On Friday, March 1st, legendary broadcaster Harry Caray would have turned 99 years old. The “Cub Fan, Bud Man” passed away back in February 1998, but his imprint on the Cubs organization remains to this day. The Wrigley faithful continue to sing the seventh inning stretch, led by a celebrity guest conductor, while his likeness hovers over the broadcast booth.
In recent years, there has been growing sentiment, typically in pockets outside of the fan base such as sports radio, that has grown tired of the singing of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”, among other seemingly “cheesy” Wrigleyville traditions. But for many Cubs fans who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s, Harry was more than just mascot with a microphone and the signature over sized glasses, a face that is immediately recognizable even today, as seen in the picture of an Indiana college basketball game.
Yes, Harry may have lost his ability to provide top quality play by play and insight as he advanced in age, instead opting to provide entertainment intentionally and unintentionally. But the familiar voice every day on WGN TV is what kept fans and kids like me in tune with the team when the wins were few, a common theme during many years of Harry’s tenure as the tv play by play man. Catching a game done by Harry was like sitting down in the living room or den of your house and catching the game with your grandpa or dad. It was a time of male bonding over a common love that was the Cubs, that was set aside like clock work day after day, season after season, until that fateful day on February 18th, 1998.
Teamed with a great baseball mind like Steve Stone has his analyst, Harry and Steve helped nurture a generation of Cub fans that came too late to see the days of Ron Santo, Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins, and Ernie Banks. Yes there was Ryne Sandberg and the playoff appearances in 1984 and 1989, along with the showcase that is the All Star Game at Wrigley in 1990. But the quality of the on field product was run into the ground before the very eyes of fans and Sandberg alike; and Harry was there to help carry us through the low points.
It is somewhat amazing to look back and realize that 15 years have passed since Harry’s passing. I hope many of you readers of age lift up a can or bottle of Bud in honor and memory of a fellow Cub fan.
Feel free to post some comments of your favorite Harry Caray memories.