Harry Caray (born Harry Christopher Carabina; March 1, 1914 – February 18, 1998) was an American sportscaster on radio and television. He covered five Major League Baseball teams, beginning with 25 years of calling the games of the St. Louis Cardinals with two of these years also spent calling games for the St. Louis Browns. After a year working for the Oakland Athletics and eleven years with the Chicago White Sox, Caray spent the last sixteen years of his career as the announcer for the Chicago Cubs.
Caray in the Wrigley Field booth in 1988
March 1, 1914|
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
|Died: February 18, 1998
Rancho Mirage, California, U.S.
|Career highlights and awards|
Caray was born Harry Christopher Carabina to an Italian father and Romanian mother in St. Louis. He was an infant when his father died. His mother remarried with a French-American, but after her death when Caray was eight, he went to live with his aunt Doxie at 1909 LaSalle Street in a tough, working-class section of St. Louis. As a young man, Caray played baseball at the semi-pro level for a short time before auditioning for a radio job at the age of 19. He then spent a few years learning the trade at radio stations in Joliet, Illinois, and Kalamazoo, Michigan. While in Joliet, WCLS station manager Bob Holt suggested that Harry change his surname from Carabina (because according to Holt, it sounded too awkward on the air) to Caray. Caray did play-by-play for the St. Louis Hawks professional basketball team (now the Atlanta Hawks) and the University of Missouri football team, and he announced three Cotton Bowl games.
St. Louis Cardinals / St. Louis BrownsEdit
Caray caught his break when he landed the job with the Cardinals in 1945 and, according to several histories of the franchise, proved as expert at selling the sponsor's beer as he'd been in selling the Cardinals on KMOX. Immediately preceding the Cardinal job, Caray announced hockey games for the St. Louis Flyers. Caray co-announced with Ralph Bouncer Taylor, former NHL player. On one occasion Taylor temporarily ended his retirement when he volunteered to play goalie for the Flyers in a regular season game with the team from Minnesota. (Caray and broadcast partner Gabby Street also called games for the St. Louis Browns in 1945–1946.) Caray was also seen as influential enough that he could affect team personnel moves; Cardinals historian Peter Golenbock (in The Spirit of St. Louis: A History of the St. Louis Cardinals and Browns) has suggested Caray may have had a partial hand in the maneuvering that led to the exit of general manager Bing Devine, the man who had assembled the team that won the 1964 World Series, and of field manager Johnny Keane, whose rumored successor, Leo Durocher (the succession didn't pan out), was believed to have been supported by Caray for the job. Caray, however, stated in his autobiography that he liked Johnny Keane as a manager, and did not want to be involved in Keane's dismissal. As the Cardinals' announcer, Caray broadcast three World Series (1964, 1967, and 1968) on NBC.
In November 1968, Caray was nearly killed after being struck by an automobile while crossing a street in St. Louis; he suffered two broken legs in the accident, but recuperated in time to return to the broadcast booth for the start of the 1969 season. Cardinals' president Gussie Busch, then CEO of owner Anheuser-Busch, spent lavishly to ensure Caray recovered, flying him on the company's planes to a company facility in Florida to rehabilitate and recuperate. On Opening Day, fans cheered when he dramatically threw aside the two canes he had been using to cross the field and continued to the broadcast booth under his own power.
Following the 1969 season, the Cardinals declined to renew Caray's contract after he had called their games for 25 years, his longest tenure with any sports team. The team stated that the action had been taken on the recommendation of Anheuser–Busch's marketing department, but did not give specifics. At a news conference afterward, where he drank conspicuously from a can of Schlitz, at that time a major competitor to Anheuser–Busch, Caray dismissed that claim, saying no one was better at selling beer than he had been. Instead, he suggested, he had been the victim of rumors that he had had an affair with Gussie Busch's daughter-in-law.
He spent one season broadcasting for the Athletics, in 1970, before, as he often told interviewers, he grew tired of owner Charles O. Finley's interference and accepted a job with the Chicago White Sox. (Apparently the feeling was mutual; Finley later said "that shit [Caray] pulled in St. Louis didn't go over here.") Finley wanted Caray to change his broadcast chant of "Holy Cow" to "Holy Mule."
