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Mike Tussey: The Cubs, a microphone and baseball Hall of Famers — and a wealth of sweet memories

Growing up in the mid 20th Century was totally unlike anything that you could imagine today here in 2023.

By 1947, I was 9 and Radio in America was King. Television was on the way, but most of America depended on Radio for entertainment and news.

Waite Hoyt

So, what did a kid do back then to keep occupied?

For me, you would find me huddled up next to a huge Zenith floor model radio and listening to shows such as the Lone Ranger, Our Miss Brooks, Life with Luigi, the FBI at Peace and War, Stop the Music, and the list goes on.

It was where our imagination took charge.

However, Radio also a key messenger for Baseball. Summers back in Ashland meant that you would find me on the huge front porch with a Pepsi listening to Waite Hoyt and the Cincinnati Reds on Radio. Waite Hoyt, Baseball Hall of Famer, many may remember was the Voice of the Reds from 1942-1966. Indeed, he was a master of describing the game of Baseball.

Crosley Field 1949

One of my most treasured possessions as a kid was my old wooden bat that stayed with me where ever I went. I never knew when I might be able to get some swings in! The bat was the closest thing to baseball that I ever owned. Sadly for me, Little League in Ashland didn’t begin till 1956.

One day in 1949, my dream came true, my father and I headed to Cincinnati on the C&O railway excursion to see our beloved Reds play. Our destination, Crosley Field, Home of the Reds from 1912-1970. That Saturday, I saw the greenest grass in my life and 30,000 cheering Reds fans.

The decades passed and by now; I was in Radio and Television broadcasting Football and Basketball and with a very rare occasion, a Baseball game. In 1993, I became the Voice of the Huntington, West Virginia Cubs, an affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. I had now made it to professional Baseball.

A kid and his bat

2023 marks the 30th Anniversary of my days with the Cubbies calling play by play of all our games both home and away…just like Waite did 45 years earlier. I have always deemed that calling the play by play of any game is a distinct honor and privilege and demands all the talent and skills you possess. I quickly found out that professional Baseball also has its perks. This means you will meet up close and personal, some of the finest players ever to don a pro baseball jersey and that does include Hall of Famers.

Major Leaguers I became friends with include, Hall of Famers Bob Feller and Willie Stargell. I even spent time with Major Leaguers Jim Lemon, Jim Piersall, Bruce Benedict, Jeff Torborg, Sandy Alomar and Ray Sadecki. On a bright sunny Saturday morning I was asked to pick up Hall of Famer Bob Feller at the airport and then to an auto dealership for an appearance. I really spent most of the day chatting with Bob and his incredible career. When we arrived at the Cubs Home Field I was privileged to interview him for our pre-game show. What a Super Guy.

The season rolled on and later that summer, I was in Danville, Virginia, broadcasting the Cubs and the Braves. This meant that I would spend time interviewing the skipper of the Braves, Bruce Benedict. Bruce, many may remember, was a great catcher for the Atlanta Braves. Later in the game, I was in the press box calling the game in the 2nd inning and a man took sat in the vacant chair next to me. I looked over at him and could not believe my eyes. A few minutes later after closing the inning and going to a break, I tapped the man on the shoulder and said, “Willie Stargell..right ?” He said, “You got it man!” I shook the Hall of Famer’s hand and asked if he would like to join me on the air and talk Baseball and with a huge smile replied, “Let’s do it.”

Bob Feller’s autograph

The next 3 innings I called the game, and at the same time conducting a super interview with Willie and 7 time All Star and Hall of Famer. Our conversation moved to remembering the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates where he was an icon in Pittsburgh. Indeed, I mentioned to him about the Pirates and the Pointer Sisters hit song, “We are Family!”

So many memories of my travels around the Appalachian League and the different ball parks, each having its own distinct personality and history. Ballparks like in Elizabethtown, Tennessee, the home of the Twins where I spent time chatting with former major leaguer Jim Lemon. In Martinsville, Pennsylvania, I had the opportunity to interview the San Diego Chicken and the Philly Fanatic at the same time. The two clowns stole my Cubs cap while running away, I didn’t get back till the 3rd inning. However, none could come close to the Home of the Cubs in Huntington, historic St. Cloud Commons. St. Cloud’s claim to fame was it was the oldest covered grandstand in the country. What a great place to watch a game.
BBQ ribs on the grille, the Blues Brothers entertaining us between the innings, and all the Snapple in the world.

I was living my dream of broadcasting professional baseball. Many times on our team bus my thoughts would go back to the 1988 movie with Kevin Costner in “Bull Durham.” I came to know and become lifetime friends with so many of the Cubs during those golden years. I can tell you, “Bull Durham” was right on the money as it depicted minor league baseball.

The Cubs at St. Cloud in Huntington

I know, because I lived it. I even became friends with Chicago’s Senior Vice President, Al Goldis. Our friendship grew over his periodic visits with me in the press box and out time on the air. The 1994 season was winding down and Al’s last visit with me on the air was as usual, fantastic. The inning ended and I went to a commercial just before the post-game show. After closing our interview, Al asked me to come see him in the clubhouse after the game. Later, as we met he asked if I would like to become the Voice of the Orlando Cubs, our AA affiliate. I was speechless. I was in total disbelief. I said, “Absolutely, let’s do it! I would be honored!” I have to say, I was almost shaking with the offer. He instructed me to contact the GM in Orlando, and make a visit with plans for me to join the Cubs in the Spring of ’95. Well, a thing called fate stepped in and denied all those incredible plans

Major League Baseball went on a strike and both the Minors and Major League operations ceased. The World Series was cancelled, the Huntington franchise was dissolved, and Al Goldis and Chicago’s front office all were no longer with the Cubs. Just like that, I was out of professional baseball.

Bob Feller

My memories of those years in Huntington and the Cubs are so precious; I just think about them and smile. Although, I do have some photos you will enjoy.

Nevertheless, for a short time, I was living the dream of a 10-year-old kid back in Ashland, Kentucky, listening to Waite Hoyt and the Reds with my bat in my lap. For that, I thank God for it all.

In August of 2021, I was so thrilled and honored to be inducted into Ashland, Kentucky’s prestigious CP-1 Baseball Hall of Fame. Even today, I still love the game so much and always will. I was blessed with three fine sons and you can bet, you could find me at their games, coaching or in the bleachers! If someone said, “Hey Mike! Want to shag some balls?

My answer would have been, ”Hey, It’s like Ernie Banks once said, ‘LET’S PLAY TWO'”

With Al Goldis of the Cubs

With Cubs Jim Lemon

Mike Tussey has “retired” from a 60-plus-year career as a legendary play-by-play announcer for over 2000 football, baseball, and basketball games, including most recently for ESPN+. His career also includes a stint in law enforcement, teaching and coaching, and writing books, including the “Touchdown Saints.” He grew up in Eastern Kentucky and now lives in Florence with his wife, Jo. He has opened another “Door of Opportunity” and will now be a regular columnist for the NKyTribune.

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  1. Ric Robinson says:

    You’ve had a hell of a ride. One might say you hit it just right! Exactly the time in history when radio was great. Exactly when baseball was at its peak with guys like Willie Stargell. And exactly when law enforcement was considered by everybody (except criminals) to be one of the most honorable professions!!!

  2. Rik Kurtz says:

    real interesting Rik

  3. Rand Hoyt says:

    Nice story. My grandfather was Waite Hoyt. I live near Orlando FL. Did you get a chance to meet him?

  4. Mike Tussey says:

    Thanks Rand! No..I never had the opportunity…but, sure wish I had…he and I would have had a tremendous conversation !! Mike

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