I was making a salad this week when out of the blue the name Skip Caray popped in my head. Where on earth did that come from? I haven’t thought of him in years. He comes from a family of sports announcers which included his dad, Harry and Skip’s son Chip. Skip announced Brave games on TBS for years. After becoming a rabid Cub’s fan when Chicago had an ‘off day’ and I was craving a baseball fix, I’d watch Atlanta for a few innings, although Skip was not the most sparkling personality to call a game.
From 1982 through 2016 (half of my life), I was obsessed with baseball. Kinda a fanatic really. Before baseball, (BB) I dabbled my love between pro football and college basketball. Mary Ellen, one of my dearest friends when we moved to Davenport convinced me to take a bus trip to Chicago’s north side to watch a game (during the day because there were no lights at Wrigley Field for a few more years) of one of the fiercest rivalries in baseball. The Cubs and the Cardinals. When Mary Ellen was young, her grandparents lived in Wrigleyville and she visited them a couple weeks each summer. By the time she was 7 she was keeping game stats for hits, RBI’s, BB, walks and SO’s.
It was a perfect summer day for baseball, I loved the atmosphere, the ivy, Wayne Messmer singing his (splendid) rendition of the National anthem, Van Halen’s ‘Jump’ to intro the game and the organ music. From that day forward I was hooked on the Cubs. America’s lovable losers. Although it would take more than 30 years before they won a World Series, (the last one was in the early 1900’s) the ball club was making strides. Landing their share of quality pitchers (Rick Sutcliffe), players and a few good rookies (Raphael Palmeiro/Jerome Walton) although not all their acquisitions were appreciated or prudent (Ron Cey). Oy vey.
But not all games are enjoyed in person. WGN carried about half of the Cubs’ 162 game schedule on TV. Since Chicago was 150 miles away I could ‘catch’ all their games on WGN radio. Who knew how fickle I was concerning certain announcers?
During my Cubs’ ‘MVP’ fan tenure, there’s been a revolving door of announcers. Many I found engaging with a great knowledge of the game. Some, like Ron Santo were revered and admired because of their playing days and their obvious loyalty to the Cubs. I believe my rookie season’s games were announced on the radio by Vince Lloyd and Lou Boudreau and I loved them both. Many announcers had great voices, other’s with voices that grated on my last nerve. Steve Stone, Milo Hamilton, Dewayne Staats, Thom Brennaman and Pat Hughes were fabulous announcers with in-depth knowledge and love of baseball.
And now about the enormous elephant in the small booth. I’m in the minority about this ‘beloved’ guy but I couldn’t muster up fondness/empathy or patience for the man. He held absolutely no appeal for me. He slurred his words and spent half the game trying to pronounce a player’s name BACKWARDS which was pretty annoying since he mis-pronounced most of their names frontwards. He did have a nifty way of calling what he assumed was a home run with, “it might be, it could be, IT IS! Holy cow.”
Harry Caray started working for WGN and announcing the Cubs games on TV about the same time I became a fan. What are the odds? I learned to adapt. Harry did the first 3 innings on TV, then switched to the radio side for innings 4-6, then back to TV for the last 3. So I listened/watched the game the opposite way. On the radio for the first 3, watching TV for the middle 3, then switching back to the radio. Or I used the mute button. Harry & Skip Caray, Vince Lloyd, Lou Boudreau, Ron Santo, Vin Scully, Ernie Harwell are all playing or announcing in The Big Sky League. No one’s subjected to getting hit by a pitch, bad calls by the umpire, the injured reserve, trade deadlines, contract disputes or rain delays…