Harry Caray

From Academic Kids

Harry Caray (March 1, 1914February 18, 1998), born Harry Christopher Carabina in St. Louis, Missouri, was a beloved TV and radio broadcaster for three Major League Baseball teams, lastly the Chicago Cubs of the National League. Prior to becoming the Cubs' main play-by-play broadcaster, he worked TV and radio for the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago White Sox. He also worked briefly for the Oakland Athletics. He died of a heart attack in 1998 after a series of strokes.

Caray made his debut in 1945 with the Cardinals, but was fired in 1969 amid rumors of personal problems with the Busch family, who owned both the Cardinals and the Anheuser-Busch breweries. He always denied any personal scandal, attributing his firing to a long-standing business-related grudge. After a season with Oakland, Caray broadcast for the White Sox from 1971 to 1981, and then for the Cubs from 1982 to 1997.

He was extremely popular among the citizens of Chicago, and was known as much for his public carousing and jovial spirit as for his sportscasting; it was not for nothing that he was proclaimed "The Mayor of Rush Street", referencing Chicago's famous bar-hopping neighborhood. In the years before his death, his skills as a broadcaster gradually declined due to illness and the effects of age, a remarkarble recovery from a 1987 stroke notwithstanding. This led some people to say that he should retire, and in fact he was retained well beyond the normal mandatory retirement age of WGN-TV announcers. But his popularity was such that the normal rules were suspended. His tendency to mispronounce players' names (often humorously, such as trying to say a complicated name backwards), was widely parodied.

His style became fodder for pop culture parody as well, including a memorable Saturday Night Live recurring sketch featuring Caray (played by Will Ferrell) as a host of a space and astronomy TV talk show which continued after Caray's death.

His over-the-top extroversion, and attendant ego, occasionally led to rifts with his broadcasting partners. But in Chicago, with the eccentric and knowledgable ex-outfielder Jimmy Piersall on the south side, and the brilliant ex-pitcher Steve Stone on the north side, he found sidekicks who could stand up to his style, and the partnerships thrived.

He was well-known for his frequent exclamation of "Holy Cow!" (which he said he trained himself to say, to avoid any chance of cursing on the air); his cautious-but-hopeful "It might be... It could be... It is!" call when a batter hit a deep fly ball that had a chance to be a home run; and for publicly leading crowds - especially at Comiskey Park and then Wrigley Field - in singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during the seventh-inning stretch. He was not an especially good singer, often a bit off-key and with a strained voice, especially in his later years with the Cubs; but that was part of the charm of having him sing every game. Since his death, a "guest conductor" has sung the song at each Cubs home game. He had sung the song during the seventh inning for years in the broadcast booth when White Sox owner Bill Veeck secretly amplified his voice for all to hear during one game. The song then became a tradition and possibly his best-remembered trademark.

The other best-remembered aspect of his broadcasts was his exclamation, "Cubs win! Cubs win!" after every Cub triumph, which always seemed to represent genuine, unfeigned enthusiasm, carrying on the upbeat tradition of his predecessor Jack Brickhouse. While with the White Sox, of course, he had exclaimed "Sox win! Sox win!" And old-timers who heard his "Cardinals win!" over a quarter-century would never have dreamed he would become a Chicago icon. If anything, he was an even more shameless "homer" in St. Louis, but as he reported later, his firing changed his outlook and made him realize that his passion was for the game itself, and the fans, more than anything else.

Although he was known in later years for his deteriorating skills, early in his career Caray was known for his mastery of all aspects of broadcasting - writing his own copy, conducting news interviews, writing and presenting editorials, covering other sports such as University of Missouri football and hosting a sports talk program.

Following his death, during the entire 1998 season the Cubs wore a patch on the sleeves of their uniforms depicting a caricature of Caray. Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa dedicated each of his 66 home runs that season to Caray.

His son Skip Caray and his grandson Chip Caray have followed him into the booth as baseball broadcasters.

In 1989 the Baseball Hall of Fame presented Caray with the Ford C. Frick Award for "major contributions to baseball."

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