason Benetti. He’s worked with an entire spectrum of personalities and fit right alongside with them like a glove.
It goes a little deeper than that for me. I love baseball. I love watching baseball. I loved playing baseball. I’ll never forget when my family moved back to Chicago from Fort Wayne, Ind. in 1983. I was seven years old and my grandfather moved in with us. He plugged in his 13-inch black and white Magnavox TV, turned on Channel 9, adjusted the rabbit ears a bit, and I heard the sound of Harry and Steve for the first time in my life calling a Cubs game against the Mets in mid-June. I was hooked right from the start.
Yes, I’m a Sox fan, but I love watching baseball of almost any kind at any level. My summers as a youth consisted of playing baseball outside in the morning, watching Cubs games in the afternoon, going to little league practice, and coming home to hopefully a Sox game on Channel 32. Few things were more anticipated than hearing Stone say, “Here’s a tip for all you youngsters out there.” Hearing Stone giving tips on how you should field or throw or even hit was exciting stuff for a youngster like me.
You see, we didn’t have instructional videos or YouTube tutorials on how to play baseball. There were no super slow-mo breakdowns of plays on ESPN or social media. We didn’t even have Tom Emanski videos yet. We learned the game from our dads if we were fortunate enough, who learned from their dads. We learned from our youth baseball coaches who learned from who knows where. We learned from playing hours upon hours outside on our front stoops or at the park.
When you got the chance to hear advice from someone who played the game, who won a Cy Young award, who played for the Cubs and the Sox, you stopped and listened. Inevitably, his advice would be passed on at practice. Either a coach or one of us youngsters would say, “Did you hear what Steve Stone said about turning a double play?” or “Did you hear what he said about pitching with a runner on third?” When he said something, it meant something. And I’m sure if we were saying it at old River Park on Foster Ave. on the north side of Chicago, there were a host of other little leaguers saying it on their fields throughout Chicago and even the rest of the country.
Hearing Stone’s voice was as much a part of summer for me as hearing the ice cream truck or hearing my parents tell me it was time to come inside for dinner. His voice meant baseball. His voice meant summer. And it still does today.
Stone has seen the game change dramatically over the years and he’s adjusted brilliantly. He’s even taken on a new role of interacting with fans on social media in a rather entertaining way. He’s gone from the youthful voice next to the elder statesmen, like he was with Harry, to the elder statesmen now next to the youthful voice of Benetti. Chicago has been blessed with some of the best sports broadcasters ever and Stone is right up there with all of them. We don’t always get a chance to appreciate greatness as it happens, but with Stone, we still have that chance.
Thank you for 40 years, Steve Stone. You impacted this particular youngster 40 years ago and you’ve impacted generations of baseball fans everywhere since. Here’s to many more happy and healthy years in the booth.
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