Thursday, February 21st will be 10 years since legendary sports announcer Harry Caray passed away. I feel many people in this increasingly technological world of broadcasting could stand to take a moment and remember Harry.
In Chicago during the 1980's and 1990's, no figure was more popular than Harry Caray, even Michael Jordan, because Harry spanned every demographic. His popularity was simple. Harry loved what he did, and it showed every day. The public responded in kind, and loved him.
Johnny Carson (another pretty good broadcaster) was once interviewed, and was asked the secret to his success. After a long pause, he responded, “be honest, be yourself, and have fun.” Harry certainly did all three.
The jokes were numerous. His glasses were manufactured by Chrysler-Plymouth. According to Jack Buck, he dressed like a flood victim. He had trouble with names. (Michael Jordan once said,…”I love Harry, but I won’t go into the booth during the game because I fear he’ll introduce me as Michael Jackson.) Oh,….and Harry would occasionally tipple a bit.
When I was a teen, 4 friends and myself got up at 6 a.m., took a one hour train ride, stood in line for 4 hours, just to buy tickets so we could sit close to Harry as he broadcast live from the bleachers. And we were not first in line, not even close. As soon as they opened the gates, it was a mad dash by hundreds,…all wanting to be as close as possible to Harry for the live broadcast.
I’ve now spent 20 years in broadcasting, I’ve never come across another announcer that has that effect on people.
Harry was a funny guy,…sometimes accidentally so. Here are some favorites I remember.
“HEY!,…..Here’s Connie Stevens,….boy you’ve been around for forever, but you look pretty good!”
“Honestly compels me to report,….we look terrible.”
(While showing a well endowed bride in the bleachers, as many wedding receptions are now held at Wrigley Field) “Well, the wedding party must be behind her, because I don’t see them on the left of her, and I don’t see them on the right of her, and there certainly isn’t any room in front of her. (Insert classic Harry laugh here)”
And of course, there is the classic clip when Cubs ballgirl Marla Collins decided to wear long pants on a cold day. You can find that clip and others here.
I still follow the Cubs closely, but even 10 years after Harry passing, the games just don’t seem nearly as exciting to me. As strange as it is to type this,…I still miss the guy.
Harry could weave a yarn to make a boring game more interesting. He included you in his enviable lifestyle of baseball, celebrity and nightlife. And his enthusiasm during the exciting parts of the game was infectious.
10 years after Harry passing, his downtown Chicago restaurant is going strong, where this Thursday at 7 p.m. they will lead the world in a toast to Harry. And I do mean the world,…check out how many countries are participating below!
So on Thursday, raise a glass of whatever and remember Harry. You know what he’ll be drinking.