I never got a chance to meet him, but like most of the Cubs Faithful I feel like I knew him. I welcomed him into my house everyday….he was my after school special. No matter how good or bad the Cubs were over the years there was one constant….Harry Caray.
We all laughed at his mispronunciations, his slurred stories and his jokes with Steve Stone about paying for dinner and Stoney’s cigars. He was not the polished play-by-play guy that exists today. He never talked down to us….he was real. Harry was as imperfect as the game of baseball. Steve Stone wrote a wonderful tribute to Harry, “Where’s Harry?” in 1999. Stone described his life with Harry….was it a perfect one?….of course not, it was Harry. The name of the book came from everyone always asking Stoney, “Where’s Harry?” Steve still speaks well of Harry, eight years after his death. Stone recently said on XM Radio:
“Harry was the greatest salesman of the game of baseball that ever lived. Harry was also a great salesman of Harry. He was a good salesman of Budweiser, a wonderful salesman of Wrigley Field, Chicago and everything that went with it. The Cubs are still riding the crest of that perfect wave that came at the same time which was they went on a satellite, they became an internationally seen baseball team, Harry got there and they won in 1984.”
Harry Caray was the right person, in the right place at the precise time to make an everlasting impression on not just baseball and the Cubs, but in pop culture. How many times have we all seen the references to Harry Caray….from Saturday Night Live to ESPN to your local sports talk show hosts to movies like Major League. Harry had an affect on everyone, regardless if they will admit it or not. Think about how many big name stars have been the guest conductor of the 7th Inning stretch over the past 8 seasons. True a lot of credit goes to John McDonough and his staff, but I think the biggest reason is the adoration that we all have for Harry Caray.
Roy Firestone from ESPN was on XM recently with Charley Steiner on Baseball Beat, this is what he had to say about Harry:
“Was there ever a guy who brought more drama and excitement? There may have been better calls of the game, but they never sounded….nobody sounds more like baseball than Harry. He sounds like the game. He was the greatest. And you talk about people who loved him….everywhere he went.”
Harry once said, “My whole philosophy is to broadcast the way a fan would broadcast.”
According to a recent survey on XM Radio, Harry Caray was voted as the greatest baseball announcer of all time. Vin Scully and Bob Uecker were second and third. And 42% of baseball fans voted Harry’s, “It might be….it could be….it is!” as the most memorable catchphrase of all time.
To this day, every time I hear a recording of Harry….it makes me smile. Is it the longing for the past? I do not think so. Being a Cubs fan then was different. You hoped the Cubs would win, instead of expecting them to win. There was no pressure, all the team had to do was play ball. You went to Wrigley to watch a game. You did not worry how many games out of first place they were. You stood to ‘Sing Along With Harry’, you cheered for the Cubbies and if they won that was a bonus. Most of the Cubs’ teams had great players, but bad years. Harry could make the worst of days….fun!! Harry spoke his mind, he said what he felt, he was just Harry being Harry.
Harry Caray has and will stand the test of time. His legend will be past down from generation to generation. Harry was honest….Harry was baseball….Harry was the Cubs and all of this from the Mayor of Rush Street.
Come on guys….Let’s get some runs!!!!
A Tribute to Harry – Full of Sounds and Clips of Harry, including the Bud Commercials
Letters in the Dirt – An Elegy for Harry Caray
An Ode to Harry