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Note: Ron Sayles who writes guest articles for the Baseball Notebook occasionally has submitted this article about Braves announcer of the past Earl Gillespie:
Earl Gillespie: Voice of the Milwaukee Braves
"Holy Cow! that ball almost made it to the Johnston Cookie factory." That was a familiar refrain in the heyday of the Milwaukee Braves. Earl Gillespie, the voice of the Milwaukee Brewers, of the minor league variety, in 1951 and 1952, and, along with Blaine Walsh, the voice of the Milwaukee Braves from 1953 to 1963. It was Gillespie's voice that I grew up listening to.
By way of explanation, the Johnston Cookie factory was located on National Avenue. It was directly behind center field and could be seen from Milwaukee County Stadium. When a player hit a prodigious home run, Earl would utter that familiar refrain.
When Gillespie died in Naples, Florida on December 12, 2003 of various ailments, he took with him a voice that was very important to me in my late teens and early twenties and beyond. Not only did I appreciate him, he was appreciated by countless others. So much so that he was inducted into the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame in 2001, the 50th anniversary of the hall.
Gillespie grew up in Chicago, but he will always be remembered as "Wisconsin" through and through. He came to Green Bay in 1946 to play for the Green Bay Blue Jays of the old Wisconsin State League. He hit .286, not exactly big league material.
Gillespie began his radio career in 1947 for WJPG in Green Bay. He retired in 1987 after 40 years behind the microphone. He not only was the voice of the previously mentioned Milwaukee Brewers and Milwaukee Braves, but he did play-by-play for the Green Bay Packers, Marquette Football and basketball, University of Wisconsin football and the National Basketball Association's Milwaukee Hawks.
Gillespie was an all-city baseball player at Chicago's Lane Tech High School, so he had legitimate baseball skills From there he went to the Green Bay Blue Jays.
In 1953 Gillespie went to spring training doing play-by-play for the minor league Milwaukee Brewers, he came back to Milwaukee doing play- by-play for the major league Milwaukee Braves. Instant promotion.
Johnny Logan, Braves shortstop, once said of Gillespie, "He was a lousy hitter, but a good talker."
Hank Aaron once said, "He was like part of the team." Aaron spoke those words upon hearing of Gillespie's failing health.
If Gillespie had one fault, if indeed it could be called a fault, he was too close to the players, losing his objectivity. My question to those who thought it a fault, he was the Milwaukee Braves announcer, why wouldn't he be a "home boy?" Gillespie never apologized seeing nothing wrong with rooting for the home team, neither did I.
The Brewers current announcer, Bob Uecker, who grew up in Milwaukee, remembers Gillespie calling the night games . They later became good friends.
Growing up in the Milwaukee area during the salad days of the Milwaukee Braves was a once in a lifetime thrill, and it was Earl Gillespie who had a large part in making it so.