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Holy Cow! It's Harry Caray!


The designated voice of the Chicago Cubs tells why he hasn't found a better way to make as much money or have as much fun.

Baseball just isn't baseball without hot dogs, peanuts, and beer. At Chicago's Wrigley Field, a Cubs game just isn't a Cubs game without Harry Caray's taking the microphone during the seventh-inning stretch and leading the fans in a rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."

"A one! A two! A three!" he yells as 37,000-plus roaring fans take deep breaths. Take me out to the ball game; Take me out with the crowd. Buy me some peanuts and Cracker

Jack I don't care if I never get back....

Caray's voice is nearly muffled by the crowd. "But that's the whole idea," he said after singing his tune. "I'm so bad that they have to sing loud enough to drown me out."

The ditty has become a trademark of the blustery Chicago Cubs broadcaster. Every home game during the season, Caray goes to the "Friendly Confines" of Wrigley Field and revs up the crowd. He doesn't eat peanuts or Cracker Jacks, but if he had his way, he would never get back.

"I have the best job I could possibly have," Caray said from his summer home at the Ambassador East Hotel in downtown Chicago. "I love baseball, and I love the fans. And I love the Cubs. I haven't found a better way to make as much money and have as much fun."

The 45-year veteran announcer has been the voice of the Chicago Cubs on WGN-TV and WGN-AM radio since 1982. Caray's major league broadcasting career began with the St. Louis Cardinals, bringing him his first taste of national fame. After 25 years of doing the Cardinals games, he spent a year with the Oakland Athletics before moving to the Chicago White Sox. After a decade, Caray quit when the management broke up his longtime partnership with the controversial Jimmy Piersall. He also spoke out against moving the White Sox broadcasts to cable television while the Cubs broadcast their games locally for free.

"I told them that it was crazy," Caray said. "So I picked up the phone and called the Cubs. The Cubs, within a day, had hired me. That's where I am now, and that's where I plan to be for a while."

The move from Comiskey Park to Wrigley Field boosted Caray's already-prospering career. Budweiser commercials with Caray on the dance floor singing "I'm a Cub fan! I'm a Bud man!" have appeared nationally on television and in magazines. The fishing net he waves from the broadcast booth to catch foul balls attracts cameras each game. Then there is his boisterous "Holy Cow!" after each Cubs home run. Viewers expect it, and other sportscasters mimic it. A soft drink was even named after it.

The play-by-play man loves the attention from the media and the fans; it keeps him going, he said. His peers have honored him by naming him the 1989 recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award, given to great broadcasters of the game. Baseball inducted Caray into the broadcasters' wing of the National Baseball Hall of Fame on July 23 in Cooperstown, New York. Caray joined 12 other broadcasters in the Hall of Fame. Among them are Mel Allen of the New York Yankees, Vin Scully of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Jack Brickhouse of the Cubs, and the late Bob Prince of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The 70-year-old announcer called his trip to Cooperstown long overdue: "I don't know what took them so long, but I don't really care. I know I have offended plenty of people in my broadcasts because I am political, even with my own team. But I've never felt that I worked for the guy who owns the team, or the manager or the general manager or the star players. I feel I work for the fan."

To some fans' delight and others' dismay, Caray makes that obvious. Even before gaining national exposure, Caray made candor a practice during broadcasts. He claims to have been the first to condemn the home team during games. He has criticized umpires' calls, has attacked players' performances, and has even spoken out against the commissioner of baseball. He's not afraid of anyone, he says, not even his boss.

Year after year, fans and sportswriters speculate on Caray's future with the Cubs. And year after year, he returns. "I got away with it, and I kept getting away with it. By starting out the way I did, I feel that I've been so strong as the fans' representative that the ball club would have to think more than once before they fire me," Caray said.

Although fortunate himself, Caray does not equate criticizing the home team with job security: "Today there's a little more freedom, but not very much. The announcer knows that if he turns his home team off so far as the president, the owner, whatever, he'll be fired. That's why you don't hear as much outspoken criticism as you should."

In 1987, Caray's future in broadcasting was threatened by something other than his criticism. He suffered a stroke that, for a short time, prevented him from moving his right arm and leg. With the help of his wife, Dutchie, and support from thousands of fans, Caray returned to the broadcast booth on May 19, 1987.

He now dismisses the stroke as a bad memory. His health has improved, he's lost weight, and he is back to doing what he loves--talking about baseball. "I feel great," he said. "I don't even want to talk about the stroke anymore. Why bring up something I'd like to forget? Now all I want to do is my job, and that's bringing baseball to the fans."

His ability to make the game interesting, even if the Cubs are being blown out in the top of the eighth inning, is an attribute. During lulls in the ball games, he announces birthdays and anniversaries of dozens of fans in the crowd, baseball's version of Willard Scott's routine.

