Harry Caray was born Harry Christopher Carabina in St. Louis, Missouri on March 1, 1914, the son of Samuel and Daisy Argint Capuran, but was orphaned by the time he was ten. He was an American radio and TV broadcaster for four Major League Baseball teams. He started his career with the St. Louis Cardinals. He called games for the Oakland Athletics for a year and Chicago White Sox for over a decade. He ended his long career with his most famous position as the voice of the Chicago Cubs games.
St. Louis Cardinals
In 1945, Caray began working with the Cardinals. He was known for being able to sell the sponsor's beer almost as well as he could call the game. He was even considered so influential as to be able to influence the moves of the team managers. Cardinals historian Peter Golenbock believed Caray may even have been responsible for the departure of GM Bing Devine and field manager Johny Keane. Keane's successor, Leo Durocher, was thought to be supported by Caray.
However, in 1969, Caray was suddenly fired as the Cardinal's lead broadcaster. Golenbock has suggested that Caray may have been involved in an affair with the daughter-in-law of Cardinals owner August Busch, Jr. After losing his 24-year long job with the Cardinals, Caray asserted that the firing was purely a business grudge and never confirmed nor denied the rumors.
Caray later accepted a job as the broadcaster for the Oakland Athletics. However, he stated that he grew weary of owner Charles O. Finley's interference and left after only one season.
Chicago White Sox
Caray quickly moved on to a job as the broadcaster for the White Sox. He rose to immense popularity with the fans, mingling with the crowd and even broadcasting bare-chested from the bleachers. His popularity with the players was not as jovial. He was known for being critical of players for making even a single mistake. During his time with the White Sox he announced alongside other broadcasters such as Bob Waller, Bill Mercer and J.C. Martin. None of them worked out very well. However, during a 1976 game against the Texas Rangers, Caray was in the booth with guest announcer Jimmy Piersall. The pair worked so well together that Piersall was immediately hired to be Caray's broadcasting partner for the White Sox. The pairing remains famous with fans even to this day.
While Caray had been locally famous with White Sox fans, he found new heights in 1981 when he moved to the Chicago Cubs booth. The Cubs franchise used their own television outlet, WGN, to broadcast free across the entire United States. Now, fans all over the country could tune in and listen to Harry Caray call the games. His popularity soared.
In 1984 WGN broadcast nationwide as the Cubs took home the NL East division title. Millions were tuned in listening to the jovial Caray doing what he had always done so well. He was a lovable animated personality with his thick-rimmed glasses and slurred speech. And he continued his tradition of leading the crowd in the singing of "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" during the seventh inning stretch.
Although Caray's fame never waned, time did take its toll. He was nicknamed "The Mayor of Rush Street" due to his propensity for Budweiser. Along with all the alcohol, illness and old age began to sap Caray of his energy. In 1987 he suffered a stroke, but made a fairly miraculous recovery. As he began to wear down, there were calls for his retirement, but Caray continued on. He did what he loved to do well past the mandatory retirement age at WGN.
Claims of Bigotry
While popular, Caray did have his share of controversy. During a pre-game radios show before a Dodgers / Cubs game on September 12, 1995, Caray was speaking about the new Japanese rookie sensation Hideo Nomo. He remarked to Cubs manager Jim Riggleman, "Well, my eyes are slanty enough. How 'bout yours?" Caray had been known for using the term "jap" in several on-air commentaries previously. He later refused to apologize for the comment.
Caray had long maintained a winter home in Palm Springs, California. February 14, 1998, while at Rancho Mirage restaurant celebrating Valentine's Day with his wife Dutchie (Dolores), Caray collapsed and was rushed to Eisenhower Medical Center. Harry Caray never regained consciousness and died 4 days later. His funeral took place at Chicago's Holy Name Cathedral on February 27. Many celebrities, including Sammy Sosa and Mike Ditka, were in attendance. At the funeral, an organ played "Take Me Out To The Ball Game." His body is interred in All Saints Cemetery in Des Plaines, Illinois.
After Caray's death the Cubs player all wore a patch on the sleeves of their uniforms depicting a caricature of Caray. Sammy Sosa dedicated each of his 66 home runs to Caray that season.
Caray left behind five children. Three with his first wife, Dorothy, and two with his second wife, Marian. He was married again on May 19, 1975 to his third wife Delores "Dutchie" Goldmann.
Skip Caray took after his father and became a broadcaster for the Atlanta Braves until his death on August 3, 2008. Son Chris Caray had a long career with Maritz Travel before succumbing to brain cancer at an early age. Daughter Patricia corked for Coca-Cola before retiring to Bradenton, FL where she currently resides. Caray's two daughters with wife Marian both worked in the healthcare field. Michele lives in St. Louis, MO and is a registered nurse with OptumHealth Behavioral Solutions. Elizabeth lives in Phoenix, AZ and is a pharmaceutical rep for Bristol-Myers Squibb.
From 1998 to 2004 Caray's grandson Chip replaced Harry as the Cubs' play by play announcer. He later worked with his father Skip on Atlanta Braves games where he had worked prior. Harry Caray once said that his proudest moment was working in the same booth with his son and grandson during a Cubs/Braves game on May 13, 1991.
Chip's half-brother Josh Caray is a broadcaster for WLAQ radio in Rome, Georgia. He calls the Class A Rome Braves baseball and Rome High School football games.
Another grandson of Caray, Eric Stanger (son of Patricia Caray) is the Director of Talk Programming for ABC Radio Networks. He also works as the Director of Affiliate Relations for the Sean Hannity show.
On October 23, 1987 Harry Caray's Italian Steakhouse opened in the Chicago Varnish Company Building, a Chicago Landmark building that is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Six restaurants, a 10pin bowling lounge, and an off-premises catering division also carry the Harry Caray name. The original restaurant has received numerous awards for its food and service, and features many items of memorabilia, even a statue of a "Holey Cow", one of Caray's trademark sayings, wearing the well-known Harry Caray eyeglasses.
In 1989 the Baseball Hall of Fame presented Caray with the Ford C. Frick Award for "major contributions to baseball." He also has his own star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame.
On June 24, 1994, the Chicago Cubs had a special day honoring Harry for 50 years of broadcasting Major League Baseball. Sponsored by the Cubs and Kemper Insurance, pins were given out fans that day. The pins had a picture of Harry, with writing saying "HARRY CARAY, 50 YEARS BROADCASTING, Kemper MUTUAL FUNDS" and "HOLY COW".
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