Harry Caray (born Harry Christopher Carabina, March 1, 1914 — February 18, 1998), was a beloved TV and radio broadcaster for four 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 on KMOX Radio for the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago White Sox. He also worked one season (1970) for the Oakland Athletics. He died of a heart attack in 1998 after a series of strokes.
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Caray made his debut in 1945 with the Cardinals, but was fired in 1969 amid rumors of a personal relationship with the daughter-in-law of August Busch, Jr., who owned both the Cardinals and the Anheuser-Busch breweries. Caray was well known to his Cardinal radio audience for drinking and advertising a competing brand of beer before the Busch family acquisition of the team. Caray attributed his firing to a business-related grudge. After a season with the Athletics, 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 St. Louis and later, 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" during his Chicago years, 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 remarkable 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.
In addition to baseball, Caray called University of Missouri American football and St. Louis Hawks basketball in the 1950s and '60s. Nationally, he broadcast three World Series (all involving the Cardinals) and three Cotton Bowl games.
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, in which his questions to scientists and professors included whether or not they would eat the moon if it were made of ribs. The sketch continued after Caray's death. When asked by Joan Allen (impersonating NASA flight director Linda Ham) 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. 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. The most widely-accepted impersonation of Caray in Chicago was done by Jim Volkman, heard most often on the Loop and AM1000.
In Chicago, with the eccentric and knowledgeable ex-outfielder Jimmy Piersall on the South Side, and the brilliant ex-pitcher Steve Stone on the North Side, the over-the-top and extroverted Caray 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. He also replaced the traditional "Root, root, root for the home team..." with "Root, root, root for the White Sox..." and later "Root, root root for the Cubbies..." 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 "The 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 American 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. The younger Caray was actually hired by WGN-TV to work with his grandfather, but Harry died before that pairing could take place. Chip Caray replaced Harry as the Cubs' play-by-play announcer from 1998 to 2004, then fired by the Cubs, he later went to work with his father Skip on Atlanta Braves broadcasts.
On October 23, 1987 Harry Caray's Restaurant opened on Kinzie Street in Chicago, and there are now three restaurants, a 10-pin bowling alley, and an off-premises catering division which bear the Harry Caray name. The original restaurant has received numerous awards for its food and service, and features many items of memorabilia, even a "Holey Cow" (complete with holes!) wearing the trademark Harry Caray eyeglasses.
Harry Caray narrated the intro theme for Home Run Derby, a 1959-60 television program where major league players participated in 9-inning homerun-hitting contests for prize money.
Harry Caray is interred in All Saints Cemetery in Des Plaines, Illinois.
- Harry Caray's Restaurant website. Includes biographical details and pictures.
- Baseball Hall of Fame - Frick Award recipient
- Budweiser commercial starring Caray performing a rap (at You Tube). Budweiser was his favorite product!
|Ford C. Frick Award|
|DATE OF BIRTH||1914|
|PLACE OF BIRTH|
|DATE OF DEATH||1998|
|PLACE OF DEATH|