However, there were some reports that Caray and Finley did, in fact, work well with each other and that Caray's strained relationship with the A's came from longtime A's announcer Monte Moore; Caray was loose and free-wheeling while Moore was more restrained and sedate.
Chicago White SoxEdit
Caray joined the Chicago White Sox in 1971 and quickly became popular with the South Side faithful and enjoying a reputation for joviality and public carousing (sometimes doing home game broadcasts shirtless from the bleachers). He wasn't always popular with players, however; Caray had an equivalent reputation of being critical of home team blunders. During his tenure with the White Sox, Caray was teamed with many color analysts who didn't work out well, including Bob Waller, Bill Mercer and ex-Major League catcher J. C. Martin, among others. But in 1976, during a game against the Texas Rangers, Caray had former outfielder Jimmy Piersall (who was working for the Rangers at the time) as a guest in the White Sox booth that night. The tandem proved to work so well that Piersall was hired to be Caray's partner in the White Sox radio and TV booth beginning in 1977. Piersall and Caray became very popular.
Among Caray's experiences during his time with the White Sox was the infamous "Disco Demolition Night" promotion. On July 12, 1979, what began as a promotional effort by Chicago radio station WLUP, the station's popular DJ Steve Dahl, and the Sox to sell seats at a White Sox/Detroit Tigers double-header resulted in a debacle. As Dahl blew up a crate full of disco records on the field after the first game had ended, thousands of rowdy fans from the sold-out event poured from the stands onto the field at Comiskey Park. Caray and Piersall, via the public address system, tried to calm the crowd and implored them to return to their seats, in vain. Eventually the field was cleared by Chicago Police in riot gear and the White Sox were forced to forfeit the second game of the double-header due to the extensive damage done to the playing field. Caray left the White Sox after the 1981 season, replaced by Don Drysdale. However, the popular Caray was soon hired by the crosstown Cubs for the 1982 season.
Caray increased his renown after joining the North Side Cubs following the 1981 season. In contrast to the "SportsVision" concept, the Cubs' own television outlet, WGN-TV, had become among the first of the cable television superstations, offering their programming to providers across the United States for free, and Caray became as famous nationwide as he had long been on the South Side and, previously, in St. Louis. In fact, Caray had already been affiliated with WGN for some years by then, as WGN actually produced the White Sox games for broadcast on competitor WSNS-TV, and Caray was a frequent sportscaster on the station's newscasts. Caray succeeded longtime Cubs broadcaster Jack Brickhouse, a beloved announcer and Chicago media fixture.
The timing worked in Caray's favor, as the Cubs ended up winning the National League East division title in 1984 with WGN-TV's nationwide audience following along. Millions came to love the microphone-swinging Caray, continuing his White Sox practice of leading the home crowd in singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during the seventh inning stretch, mimicking his mannerisms, his gravelly voice, his habit of mispronouncing or slurring some players' names — which some of the players mimicked in turn — and even his trademark barrel-shaped wide-rimmed glasses, prescribed for him by Dr. Cyril Nierman, O.D.
In February 1987 Caray suffered a stroke while at his winter home near Palm Springs, California, just prior to spring training for the Cubs' 1987 season. This led to his absence from the broadcast booth through most of the first two months of the regular season, with WGN featuring a series of celebrity guest announcers on game telecasts while Caray recuperated.
Caray's national popularity never flagged after that, although time eventually took a toll on him. Nicknamed "The Mayor of Rush Street", a reference to Chicago's famous tavern-dominated neighborhood and Caray's well-known taste for Budweiser, illness and age began to drain some of Caray's skills, even in spite of his remarkable recovery from the 1987 stroke. There were occasional calls for him to retire, but he was kept aboard past WGN's normal mandatory retirement age, an indication of how popular he was. Toward the end of his career, Caray's schedule was limited to home games and road trips to St. Louis and Milwaukee.
In December 1997, Caray's grandson Chip Caray was hired to share play-by-play duties for WGN's Cubs broadcasts with Caray for the following season. However, Harry Caray died in February 1998, before the baseball season began, leaving the expected grandfather-grandson partnership in the broadcast booth unrealized.
