CHICAGO – The Coomers lived in a house near Midway Airport on the South Side of Chicago. This near:
“When I was kid, I would throw rocks in the air, swing at them with a bat, and try to hit the rock over the Midway fence,” Ron Coomer said. “When I did that, it was a home run.”
The South Side was primarily White Sox country for baseball fans, although not for young Ronnie Coomer in the 1970s.
“We had one of those old TVs where you twisted the dial and could get the regular channels,” Coomer said. “There were also the UHF channels, 26 through 44, and the White Sox games were up there.
“On our TV you couldn’t get those channels. You could watch the Cubs on WGN, Channel 9. I would get home from school, and the Cubs were on, and Wrigley Field looked like such a great place for a ballgame.”
Coomer’s father, also Ron, was a baseball fan, but not pro-Sox and anti-Cub as were a good share of the Coomer relatives and neighbors.
“I was a Cubs fan, so we would go to games at Wrigley Field,” Coomer said. “There was a ritual: As soon we got in the ballpark, I would run up the steps and look at the field, take it all in like it was the first time I’d been there, and my dad would get in the concession line.
“He would get a hot dog and a beer, I’d get a hot dog and a Coke, and we’d be ready to watch the Cubs.”
Young Ronnie was turning into a good ballplayer, and his parents, Ron and Linda, popped for the hot glove on the market.
“The Wilson A2000 … every kid wanted one of those,” Coomer said. “I would bring the glove with me to Wrigley, for foul balls, and one day we had seats near the Cubs bullpen.
“Bruce Sutter was getting started as the Cubs’ closer. He had the same glove. He said, ‘Kid, let me see that glove.’ He looked at my glove, put his hand in it, pounded the pocket a couple of times and said, ‘Let’s change gloves.’
“I grabbed mine back and said, ‘No way. You can’t have my glove.’ My dad told me when he gave me the A2000, ‘You do something to ruin this glove or lose it, you’re not getting another one,’ and I believed him.”
This was on Saturday morning, before Game 2 of the Sweat Box Slugfest that the Cubs swept from the Twins over the weekend in Wrigley Field. As the radio analyst, Coomer had been downstairs for the pregame session with Cubs manager Joe Maddon.
Wrigley’s massive remodeling has not yet included the press box. The home radio crew has the same ridiculously cramped quarters as the rest of the broadcast locations. And without air conditioning, the oppressive heat had “Coom” looking a bit moist well before the first pitch in his red shirt and shorts.
This is Coomer’s fifth season as the analyst for Pat Hughes’ play-by-play on Cubs radio broadcasts. He was set to continue broadcast duties in 2014 with the Twins — 30 games as a TV analyst, pregame and postgame shows, and some radio work on the Twins’ station — when Hughes called and talked about the opening to replace Keith Moreland.
Dave St. Peter, the Twins president, told Coomer it was OK to seize the opportunity. Coomer was hired after one meeting with Cubs officials.
“Coom played here, he’s a Chicago guy; we’d had a lot of conversations in the past, and his knowledge of baseball, his enthusiasm, his constant good humor … it all added up,” Hughes said.
“And in five years in the booth, we haven’t had one cross moment — spring training, 162 games, the postseason — and not one bad moment.”
Coomer said his one truly nervous moment came when the Cubs and Cleveland were in extra innings of Game 7 of the 2016 World Series.
“I had this thought, ‘If we win, Pat’s first words will be heard in Chicago for the next 100 years and I can’t step on him,’ ” Coomer said. “I pushed the microphone away from my mouth when it got down to the last out. And Pat made the call, simple and great.”
Coomer’s acceptance as Hughes’ sidekick in Chicago is such that he now is in a partnership with Coom’s Corner, a large sports bar in the southwest suburb of Lockport.
And Coomer’s presence as a sports figure in Chicago helped cause this historic event to take place earlier this season:
“My Uncle Jim, Jim Eldridge, is one of those hard-core Sox fans that despised the Cubs. He came to his first-ever game at Wrigley Field recently. He said it wasn’t bad, considering it was the Cubs.”
Patrick Reusse can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on AM-1500. firstname.lastname@example.org