During Wednesday’s Horizon League men’s basketball media day in Chicago, there was plenty of discussion regarding the upcoming season as coaches and players took their turns at the microphone.
Between interview sessions, however, the talk often reverted back to the sports news that had the city abuzz. League administrators, coaches, players and media members all offered their take on the Chicago Cubs, who clinched the National League Division Series with a 6-4 win over the St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field a night prior.
An active participant in those discussions was event moderator Andy Masur, who handles Horizon League play-by-play for ESPN3 exclusives and Milwaukee Panthers’ broadcasts.
Masur was in the Cubs radio booth from 1999-2007, hosting pregame and postgame shows and providing one inning of play-by-play on WGN 720-AM. Masur’s role also included assisting Cubs legend and color commentator Ron Santo during travel.
Masur smiled thinking of how Santo, who passed away in 2010, would have reacted to Tuesday’s victory over the Cardinals.
“You probably wouldn’t have been able to say it on the air,” he said. “I was talking about this on the radio (on Tuesday) night. He would have been gushing. He would have loved Kris Bryant, especially with Bryant being a third baseman.”
The Cubs had the best regular-season record of any team remaining in the Major League Baseball postseason. They’ve ousted the top two teams, Pittsburgh and St. Louis. However, Masur isn’t quite ready to make a prediction for the National League Championship Series, which begins on Saturday night.
After all, Masur knows the team’s unfortunate history all too well. He was in the radio booth with Pat Hughes, Steve Stone and producer engineer Matt Boltz on the now infamous night in 2003 when the Cubs came within five outs of the World Series. Masur had already left the press box and ventured to the clubhouse, where he was preparing to provide postgame radio interviews and reports during the celebration of a lifetime.
“It was surreal and it was awful all at the same time,” Masur said. “I kept listening to the game and walking back up to the press box after the game, it was like 40,000 people had just died. You could hear a pin drop. It was just awful.”
Talk of the “Billy Goat Curse” reared its head after the Florida Marlins rallied to beat the Cubs in 2003. It returned in 2007 and 2008, when the Cubs went a combined 0-6 in back-to-back postseason appearances.
But, even from afar, Masur sees something different in this year’s incarnation of the Chicago Cubs, a group that seems immune to the extra pressure that has long plagued the franchise.
“The thing I like about this group is that they’re too young to know any better,” he said. “Hopefully that keeps up.”
Initial visit to Wrigley proved painful for Lundeen
Valparaiso ace pitcher Dalton Lundeen has enjoyed his fair share of enjoyable moments at Wrigley Field during his time as a lifelong Cubs fan, but his first trip to the Friendly Confines was not so friendly.
At the age of 6, Lundeen was struck in the head with a foul ball during his first game at Wrigley Field. Lundeen was sitting six rows up along the first-base line when left-handed hitting Ruben Amaro, Jr., then a player with the Phillies, laced a line drive at the future Crusaders pitcher. Lundeen’s father made a diving effort, but could not reach the ball.
“I woke up at a little Cubs hospital,” Lundeen said. “Ruben Amaro came up to make sure I was OK. I got a Phillies signed ball, a Mark Grace signed ball and a Sammy Sosa signed bat."
In 2003, Lundeen added a Cubs memory that was equally painful, albeit emotional rather than physical agony. He had tickets to Game 5 of the 2003 World Series, should the Cubs have defeated the Marlins in the National League Championship Series.
Valparaiso baseball coach Brian Schmack played with Cubs first base coach Brandon Hyde in the White Sox minor league system in 1999 and 2000… Assistant coach Nic Mishler is family friends with Cubs hitting coach John Mallee, who is from Northwest Indiana. Schmack sent Mallee a good luck text before the Wild Card Game against the Pirates… Dodgers infielder Justin Turner used the Valparaiso baseball indoor facility to work out during the offseason while visiting his girlfriend, who is from the area.
Contact Brandon Vickrey at firstname.lastname@example.org.