It’s a big day on the baseball front, but don’t let this get lost in the shuffle: Tonight MLB Network’s The Sounds of Baseball airs a documentary on the legendary Harry Caray, highlighting one of the most unique broadcasters in the game.
It would be great to see a really good biography of Caray (yes, we’d publish it in a minute), whose passionate approach to life in general and baseball in specific made him a larger-than-life figure in Major League Baseball. Many of us only remember him from his WGN-TV cable broadcasts, glamorizing Wrigley Field as Chicago’s largest outdoor bar and helped create the modern marketing of game-day baseball that transcended the plays on the field.
At Wrigley Field, Caray knew his role: push the team and push the Bud. It wasn’t necessarily his best work, which is a shame: when on his game, Caray was truly one of the great broadcasters in the game. In the most recent Ballpark Digest Broadcaster Chat, Mick Gillispie and Jesse Goldberg-Strassler joined me in a discussion of the different kinds of MLB broadcasters, including those with rural roots who frequently referenced that rural background (Red Barber, Ernie Harwell) and those with a more urbane approach to the game (Vin Scully, Jon Miller, Bob Costas). Since then, it was apparent that a few more types can be identified: the all-business approach (Al Michaels, Joe Garagiola) and the homer (Hawk Harrelson), a type pioneered by Caray.
And Caray certainly understood that role over the years: His job working the booth with Jack Buck was to sell Busch Bavarian Beer for Gussie Busch. But it was a more subtle sales pitch with the Cardinals and later with the White Sox than it became with the Cubs, and clips of those Cardinals days shows Caray at his best. His description of Stan Musial’s final at-bat of his historic 22-year career is still one of the great calls: “Remember the stance and the swing. You’re not likely to see his likes again.”
So enjoy tonight’s broadcast and appreciate Caray’s YOLO approach to the game and his life. You’re not likely to see his likes again.