Harry Caray is best known as the broadcasting voice of the Chicago Cubs. Before he moved to the Windy City though, he was just another St. Louis boy who loved baseball. He grew up poor in the heart of St. Louis but went on to capture the hearts and minds of sports fans all over the country thanks to catch phrases like “Holy cow” and his renditions of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
THE EARLY YEARS
Harry Christopher Carabina was born on March 1, 1914, in St. Louis. He grew up in a rougher section of the city on LaSalle Street, which, ironically, is near the spot where Busch Stadium now stands. His father died when he was an infant, and his mother died when he was only ten. So as a child he lived with his aunt in Webster Groves, where he attended and graduated from high school.
He was an exceptional athlete during his school years and even played with semi-professional baseball teams. Unable to move up the ranks to the majors, he instead turned his focus to talking about sports on the radio.
He made the jump to the big leagues when he landed a broadcasting job with the St. Louis Hawks basketball team. At around this time, he also picked up announcing jobs for the University of Missouri football team and the Cotton Bowl games. His next jump made him a staple of the St. Louis area radio waves and a household name in one of the best sports cities in the country. He was only in his mid-twenties, but he was holding down two major broadcasting jobs as the announcer for both St. Louis professional baseball teams, the St. Louis Cardinals and St. Louis Browns.
RISE TO FAME
Carey’s first radio audition took place when he was only 19 and fell into the role of broadcaster quite naturally. Much like life in the minor leagues, broadcasting required that he bounce around the minor leagues of media in cities like Joliet, Illinois, and Kalamazoo, Michigan.
The Browns were coming off a World Series appearance in 1944, but they were still the second-favorite team in the city, losing the World Series to the city’s favorite team. Coupled with low attendance and declining interest in the club, he decided to focus solely on the Cardinals. So from 1945 to 1969, he was the play-by-play announcer for the St. Louis Cardinals, announcing the highlights of players like Stan Musial, Dick Groat, and Ken Boyer.
Caray was a star in the city of St. Louis, but difficulties with Cardinals ownership and an offer from the Oakland Athletics in 1970 led him to the West Coast. His one-year stint in Oakland was followed by a job with the Chicago White Sox, and finally the Chicago Cubs in 1982.
SHOW ME SUCCESS
Harry Caray’s flamboyant style, “over the top” broadcasting calls, trademark thick-rimmed glasses, and unusual Seventh Inning Stretch singing performances made him more than just the Voice of the Cubs; he was a national icon. He was the ultimate fan with a style all his own, and the fans loved it.
In addition to the hoards of people who hung on his every word, he was also racking up quite a few honors from his peers. In 1989, Caray was inducted into the broadcasters wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. He was also named the “Baseball Announcer of the Year” seven years in a row by The Sporting News. He had an amazing string of attending every opening-day game for forty-one years before a stroke sidelined him in 1987.
Caray held the play-by-play announcer job for the Chicago Cubs until his death in 1998. Like another famous Missouri broadcasting legend, Jack Buck, his son picked up where he left off. Caray’s son Skip, and grandson Chip, have both migrated to the broadcast booth and continue Harry Caray’s legacy.
*Caray was teamed up in the broadcasting booth was another Missouri legend, Jack Buck.
*Even after his death, his namesake restaurants keep his legacy alive.