The seventh-inning stretchEdit
Caray's famous seventh-inning stretch singing of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" began during his tenure with the White Sox. Team owner Bill Veeck noticed the announcer liked to hum the song along with Comiskey Park organist Nancy Faust. Veeck asked Caray if he could give him a microphone so he could sing for the entire park, but the announcer wanted no part of it. Veeck advised Caray that he had already taped the announcer singing during commercial breaks and said he could play that recording if Caray preferred. Instead, Caray agreed to sing it live, accompanied by Faust on the organ, and went on to become famous for singing the tune, continuing to do so at Wrigley Field after becoming the broadcaster of the Chicago Cubs during the seventh-inning stretch, using a hand-held microphone and holding it out outside the booth window.
Many of these performances began with Caray speaking directly to the baseball fans in attendance either about the state of the day's game, or the Chicago weather, while the park organ held the opening chord of the song. Then with his trademark opening, "All right! Lemme hear ya! Ah-One! Ah-Two! Ah-Three!" Harry would launch into his distinctive, down-tempo version of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame". During his tenure announcing games at Comiskey Park and later Wrigley Field, he would often replace "root, root, root for the home team" with "root, root, root for the White Sox/Cubbies". For the lyrics "One, Two, Three, strikes you're out ..." Harry would usually hold the microphone out to the crowd to punctuate the climactic end of the song. And if the visitors were ahead in that game, Harry would typically make a plea to the home team's offense: "Let's get some runs!"
The seventh-inning stretch routine became Caray's best-remembered trademark; after his death, the Cubs began a practice of inviting guest celebrities, local and national, to lead the singing Caray-style. The use of "guest conductors" continues to this day. Since installing the jumbotron screens inside Wrigley Field in 2015, the Cubs have periodically shown video footage of Caray singing "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" as the fans sing along.
During the 2009 NHL Winter Classic at Wrigley Field, as the Chicago Blackhawks hosted the Detroit Red Wings on New Year's Day 2009, former Blackhawks players Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, and Denis Savard and former Cubs players Ryne Sandberg and Ferguson Jenkins sang a hockey-themed version of the seventh-inning stretch; "Take Me Out to the Hockey Game" used lines such as "Root, root, root for the Blackhawks" and "One, two, three pucks, you're out." The Blackhawks would do this again in 2010 during the White Sox – Cubs game at Wrigley Field. This time, it was members of the Stanley Cup winning team.
Personality and styleEdit
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Caray had a number of broadcasting partners and colleagues through the years. He had a frosty relationship with Milo Hamilton, his first partner with the Cubs, who felt Caray had pushed him out in St. Louis in the mid-1950s. Hamilton (who'd been the presumptive successor to Jack Brickhouse prior to Caray's hiring) was fired by WGN in 1984; he claimed that station officials told him that the main reason was that Caray did not like him. However, Caray also did not lack for broadcast companions who enjoyed his work and companionship. With the White Sox, his longest-serving partner was Jimmy Piersall; with the Cubs, he was teamed for 14 years with former pitcher Steve Stone.
Caray was known for his absolute support of the team for which he announced. While advertisers played up his habit of openly rooting for the Cubs from the booth (for example, a 1980s Budweiser ad described him as "Cub Fan, Bud Man" in a Blues Brothers-style parody of "Soul Man"), he had been even less restrained about rooting for the Cardinals when he broadcast for them. He said later that his firing from the Cardinals changed his outlook and made him realize that his passion was for the game itself, and the fans, more than anything else. He was also famous for his frequently exclaimed catchphrase "Holy Cow!" when his team hit a home run or turned a difficult play on field; he trained himself to use this expression to avoid any chance of accidentally using profanity on the air. Caray also avoided any risk of mis-calling a home run, using what became a trademark home run call: "It might be ... it could be ... it IS! A home run! Holy cow!" He first used the "It might be ..." part of that expression on the air while covering a college baseball tournament in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in the early 1940s.
Caray was intrigued by unusual names, and one of his frequent on-air bits was to try to pronounce a multi-syllabic name backwards. This bit became more challenging for him after his 1987 stroke, but he kept trying and laughing at his often failed attempts. Once, when Manny Mota had just lined out to a Cardinals fielder who did not even need to move his feet to make the catch, Harry proclaimed: "'Mota' spelled backwards is 'atom' ... and that's where he hit it, right at 'im'!"
Caray had a reputation for mastering 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.
