A Short Tale About Jack Brickhouse

A Short Tale About Jack Brickhouse

Apparently, very few of you out there in Cubs twitter land remember much about Jack Brickhouse's life outside of his broadcasting career (this includes you, Evan*). This is OK, though, since I myself have literally no memories of the man - he passed away during the summer of 1998, a time when I was just starting to understand tee-ball.

I do have a story about Brickhouse, however, and to my knowledge it has never been committed to print - electronic or otherwise. It is a story that has existed longer than anyone I know can remember.

This is a story about Jack Brickhouse and a hero.

~~~~~

My only real knowledge of Jack Brickhouse has been passed on through the rich oral tradition of the caddy yard at North Shore Country Club. I caddied at North Shore for years. My brother caddied there for years. My father caddied there for at least a decade, though, admittedly, I cannot quite remember the length of his tenure.

We could all go on about stories from that place for days, a majority of which are (mostly) grounded in truth - stories about Ron Santo, stories about (possibly) racist bus drivers who saved up all their lives to re-join the club, stories about the greatest golfer/boss/bridge player anyone has ever seen, even stories involving Michael Jordan that I cannot retell out of a personal distaste for visits from lawyers.

As with any service industry folklore, there tends to be a single story that rises above the rest. The legendary "I Quit" story, a tale of questionable veracity that gets retold constantly because we need it to be true. It's the type of story that everyone daydreams about as they slog up the 12th fairway in mid-July, or as they get the pleasure of serving a table full of jackasses who certainly wont tip at a restaurant. We need someone to have actually done it in the past, or else the daydreams lose their appeal.

~~~~~

Our hero was fed up with his job as a caddy (the reason why isn't terribly important - pretty much all caddies hate certain aspects of the job). He's not yet quite committed to quitting outright, but he's close. It's pretty much inevitable that he'll be gone by the end of the summer.

And then one morning, he draws Jack Brickhouse. The universally beloved Jack Brickhouse who called Cubs games on WGN.

Er, well, the almost-universally beloved Jack Brickhouse. For at North Shore, Brickhouse was pretty much the worst golfer you could caddy for - he was a mean sumbitch who tipped nickels. No one wanted to carry his bag.

(As an aside, the great thing about caddying for someone is that you can get to know them extremely well. Four hours of bad golf will show you just how angry or drunk a man is capable of getting, or how kind-hearted they actually are. How someone treats their caddy on the course is a window into the depths of their personality. This is very similar to the concept of watching how your date treats the waitstaff, only over a larger sample size of interactions.)

Our hero was beyond unhappy. Carrying for Brickhouse is going to be the final straw, he can just feel it. Hours of following such an unpleasant man around the course for virtually no pay isn't worth getting out of bed for.

(As a second aside, consider how unlikeable Brickhouse must have been that he is still held up as the worst golfer to caddy for in the history of the course. Everyone knows how bad of a loop he was, even kids who were born after his death. His unpleasantness was and is legendary)

Around the fifteenth hole or so, our hero is done. Brickhouse has been rude for the entire round, and any hope of even a $0.05 tip had long since been extinguished. There was really nothing keeping him from walking off the course right then and there. Pretty much any caddy knows this feeling all too well.

Right around this part of the course, our hero had a revelation. A way to leave the Shore while issuing the biggest middle-finger salute possible. And he only needed to wait until the 18th hole.

(To get the beauty of his plan, you must understand what North Shore's 18th looks like. It is a long, gorgeous par 4 with the historic North Shore clubhouse as a backdrop. The hole is also mostly uphill, and has a giant bunker that stretches across the fairway from about 90 yards and in. Basically, it's tough to judge how far the green is from your position on the fairway as a result of this design.)

So our hero is now with Brickhouse on the 18th fairway, about 110 yards out. Brickhouse asks for a distance, and our hero tells him he's about 140 out. Brickhouse responds with something along the lines of, "that cannot possibly be correct!" To which our hero, his caddy, responds, "I'm your caddy, I think I'd know. The bunker makes it look closer than it is. It's 140."

With a skeptical look, Brickhouse grabs whatever the hell he hits from 140 out. He winds up, swings hard, and catches it true.

In his best Brickhouse, our hero bellows:

"Back, Back, BACK - HEY HEY!" -Brickhouse's ball crashes through a clubhouse window- "WHEEEEEE!"

He then proceeds to throw down Brickhouse's bag and march off the course as a hero.

(This post was inspired by @WilcoMeThat's post about the biggest assholes in Cubs history)

*

@TommyECook

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  • Celebrities are seldom what they seem.

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    This is some funny stuff, Tommy. Too often, the celebrities we hold in high regard due to their appearance in the public eye are far different in person or when the cameras are off. I've been fortunate in that I've not had such an encounter, at least not to this extent. I understand that you've got to put on a face for the camera, but there's no excuse for just being a despicable person.

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    Nothing like speaking ill of the dead.

  • I knew him as a really good interview and a gentleman, but I had heard stories about his 0-based tips. Great read. Thank you!

  • Like most people of that generation, Jack might have been pretty tight with his purse strings. If you weren't raised with money, you tend to hang on to it like your coffin might have pockets. However, there's never an excuse to treat anyone in the service industry with anything less than dignity and respect.

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