As Harry Caray often says, "it might be.... It could be...."
It is 1908, and a steamship filled with European immigrants enters fog-shrouded New York Harbor. Standing at the rail is Cristoforo Carabina from Sicily, a robust young man who has led the passengers in their daily stretching exercises. He looks at the Statue of Liberty looming in the mist and exclaims, "Sacra mucca!" A few minutes later, as the ship docks at Ellis Island, the guy with funny hair standing next to Carabina, Nathan Aufrichtig from Krakow, Poland, shouts, "Tak!"
And with their arrival, sports broadcasting is changed forever.
O.K., so maybe it didn't happen that way. But just think. The offspring of those two men, the Carabinas (now the Carays) and the Aufrichtigs (the Alberts) now hold 11% of all sportscasting jobs in the U.S. All right, that's an exaggeration, too. Officially, there are three Harry Carays (the original, his son Skip and his son Chip) and four hairy Alberts (brothers Marv, Al and Steve and Marv's son Kenny) doing play-by-play for various teams and networks. Unofficially, though, there are millions of them out there, because Harry (Holy cow!) Caray and Marv (Yes!) Albert are inarguably America's two most imitated sportscasters.
What's more, the Carays and the Alberts have made nepotism so cool that there are, at last count, 13 different father-and-son combinations in the business, not to mention a few brother acts. And like so much fiber-optic cable, they all connect to one another.
Harry Caray does play-by-play for the Chicago Cubs, as does Thorn Brennaman, the son of Cincinnati Red broadcaster Marty Brennaman and the stepson of Derrek Dickey, an analyst for University of Cincinnati basketball games, who—this is Thom, now—got his start doing Red games as a replacement for Jay Randolph Sr., who will do the Florida Marlins for the Sunshine Network and Miami's WBFS and whose son, Jay Randolph Jr., covers sports for KASP in St. Louis. Skip Caray (Harry II) does the Atlanta Braves for Turner Broadcasting, which also employs Gary Bender, whose son Trey does sports for KSCB in Liberal, Kans.; Bob Neal, whose son Dave is a sports reporter for WTXL-TV in Tallahassee, Fla.; and Ernie Johnson Jr., whose father, Ernie Johnson Sr., worked with Skip and now docs Brave games with Chip Caray (Harry III). Chip also does play-by-play for the Orlando Magic, and when Orlando plays Denver, he's working the same game as Nugget broadcaster Al Albert, brother of Steve, who does the Golden State Warriors, and Marv, who does, well, everything.
Because Marv calls New York Ranger games on radio, he will cross paths this season with Minnesota North Star announcer Al Shaver, whose son, Wally (the Little) Shaver, used to do University of Minnesota hockey; Tampa Bay Lightning play-by-play man John Kelly, who is the son of the late St. Louis Blue broadcaster Dan Kelly; not to mention his own son Kenny Albert, who does play-by-play for the Washington Capitals. For NBC, his primary employer, Marv has worked with Joe Garagiola, whose son, Steve Garagiola, used to do TV sports in Detroit; Jay Randolph Sr., who...oh, sorry, we already did him; and Will McDonough, the sportswriter and NFL telecaster whose son Sean McDonough has done, among other things, Boston Red Sox play-by-play for WSBK, college basketball for ESPN and baseball for CBS since graduating from Syracuse University, where he ran into Todd Kalas, the son of Philadelphia Phillie broadcaster Harry Kalas, who—this is Todd, now—was hired by the New York Mets to do their pre-and post-game radio shows after he worked for the Triple A Louisville Redbirds, who had hired him to replace Joe Buck, who now does St. Louis Cardinal radio with his father, Jack Buck, who worked for many years with—ta da!—Harry Caray.
Even if you didn't catch all of that—and we're not sure we caught all of it—the message is clear. Sports fans are awash in heir waves. (As opposed to Marv's rumored hair weave.)
On Sunday, May 3, 1992, a sports fan with a satellite dish could have watched Harry Caray doing the Cubs, Skip Caray doing the Braves, Harry Kalas doing the Phillies, Marty Brennaman doing the Reds, Sean McDonough doing the Red Sox, Ernie Johnson Jr. doing TNT's NBA show and Marv Albert doing Game 5 of the New York Knick-Detroit Piston playoff series on NBC. The viewer would not have wanted to jump around too much, though, lest he or she miss perhaps the greatest moment in the history of sports television. During a break in the second quarter of the Knick-Piston game, NBC showed a simple exterior shot of the Madison Square Garden marquee. But there in the foreground, for some reason, was a bulldog dressed in a leather jacket, leather hat and sunglasses, with a cigarette dangling from his lip. After a moment of silence, Albert said to his partner, Mike Fratello, "Mike, always so troubling when a dog smokes."
While it is widely assumed that Skip Caray was the first sportscaster to follow in his father's voiceprint, Canadian hockey fans know that recently retired Toronto Maple Leaf broadcaster Bill Hewitt is the pioneer, being the son of the late, legendary Foster Hewitt, who did hockey games in Canada from the 1920s to the '70s. But the paternal trend didn't really pick up steam until the late '80s. Why all of a sudden so many Chips, Thorns and Treys off the old block?