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Submitted by Kevin Wuzzardo on Mon, 08/04/2008 - 6:17am.
Anyone who knows me knows of my love for baseball and my undying devotion to my beloved Philadelphia Phillies. Part of that devotion is despising the Phillies' opponents, including, and perhaps especially for me, the Atlanta Braves. But when I learned this morning of the death Sunday of Braves announcer Skip Caray, it was all I could do to keep from crying. It seemed a personal loss of sorts. But I guess that's what happens when you spend so much time with someone.
No, Skip Caray and I were not friends or even acquaintances. In fact I only saw the man in person once, as he held a door open for me as I lugged a camera and tripod out of the press box at Atlanta's Turner Field several years ago. But being a baseball fan growing up in the south in the last three decades meant watching Braves games on TBS. And that meant listening to the dulcid tones of Skip Caray and his broadcast partners.
Say what you will about the Braves, and when I first started watching their telecasts in the mid 1980s they were absolutely dreadful, but they had one of the best broadcast teams in all of baseball, anchored for more than 30 years by the nasally and sardonic Caray and professorial Pete Van Wieren. They were perhaps the only thing that made the terrible on-field product worth watching. While Van Wieren provided rock solid play-by-play and analysis and former Major Leaguers Ernie Johnson, Sr., and later Don Sutton and Joe Simpson did great jobs with experience-based insight, it was Caray who stole the show.
It could not have been easy for Skip to be so great. After all, he is the namesake son of broadcasting legend Harry Caray. And that's a tough act to follow. But for my money, Skip is the greatest of the Carays, surpassing his father's legend and casting a huge shadow for his own broadcasting sons Chip and Josh. I've never heard Josh, who works for the Braves minor league team in Rome, GA, call a game, but I've heard plenty of Chip, who succeeded grandpa Harry in the Cubs booth before joining dad Skip with the Braves, as well as national jobs with Fox and TBS. Not to be mean, but Chip is no Skip.
When you spend years painting the picture of a horrid team, you have to be colorful. Skip Caray was Michelangelo, Monet and Magritte rolled into one. He had a talent for describing even the most routine play in a way that was unforgettable. I have long thought of towering infield pop-ups the way Skip once described one. "That," he said, "wouldn't have been a home run in a telephone booth." My sister was watching the game with me at home when Skip uttered that gem. I'll always remember how the call made her stop what she was doing and try and compute what Skip had said. And that's the way he was. A little quip thrown in, often under his breath, that could take a moment to fully comprehend. Once as he went to commercial after an inning ended with a two-out baserunner left on, Skip called it, "A one, two, excuse me, three inning."
The voices of the game are an integral part of baseball. The greatest are enshrined, like the greatest players, in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, as winners of the Ford C. Frick Award. Names like Mel Allen, Red Barber, Harry Caray, Joe Garagiola, Ernie Harwell, Gil Hodges, Harry Kalas and Vin Scully, just to name a few. And if the people who vote for that award know anything about anything, Harry Caray will again be added to the list of honorees. Harry Caray, Jr., that is.
We will miss you, Skip. In fact, we already do. And to borrow your own catch phrase, there is little doubt that as we mourn our loss, "Heaven wins! Heaven wins! Heaven wins!"
By: Kevin Wuzzardo