Right on Q: A brief history of the White Sox on the radio

Home of the White Sox. Namesake of the author. - Author's collection

You have to pay to see the White Sox. But the radio has always been free.

The White Sox and television have a long and complicated history. Their move to Pay-TV in the early 80's is still subject to debate.

The White Sox history on radio wasn't nearly as dramatic. In fact, it was stable for decades thanks to Bob Elson.  "The Commander" was the voice of White Sox baseball on the radio from 1929 to 1970. Unlike the Cubs, whose relationship with WGN-AM is part of the station's identity, the White Sox have bounced around the dial over the decades.

Even so, the White Sox radio history has been rather stable. With few exceptions, the White Sox have been on either 670 or 1000 on the AM dial since 1952.

From 1952 to 1966, the White Sox were on WCFL-AM 1000. ‘CFL was a 50,000 Clear Channel (a federal designation that meant no stations within 750 miles of Chicago could operate on that frequency) radio station that was owned by the Chicago Federation of Labor. Throughout the 1950s and into the '60s, ‘CFL had a middle of the road format that featured pop music and jazz. In 1965, the powers that be decided to enter the rock n' roll format that had been the sole domain of WLS-AM 890. The battle for the ears of Chicago's teenagers was fierce, and both stations lobbied to have all of their non-rock programming tossed aside. WLS ditched the household hints from Martha Crane, along with Don McNeil and his Breakfast Club. WCFL bade farewell to the White Sox and an overnight jazz show.

From 1967 to 1970, Elson and Red Rush were heard on WMAQ-AM 670, which was then owned by NBC. ‘MAQ was having a hard time in the decade after the network radio shows moved to TV. Their format consisted of talk shows and "beautiful music." Jack Eigen, a throwback to the golden age of radio, still interviewed the stars at various Gold Coast night spots.

The first marriage of the White Sox and WMAQ was short lived. One consequence of the historically bad season of 1970 was that no major broadcaster wanted to run the games. For two years, the Sox were on WTAQ-AM 1370.  WTAQ was a west suburban station that served the western suburbs. The call letters stood for "Towns along the Q," which was the nickname for the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad.

Thanks to Dick Allen's heroics, the Sox were back on ‘MAQ in 1973. The second marriage of the White Sox and WMAQ lasted until 1979. As Harry Caray developed a following in the Midwest, the radio station's fortunes changed as well. In 1975, WMAQ ditched its low-rated adult contemporary format for country music.

The play-by-play duties were handled by a combination of Caray, Jimmy Piersall, Joe McConnell, Mary Shane, Lorn Brown, and Bill Mercer.

By 1980, the popularity of movies like "Urban Cowboy" and "WMAQ is Gonna Make Me Rich!" bumper stickers pushed ‘MAQ near the top of the Chicago radio ratings. If the bumper sticker campaign wasn't enough, listeners were enticed by the WMAQ Dancing Dollars:

The shakeup in the TV booth spilled over to the radio side. Don Drysdale and Ken Harrelson took over the TV broadcasts from Harry Caray and Jimmy Piersall. On the radio, McConnell and Brown were joined by former Sox pitcher Early Wynn.

Country music continued to be a winner for WMAQ as late as 1985. As the music audience migrated to FM, WMAQ introduced talk shows into the mix. Country was relegated to weekends and the overnight truckers' show. White Sox baseball was part of a revamped personality lineup that included Chet Coppock on Sports during evenings when the White Sox were off, Morton Downey, Jr. in middays, and Don Vogel in afternoons (Vogel's producer was a recent college graduate named Roe Conn).

In 1988, NBC sold WMAQ to Westinghouse Broadcasting, who changed the format from music/talk to all-news.  With a new format came new announcers. John Rooney and Wayne Hagin took over radio duties from Lorn Brown and Del Crandall. Like his predecessors, Rooney would spend a few innings on TV:

The Sox would stay with "WMAQ All News 67" through 1995. In 1992, Rooney was paired with former pitcher Ed Farmer. The partnership would last through 2005.

In 1996, the Sox would return to AM 1000, which was now operating as all-sports WMVP. The arrangement would last for nine years. The White Sox relationship with AM 1000 certainly ended on a high note. The final White Sox game on WMVP was Oct. 26, 2005.

The Sox would return to 670 in 2006. WMAQ disappeared into broadcasting history on Aug. 1, 2000. It was replaced by the all-sports format that was operating on WSCR-AM 1160. Even though the White Sox were returning to a familiar frequency, a familiar voice would not make the trip. John Rooney would leave the White Sox broadcasting booth to succeed his idol Jack Buck as the voice of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Farmer was moved from color analyst to play-by-play. In 2006-2007 Farmer was teamed up with former White Sox center fielder Chris Singleton. In early 2008, Singleton would accept a job on ESPN's "Baseball Tonight." During the 2008 season, Farmer was paired with Steve Stone. The following year, there was a change in the booth, with Stone moving over to TV, and Darrin Jackson joining Farmer on the radio.

The White Sox will remain on WSCR through the end of the 2015 season.

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