March 1 marks the 105th anniversary of the birth of legendary baseball broadcaster Harry Caray.  Orphaned at the age of ten, Harry was brought up in a series of foster homes in tough St. Louis neighborhoods. After graduating from high school Caray volunteered for the military but was rejected because of his myopia. He was a rabid St. Louis Cardinals fan and decided that he was destined to replace the Cards’ boring radio announcers. He burst into the radio station and told executives that he could increase their audience and revenue but Caray was turned away because he had never even spoken into a microphone. Undeterred, Harry landed minor announcing gigs in Joliet, Illinois and Kalamazoo Michigan. In 1945 the Cardinals hired the thirty-year-old Caray to be the third announcer in the broadcast booth. Within months Caray convinced the radio station owners to make him the lead broadcaster.

Harry injected excitement for radio listeners with signature lines such as: “There she goes!… Line drive…! It might be…it could be…it is! Home run…! Ho-lee cow! During the 1950s and 1960s, the Cardinals network extended to 124 stations in 14 states. Caray developed a fanatical he brought excitement to small towns throughout the South and Midwest. Caray considered himself foremost a fan and unlike most announcers wasn’t afraid to criticize his team which led to constant tussles with managers, players and sponsors. Once, Budweiser executives and advertising agency execs pleaded with team owner August ‘Gussie” Busch to fire the controversial broadcaster.  After listening for a while, Busch said “Pack up your briefcases and get the hell out of here. If you think I’m gonna fire the greatest broadcaster in baseball just because you people can’t get along with him, you’re crazy.” By the mid-sixties the great broadcaster’s salary was more than $100,000 and he had become became a millionaire by investing in securities, principally Anheuser-Busch stock.
On Nov. 3, 1968, Caray, a legendary carouser, was hit by a car while he was walking up to a hotel bar for a 2 A.M. nightcap. Caray was hospitalized for two months with two broken legs and a broken shoulder. Carey’s room became party central for off-duty nurses and the broadcaster’s many friends, A local restaurant routinely sent him martinis and specially prepared meals. Carey said he hated to leave however Gussie Busch invited him to spend the winter recuperating at his Florida beach house. On opening day of the 1969 season, Cards fans went wild when Caray dramatically threw aside his two canes as he crossed the field and triumphally walked to the broadcast booth. Soon after, Gussie fired Caray because the Busch family had become convinced that Caray was having an affair with the wife of August Busch III, Gussie’s son.  At his post-firing news conference Caray drank conspicuously from a can of Schlitz, Budweiser’s chief rival.

After spending a year calling Oakland A’s games, Carey began a ten-year engagement with the Chicago White Sox. He became known as the “Mayor of Rush Street” a Chicago nightlife district. For tax purposes, Caray kept a log of all his bar stops. He recorded 1,362 bar stops in 1971 and 1,242 in 1972- roughly 3.5 stops per day.

In 1982, Caray moved across town to the Cubs. He immediately fit in with the Cubs’ fans and would often broadcast shirtless from the Wrigley Field bleachers. And as usual he didn’t mind criticizing his employer. For example, ‘What does a mama bear on the pill have in common with the World Series? No Cubs.

Because the Cubs’ television outlet had become one of the first cable superstations, Caray became a national icon with millions enjoying his antics especially his leading the home crowd in singing “Take me out to the ballgame” during the seventh inning stretch.

Harry Caray died on February 18, 1998 as a result of complications from a heart attack. Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa dedicated each of his 66 home runs that season to Caray. Today, a twelve-foot-tall statue of the eccentric broadcaster greets Cubs fans as they enter Wrigley Field.

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