Caray family legacy still going strong (cont.)
The family business, that's what the Caray men call their craft. For Chip, who came to Atlanta to call Braves games in 2005, it's been the second-chance of a lifetime -- to not only work with his father but to spend time with him too. Though Chip lives in Orlando with his wife and three children, he stays with Skip and Paula when the Braves are at home during the season and drives his dad to the ballpark whenever possible.
"I'm not doing anything any other son wouldn't do for his dad," Chip says, adding with a smile, then a laugh, "Paula and Dad are nice to let me live in their big house. Plus, gas is $5 a gallon. It's on his dime."
"Dad knows and I know he's not always going to be here," Chip said. "I can remember that I didn't get that chance in Chicago [with Harry]. But in our profession, how many people get to [work] in the big leagues with their dad? Joe Buck [with his late father Jack] in St. Louis. Tom Brennaman [with his dad Marty] in Cincinnati."
And the Carays.
Last October, Paula called Chip: Skip had fallen, and hurt himself. After a second fall a few weeks later, she called again and said, "You'd better come up here." Skip was at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta, in grave condition. His current medical laundry list: Diabetes. Congestive heart failure. Arrhythmia. Periodic reduced liver and kidney function. Severe sleep deprivation, likely apnea.
During a three-week hospitalization last fall, that combination was nearly fatal. "When I got there and walked in," Chip said, "he looked at me with this real wry grin. But I don't think he knew who I was. That's when it hit me: 'Oh, damn. This is bad.'"
"There were days in the hospital when I could sleep," Skip said, "and I thought, 'I wonder if I'm gonna wake up?' Which is not that bad. [Dying] is a natural part of living. Nobody's dodged it yet.
"But," he said, smiling, "I'd like to keep dodging for awhile."
For now, "Every day's a blessing," Skip said. "I'm not religious, but every morning I wake up's a blessing." On Sunday morning, he'll wake up in his own bed and hear from all four kids (including Paula's daughter, Shayelyn).
Chip will probably buy his father another Tommy Bahama shirt. Skip will undoubtedly love Josh's present. He'll also watch some of the Reds-Red Sox game, to enjoy Chip's work. And he'll listen to Josh's Rome-Catfish play-by-play.
When Josh got the Rome job last year, Skip went on the air with him once and worked a few innings. Unbeknownst to Josh, his dad also drove the 75 minutes to Rome several times, parked in the stadium lot, turned on the radio and listened to Josh for a few innings.
Skip, not a computer savant, did this several times before Josh --to save his dad a trip -- showed him how to go on the club's Web, scroll down the menu, click on "Listen to the Game" and catch the game on his laptop.
"I just wish my dad could've heard Josh, just one time," Skip said. "He'd be so excited. There's a little bit of Dad in him, a little bit of Chip in him, a little bit of me in him. But he does it himself. It's him. And I wish Dad and Chip could've worked one year together, so he could've gotten to know him better."
And Chip's wish? "What's great about our sport -- not to be melodramatic -- you get second chances," he said. "I get 90 or so second chances with my dad each season. My Father's Day dream is for him to wake up one day and know what it feels like to feel good again."
But then, says Chip, "Every day's like Father's Day to me. I get to be with my dad."