staying right here," Busch commanded. With that, he threw his arm around
Caray and growled, "You son of a bitch. Are you afraid I'm going to fire
you? Hell, if you'd have given me any other answer to that question about Lane,
you would have been fired."
Caray suspects—and Busch confirms the suspicion—that Busch knew of his
admiration for Lane and deliberately had been putting his veracity to a test.
"You see," says Caray, "everybody's got the idea that you gotta be
a yes-man to Gussie Busch. Hell, he's the most democratic bastard in the
stood in need of the democratic tycoon's goodwill when, four years later, the
brewery hierarchy sat down to what one of them—a man named Curt Lohr—has
described as the Court Martial of Harry Caray. The prelude to this crisis
sounded when Caray popped up before his Sports Digest mike and read an
editorial from a Lexington, Ky. newspaper condemning the St. Louis Hawks
basketball club and the Boston Celtics for a lackluster exhibition they had
played in Lexington. "The gist of it was that you saw more action in a
University of Kentucky practice session than in an NBA game," Caray says.
In almost less time than it takes to say "I'll have a Bud," the long
tentacles of the advertising industry had Caray by the throat.
Advertising of St. Louis, you see, had just come off a hard sell to Hawks club
owner Ben Kerner, persuading him to switch Hawks broadcasts from Falstaff to
Busch beer. Caray's Sports Digest also was sponsored by Busch. So Kerner
bearded the Gardner boys in their lair and said in effect, "First you tell
me how much you love me and in the next breath you're letting that guy blast my
property." Gardner raced into conference with Anheuser-Busch executives,
then fired off a telegram to Caray informing him that he was suspended
indefinitely from the air.
Caray at once
suspected a plot to rid the airwaves of him once and for all. "I think it
was a squeeze play," he says. Kerner, he believes, was trying to pave the
way for his friend Buddy Blattner to seize Caray's chair in the Cardinal
broadcasting booth. "And the agency felt that I'm hard to control." For
four months Caray remained suspended while broadcasting people, a species that
by instinct can spot a vulture 20 yards and beat it to a dying body, buzzed
excitedly that Caray was a goner.
Gardner admen called for a meeting to settle his fate. Busch presided,
surrounded by his big guns in advertising, P.R. and beer sales. Through the
room ran the sentiment that life would be simpler if Caray's contract were
terminated. But then, as Busch patiently heard each man in turn, he at last got
to Curt Lohr. Lohr, a stocky, fair-skinned man who at the time headed the
brewery's sales in the St. Louis area, spoke his piece bluntly.
did," he said, "was read an editorial that was printed in a newspaper
that already had been read wherever it was circulated. What this boils down to
is a personality clash. A good company does not deal in personalities."
Now Busch himself
spoke. "Has everybody had his say?" he asked. "O.K., then pack up
your briefcases and get the hell out of here. You've taken up enough of my
time. 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."
each passing crisis, Caray has seemed to grow stronger. He wound up,
ironically, doing telecasts of Ben Kerner's Hawks games, while his eldest son,
Skip Caray, did the Hawks' radio broadcasts. Busch gives Caray absolute freedom
of speech, although Busch points out that "I can go crazy when he gives it
that 'Ho-lee cow, it's going out of here!' and then it's a foul ball." In
recent years both insiders and the general public have come to suspect that
Caray is a power behind the Cardinal throne—a voice in Busch's ear telling him
which Cardinals to value and which to get rid of. Cardinal Public Relations
Director Bob Harlan recalls that when he spoke at a smoker in a southern
Illinois town, a fan in the audience asked him if it was Caray who persuaded
the club to trade Ray Sadecki to San Francisco for Orlando Cepeda. "Nobody
laughed, either," says Harlan.
cards with Gussie, doesn't he?" notes a St. Louis sports-writer pointedly.
Caray not only does, Busch agrees with a wry smile, but vehemently accuses him