Though best known and honored for baseball work, Caray also called football (Missouri Tigers football), ice hockey (St. Louis Flyers), basketball (St. Louis Billikens, Boston Celtics and St. Louis Hawks) in the 1940s, 50s and '60s. Additionally, he broadcast eight Cotton Bowl Classic games (1958–64, 1966) on network radio.
Caray was the uncle of actor Tim Dunigan known for playing many roles on both the screen and stage. His son Skip Caray followed him into the booth as a baseball broadcaster with the Atlanta Braves. Caray's broadcasting legacy was extended to a third-generation, as his grandson Chip Caray replaced Harry as the Cubs' play-by-play announcer from 1998 to 2004. Chip currently serves as the Braves television announcer on FOX Sports South.
On October 23, 1987, Harry Caray's Italian Steakhouse opened in the Chicago Varnish Company Building, a Chicago Landmark building that is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There are seven restaurants and an off-premises catering division which bear the Harry Caray name.
Rumored affair with Susan BuschEdit
Rumors that Caray was having an affair with Susan Busch, wife of August Busch III, the oldest son of Cardinals president Gussie Busch, then a company executive and later CEO of Cardinals' owner Anheuser-Busch, began to circulate after she was involved in a single-car accident near her home in the St. Louis suburb of Ladue late one night in May 1968. She told police she was returning from a visit to "a friend"; the cause of the accident was never disclosed publicly and no further action was taken. However, her marriage to the younger Busch was failing due to his extreme commitment to the family business.
According to Anheuser–Busch historian William Knoedelseder, the two had been seen eating together at Tony's, a popular and well-regarded St. Louis restaurant (where Knoedelseder later worked, and heard the story from more senior staff). Waitstaff present said the two were both extremely inebriated and openly affectionate. They stood out not only because both were well-recognized around St. Louis but because Caray was 22 years older than she. The restaurant's owner had to tell the staff not to stare at the couple.
It also was rumored that the near-fatal car accident Caray suffered later that year was actually intentional and related to the alleged affair. Private investigators working for Busch had found that telephone records showed Caray and Susan Busch had made many calls to each other. They supposedly confronted him about the reported affair while he was in Florida recuperating.
Susan divorced her husband shortly afterwards. She has only spoken about the alleged affair once since then, denying it. While she and the broadcaster were friends, "we were not a romance item by any means", she told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Caray cited the rumors of the affair as the real reason the Cardinals declined to renew his contract after the disappointing 1969 season.
Like Susan Busch, Caray, too denied that the affair had occurred when asked, but according to Knoedelseder was less consistent, sometimes suggesting it had indeed occurred, and usually saying how flattered he was at the idea that a woman as attractive as Susan Busch would see him the same way.
Caray maintained a winter home in Palm Springs, California, along with his primary residence in Chicago. As discussed in Steve Stone's 1999 book, Where's Harry?, Caray was at a Rancho Mirage restaurant on February 14, 1998, celebrating Valentine's Day with his wife Dutchie, when he collapsed, in the process allegedly hitting his head on the side of a restaurant table, and was rushed to nearby Eisenhower Medical Center. He never regained consciousness. He suffered cardiac arrest, with resulting brain damage, and died four days later. Caray's funeral took place in downtown Chicago's Holy Name Cathedral on February 27, two days before he would have turned 84. Many celebrities and athletes were in attendance, including Sammy Sosa and former Chicago Bears head coach Mike Ditka.
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.
Caray had five children, three with his first wife, Dorothy, and two with his second wife, Marian. He married his third wife Delores "Dutchie" (Goldmann) on May 19, 1975. His son Skip Caray followed him into the booth as a baseball broadcaster with the Atlanta Braves until his death on August 3, 2008. Caray's broadcasting legacy was extended to a third generation, as his grandson Chip Caray replaced Harry as the Cubs' play-by-play announcer from 1998 to 2004. Chip later returned to work with his father Skip on Atlanta Braves broadcasts, where he had worked for a while in the early 1990s.
In what Harry Caray said was one of his proudest moments, he worked some innings in the same broadcast booth with his son and grandson, during a Cubs/Braves game on May 13, 1991. On-air in a professional setting, the younger men would refer to their seniors by their first names. During 1998, Chip would refer to the departed Harry in third person as "Granddad".