Fans visiting from all over the country send notes to the TV booth above home plate to tell Caray they traveled so many miles to see the Cubs play at Wrigley Field. He sifts through them for handwriting he can decipher. Between pitches he tells millions of viewers that Mr. and Mrs. Shaw from New York are celebrating their 31st wedding anniversary. Or he may recognize the University of Iowa's football team for making it to a game.

Each game day, Caray, his broadcast partner Steve Stone, and a production assistant cram into the tiny WGN booth overlooking Chicago's north side. Just minutes later, it's time for Caray to go on the air for a pregame message.

Stone and the assistant leave to make way for the cameraman. Caray clears his throat. Every few seconds he speaks into the microphone in reply to a message he hears through his earplug. He clears his throat again; this time it's louder. Finally he says, "Let's do it." Caray's smile and a spotlight suddenly brighten up the room.

"Goooooood afternoon, Cub fans! Harry Caray here from Wrigley Field. What a beauuuutiful day for baseball," Caray exclaimed before a sold-out June game with the New York Mets. "What are you doing at home? You should be at the ballpark. Don't you know Dwight Gooden is pitching for the Mets? The Cubbies are going for their third straight win against the New Yorkers...."

After the promo, Stone and the assistant take their places for the first pitch. Caray arranges his score sheet, Mets roster, birthdays and anniversaries, and the Chicago Tribune sports section.

Caray's face isn't seen again until that seventh-inning stretch. But his voice booms. Three times in one inning Caray reacts wildly. Two hits and a home run bring a rollicking "Hooolllyyy Cooowww!" Following every yell, sportswriters and broadcasters in adjoining press boxes turn toward Caray and wave, applaud, or just laugh.

"I am just a big fan. I don't realize what I do," Caray said. "If there's any appeal I have to the people it's that people consider me one of them. I show the same disgust in my voice when something disgusting happens; I'm ecstatic when something good happens. I think the average fan thinks I'm doing the game the way he'd be doing it. I'm talking fan-to-fan."

His ability to talk fan-to-fan is a rarity in a field dominated by former players. Meanwhile, Caray points out, trained broadcasters struggle at small-town radio stations. "I really feel sorry for the young guy who wants and really tries to make it in broadcasting," he said. "There are so many talented young people who are working in small stations developing their style and vocabulary and their personality waiting for a chance to break into the major leagues. They're never going to get that chance, though.

"My advice to the college student who wants to become a broadcaster is to become an all-American football player or a baseball player. Get into the professional ranks, play ten years, and then they'll put you in the television booth."

Don't get Caray wrong. He has always enjoyed working with the ex-player, including his current partner, Steve Stone--but only as long as he, not the former player, is in the spotlight. The perfect broadcasting match-up pairs a former player who knows what's going on in the field and a broadcaster who can describe what's happening to the fan.

Caray and Stone receive good reviews for their teamwork. When Caray finishes calling a play, Stone takes over with color commentary, playing off Caray's statements. The two get along on and off camera. They are even in the restaurant business in Mesa, Arizona, the Cubs' spring training location.

Stone said he owes his success to Caray, the only partner he's ever had with the Cubs. Caray broke him into the business, both criticizing and praising his work. "The seven years we've been together have been a revelation to me," Stone said. "This man is the greatest salesman of baseball who ever lived. It's an honor to work with a Hall of Fame broadcaster, but as far as I'm concerned, he's been a Hall of Fame broadcaster since the first day I stepped in the booth with him."

His son Skip is the TV play-by-play announcer for the Atlanta Braves. "I conned him into getting in the business. I think I did a pretty good job," Harry said.

Skip commented: "It's been a different experience being Harry Caray's son. Being his son can be an overwhelming and overpowering thing. There's going to be some people who think you're good and some who think you stink. So I don't think it really matters."

Like father, like son, like grandson. Skip's son, Chip, is working his way into the business. He will be broadcasting this fall for the NBA's Orlando Magic. "The second generation is supposed to be better than the first, and the third generation is supposed to be better than the second. I think Chip is going to be a superstar," Harry said.

Skip and Chip Caray may be up-and-coming, but Harry Caray has arrived. This is Caray's year, even if the Cubs don't make the World Series. He's a nationally recognized broadcaster on a cable network, a successful restaurateur, a Cub fan and a Bud man, and most of all, now a Hall of Famer.

Hooolllyyy Cooowww!

PHOTO : Caray stretches out of the broadcast booth to lead Cubs fans in an off-key chorus of "Take

PHOTO : Me Out to the Ball Game." Caray's coast-to-coast popularity on superstation WGN was a

PHOTO : major factor in his recent induction to baseball's Hall of Fame.

PHOTO : The "Voice of the Cubs" reports to Wrigley Field hours before airtime. Favorite pregame

PHOTO : duty: interviewing Cubs manager Don Zimmer.
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Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Miller, Charles P.
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Article Type:Biography
Date:Oct 1, 1989
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