“He was always around the players, always at the park. He did his homework, he knew his baseball."
The fans of Wrigley Field rank among the most devoted in baseball, and no one could have personified them better in the 1940s and 1950s than Bert Wilson.
Born Bert Bertram Puckett in Ohio, Wilson was a vocal and trumpet performance student at the University of Iowa. As a 20-year old, Wilson volunteered as an engineer for Cedar Rapids, Iowa, station WMT and convinced them to carry local baseball games. He sat on a housetop across the street from center field to deliver the play-by-play.
In 1943, WIND broadcaster Pat Flanagan sought an assistant for Cubs games, and Wilson auditioned. Wilson, despite a bout with laryngitis, “managed to talk his way into a job,” according to WIND press releases. After Flanagan retired, the new hire Wilson took over full game-by-game responsibilities for the 1944 campaign.
Soon it was clear that the Cubs couldn’t have asked for a better ambassador. His most famous phrase was, “I don’t care who wins, as long as it’s the Cubs!” along with “It’s a beautiful day in Chicago” and “Bring on the Bears.” The North Siders were woeful in Wilson’s debut, starting 1-13, but things turned around the following year. In the fall of 1945, young Wilson became the most recent voice of a Cubs World Series.
The Cubs lost the Series and struggled in the following years, but Wilson – always with a pencil in hand – never wavered in his love for the home team. He loved to describe the charms of the Friendly Confines saying, “There isn’t a bad seat in the house,” and loved to talk about the team’s promising young prospects.
“He was always around the players, always at the park,” said Frick Award winner Jack Brickhouse. “He did his homework, he knew his baseball. You could have buried him at Wrigley Field.”
And for 12 years, Wilson called thousands of games by himself.
“How he ever did it, I don’t know,” remarked fellow Frick Award winner By Saam. “Maybe he had more stamina than the rest of us. Maybe he just loved the game more.”
Wilson relayed the game he loved through the 1955 campaign, when he was signed away by the Reds to call their games at Crosley Field. He would never get the chance, however, passing away in November from heart failure at his home in Mesa, Ariz. He was 44 years old.