Twenty years ago, Chicago Cubs fans, and the baseball world in general, lost an icon. Harry Caray was, without a doubt, a larger than life figure who was widely adored by Cubs fans and is still remembered fondly by virtually everyone he met. His death marked the end of an era for many Cubs fans. In a sports world where the names on the back of the jerseys change more often than the color of the leaves on the trees, Harry Caray, in the booth at Wrigley Field, was one of the few things that Cubs fans could count on from year to year.
Harry Christopher Carabina began his career as a MLB broadcaster the same year that WWII ended. After spending the first 25 years of his career announcing for the St. Louis Cardinals, Caray moved on to Oakland for the 1970 season. Due to numerous disagreements with Oakland A’s owner, Charley Finley, Harry made his way to Chicago, where he would call games for the White Sox from 1971-1981. In 1982, alongside new analyst, Steve Stone, Caray brought his unique broadcasting talents to the Chicago Cubs. Caray and Stone would anchor the booth for the Cubs for the nest 16 seasons, becoming one of the most legendary announcing duos in baseball history.
For most of Caray’s 16 seasons on the north side of Chicago, the Cubs were an absolutely horrible team (1984 and 1989 being two glaring exceptions). However, there was something comforting about being able to turn on WGN virtually any day of the week and know that Harry’s voice would be waiting for you. Due to the unashamed way that Caray rooted for the Cubs and his tendency to be brutally honest when things weren’t going well, Harry formed a bond with Cubs fans unlike any other. For many of his 16 years with the Cubs, Wrigley Field and Harry were bigger draws than the team itself.
It was no easy task making a perennial last place team sound interesting, but Harry was a natural at it. Harry could make a minor league utility player sound like the next coming of Ted Williams and a 10-2 blowout sound competitive. It was obvious to every fan that watched or listened to Harry that he enjoyed what he did and had a hell of a time doing it. There was never any shortage of Budweiser comments when Harry was on the mic.
Harry Caray was also an eternal optimist. This is obvious when listening to his post-game monologue following the last game of the 1991 season. The Cubs had just capped off another losing season and Harry prophetically stated that “sure as God made green apples, the Chicago Cubs are going to be in the World Series, and maybe sooner than some people think”. The Cubs went on to finish 78-84 the next season but Harry’s optimism couldn’t be shaken.
Twenty-five years after the famous “green apples” line, with Harry Caray looking on from Heaven, the Chicago Cubs played in the World Series…and won. Despite not being part of the 2016 World Champion team, it is the opinion of this fan that the Harry Caray statue that stands tall outside of Wrigley Field should have a World Series ring added to it. After all, for 16 years, Harry gave us all something to believe in.
Photo from Jonathan Daniel/Getty/Rolling Stone