What with all the hub-bub surrounding the death of Phil "Scooter" Rizzutto and his signtature expression "Holy Cow!", another classic baseball announcer who used the same expression came immediately to mind.
Harry Caray, along with Jack Buck, was always one of my favorite in-the-booth (and occasionally out) baseball characters. It's hard to believe he's been gone for 10 years.
Harry announced baseball games for over 50 years, for the Cardinals (rumor has it that he got the axe in St. Louis for having an affair with Auggie busch's daughter), the White Sox, one year in Oakland with Charlie Finley's A's, and finally, and perhaps most memorably for the Cubbies. Some older South-Siders may remember Harry broadcasting games from the bleachers as shirtless as the fans around him. Truly a man of and with the people.
I can still hear Harry's gruff voice, rambling riffs and shameless plugs from late in his career on WGN when he broadcast along with former hurler Steve Stone:
"Steve, check out the kid in the som-brerrrrrr-o. The next batter for the Dodgers is Pedro Ga-rarrrrrr-o. Petey's a triple short of hitting for the series (meant cycle) this afternoon. If he gets it, somebody on the Dodgers will need to buy Pete an ice cold Bud-wizzer."
Here's a couple of stories told on Harry:
Caray was so much a national treasure that when he returned to the broadcast booth at Wrigley Field from a stroke in 1987, President Reagan called to welcome Harry back. Reagan, who also once broadcast Cubs games, began to reminisce when Harry suddenly interrupted: ''Bobby Dernier just bunted for a single; I've got to get back to the game.'' And promptly hung up! Broadcast partner Steve Stone almost fell off his chair.
-- Hal Bodley
When I was 14 years old in 1961, my family lived next door to Harry Caray here in St. Louis. During the summer Mr. Caray had asked my father if I could take care of his swimming pool as he was unable or unwilling to do it himself. Once a week I would go to the Carays and backwash and clean up the pool area. All summer long Mr. Caray promised that he would get me a baseball glove for all the work I was doing.
I kept on thinking that he'd call Rawlings and get me some junior model glove. Finally towards the end of the summer he called me up to come over and get the glove he had promised. When I went to his house he presented me with a KEN BOYER (our Cardinal 3rd baseman) official glove. The only problem was that this glove had been used. Used a lot!!! And, marked on the strap of the glove was the #14. He had taken Ken Boyer's glove from the Cardinals locker room and was giving it to me. Was I excited ... and I still have the glove today.
I'll never forget when I went to a game at Wrigley and saw him afterwards. He signed many autographs before getting into his limo. As he was climbing in, he heard a woman in the back yelling for him to wait. He was quickly approached by a lady and her blind son. The woman told him her boy was blind, and could he touch his glasses. The young boy fingered the large thick glasses and said, "It must be him, I'd know those glasses anywhere!" The crowd went crazy, and Harry gave the boy a Cubs hat.
And a few Harry told on himself:
I'm in Memphis one winter, early 1960s, to do a basketball game, the St. Louis Hawks, back on TV to St. Louis," Caray recalled. "They played a series of games in Memphis. I'm in my hotel room the afternoon of the game. The phone rings."
And the story goes . . .
"Harry," the voice says. "Been listening to you for years. How are the Cardinals gonna be this season?"
"I think we're gonna be OK," Caray replies. "We've got a good ball club. Uh, who is this?"
"Elvis," the voice says.
"Elvis who?" Caray asks.
"Elvis Presley," the man answers.
"C'mon, don't give me that," Caray roars. "You're not Elvis Presley."
"You're a sporting man," the fellow goes on. "If you don't think it's me, be down in front of the hotel in 10 minutes."
Caray obliged. Ten minutes passed, and a big Cadillac pulled up with Elvis in it. "Well, he took me to his mansion," Caray recalled. "We talked baseball, music, what have you. Then he dropped me off at the arena so I could do the basketball game and picked me up 15 minutes after the game. We went back to his house and wound up eating ribs and drinking Budweiser and shooting the bull until the wee hours. I'll never forget that phone call."
-- Harry Caray
On his age: Oh, what difference does it make? I figure I had no business being here this long anyway, so what do you care how old I am? I've been on borrowed time for years. You know my old saying: live it up, the meter's running. I've always said that if you don't have fun while you're here, then it's your fault. You only get to do this once.
And his son's fitting eulogy: There's no person alive who got his money's worth better than my old man.