When the Cubs defeated the Cleveland Indians in seven games to win the 2016 World Series, Budweiser produced a celebratory commercial entitled "Harry Caray's Last Call" featuring Caray's call of the game using archived footage.
Honors and special eventsEdit
The National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association named Caray as Missouri Sportscaster of the Year twice (1959, 1960) and Illinois Sportscaster of the Year 10 times (1971–73, 75–78, 83–85), and inducted him into its NSSA Hall of Fame in 1988.
In 1989, the Baseball Hall of Fame presented Caray with the Ford C. Frick Award for "major contributions to baseball." That same year, he was inducted into the American Sportscasters Association Hall of Fame. He was also inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 1990, and has his own star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame.
On June 24, 1994, the Chicago Cubs had a special day honoring Harry for 50 years of broadcasting Major League Baseball. Sponsored by the Cubs and Kemper Insurance, pins were given out to some unknown number of fans in attendance that day. The pins had a picture of Harry, with writing saying "HARRY CARAY, 50 YEARS BROADCASTING, Kemper MUTUAL FUNDS" and "HOLY COW."
In 1994, Caray was the radio inductee into the NAB Broadcasting Hall of Fame.
Caray's style became fodder for pop culture parody as well, including a memorable Saturday Night Live recurring sketch featuring Caray (played by Will Ferrell) in various Weekend Update segments opposite Norm Macdonald and Colin Quinn. Caray would frequently abandon the topic he was supposed to be talking about and would drift into hypothetical topics like whether or not they would eat the moon if it were made of spare ribs and turning hot dogs into currency (20 hot dogs would equal roughly a nickel, depending on the strength of the yen). The sketch continued after Caray's death. When asked by Norm Macdonald about his death, Will Ferrell as Caray replied, "What's your point?" The Bob and Tom Show also had a Harry Caray parody show called "After Hours Sports", which eventually became "Afterlife Sports" after Caray's death, and the Heaven and Hell Baseball Game, in which Caray is the broadcast announcer for the games. On the Nickelodeon series Back at the Barnyard, news reporter Hilly Burford bears a strong resemblance to Caray, both in appearance and speech. In 2005, the cartoon Codename: Kids Next Door had two announcers reporting a baseball game. One was a parody of Caray, the other, Howard Cosell. Another Caray impersonation was done by Chicago radio personality Jim Volkman, heard most often on the Loop and AM1000. Also, comedian Artie Lange, in his standup, talks about Caray.
In 2008, a series of Chicago-area TV and radio ads for AT&T's Advanced TV featured comedian John Caponera impersonating the post-stroke version of Harry Caray. However, AT&T soon withdrew the spots following widespread criticism and a complaint by Caray's widow.
Jeff Lawrence is known for his Harry Caray impression, most notably, he announced the Cubs' starting lineup while speaking like the post-stroke version of Caray before a nationally televised baseball game on Fox Sports. Jeff led the stadium in singing 'Take Me Out To The Ballgame' in July 2016, dressed as Caray, including oversized glasses and wig.
In 1988, Vess Beverage Inc. released and sold a Harry Caray signature soda, under the brand "Holy Cow", complete with his picture on every can.
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- Knoedelseder, 111
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- Knoedelseder, 112. "I gotta believe the real reason was that someone believed the rumor I was involved with young Busch's wife."
- Charlie Finley: The Outrageous Story of Baseball's Super Showman, p. 141, G. Michael Green and Roger D. Launius. Walker Publishing Company, New York, 2010, ISBN 978-0-8027-1745-0
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- Knoeldeseder, 106–107
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- Harry Caray's Last Call - Chicago Cubs 2016 World Series Champions Budweiser on YouTube
- St. Louis Walk of Fame. "St. Louis Walk of Fame Inductees". stlouiswalkoffame.org. Retrieved 25 April 2013.
- "Harry Caray". Radio Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on January 23, 2013. Retrieved January 20, 2014.
- "Chicago does not appreciate your Harry Caray impersonator". March 11, 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-25.
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- Lazarus, George (March 11, 1988). "Harry Caray Joins Soft Drink Lineup". Chicago Tribune.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Harry Caray.|
- Harry Caray's Restaurant website
- Baseball Hall of Fame – Frick Award recipient
- Hello Again Everybody, a Harry Caray documentary
- Harry Caray at Find a Grave
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