Jack Quinlan ’48 is the greatest baseball broadcaster you’ve never heard of.
His tenure describing the Chicago Cubs games through the 1950s and 1960s was short-lived, but his love of the game shone through. At age 5, he told his mother that he wanted to be a broadcaster for the Cubs when he grew up. He practiced for that dream while at Notre Dame, simulating broadcasts for his friends. In those years, he became a fierce devotee to the University. The only song he could play on the piano was the Notre Dame Fight song.
Jack Quinlan was also a lucky man. Right after graduation he was hired to assist then Cubs announcer Bert Wilson at radio station WIND, and he commented that “three years out of Notre Dame and I’m working at Wrigley Field…only in America.” After only a year, he was quickly pulled over to WGN radio and in 1960, Quinlan was handpicked by the former commissioner of Major League Baseball, Ford Frick to broadcast the All Star game as well as the World Series even while the Cubs were in seventh place at the time. That year he’d partner with Cubs legend Charlie Grimm, but for the rest of his tenure, it was Quinlan and Hall of Famer Lou Boudreau in the broadcast booth.
One of Quinlan’s favorite visitors to the booth was Nat King Cole. Quinlan loved his music and Cole loved baseball and broadcasting, so during Cole’s visit to the Cubs booth Quinlan allowed him to announce an inning of the game. It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship, not based on celebrity but on a shared joy of the sport and watching players like Ernie Banks round the bases.
Quinlan’s career was tragically cut short in an automobile accident during spring training in 1965. He was 38. Though he was not wildly acclaimed nationally, his fans in Chicago remember the energy and color he brought to every game, every play, whether it was a grand slam or a devastating loss.
This year Quinlan has been nominated for the Ford Frick award in baseball broadcasting, named for the same man that tuned into his voice 50 years ago. Winning this award would put him in the Baseball Hall of Fame, an achievement that escaped him while he was alive but would have honored a man who loved nothing more than Notre Dame and a great game of Chicago Cubs baseball.
Support this member of the Notre Dame family by voting for him. Voting ends on September 30, and the winners will be chosen based on popular vote.
Lucy Negash is this magazine’s fall intern.