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HARRY HAS HIS OWN WAYS
Myron Cope
October 07, 1968
Raucous, fun-loving St. Louis broadcaster Harry Caray, whose loud cry, 'Ho-lee cow!' thrills millions of Series listeners—and drives other millions up the wall—peels when it is hot, shags foul balls with his net and calls himself the last of the nonconformists
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October 07, 1968

Harry Has His Own Ways

Raucous, fun-loving St. Louis broadcaster Harry Caray, whose loud cry, 'Ho-lee cow!' thrills millions of Series listeners—and drives other millions up the wall—peels when it is hot, shags foul balls with his net and calls himself the last of the nonconformists

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Even before the World Series got under way Wednesday, it was shudderingly clear that one result was as predictable as bunting on the commissioner's box: millions of television and radio listeners, whose eardrums may have healed in the year since the Cardinal-Boston Series, are once again going to be exposed to a feverish clamor coming from a Cardinal delegate to the NBC broadcasting team. It was equally certain that across America the baseball public would then divide into two camps—those who exclaimed that by God! Harry Caray was almost as exciting as being at the park and those who prayed he would be silenced by an immediate attack of laryngitis. Caray, should you be among the few who still have not heard him, is an announcer who can be heard shrieking above the roar of the crowd when a hitter puts the ultimate in wood to the ball: "There she goes...! Line drive...! It might be...it could be...it is! Home run...! Ho-lee cowl!" You may not know that with a second home run his more dignified colleagues have preferred to flee the broadcasting booth before the ball has cleared the fence.

In the past decade the trend of play-by-play broadcasting has been decidedly in the direction of mellow, impassive reporting, a technique that strikes Harry Caray as being about as appropriate as having Walter Cronkite broadcast a heavyweight championship fight. "This blas� era of broadcasting!" Caray grumbles. " 'Strike one. Ball one. Strike two.' It probably hurts the game more than anything, and this at a time when baseball is being so roundly criticized." Never one to burden himself with restraint, Caray more or less began hoisting the 1968 pennant over Busch Stadium clear back in early July when, following a Cardinal victory, he bellowed, "The magic number is 92!"

The fact is that Harry Caray's 24 years of broadcasting St. Louis baseball have been one long crusade for pennants, a stance that might be expected to have endeared him to all Cardinals past and present, but which, on the contrary, has left a scattered trail of athletes who would have enjoyed seeing him transferred to Ping-Pong broadcasts in Yokohama.

"What's Caray got against you anyway, Meat?" asks Mrs. Jim Brosnan in a passage from The Long Season, a reminiscence her pitcher-husband wrote in 1960.

"To hell with Tomato-Face," answers Brosnan. "He's one of those emotional radio guys. All from the heart, y'know? I guess he thinks I'm letting the Cardinals down, and he's taking it as a personal insult."

"Well, you ought to spit tobacco juice on his shoe, or something. It's awful the way he blames you for everything."

Caray remembers Brosnan's peevish prose with equanimity now that Brosnan is out of baseball. "I've seen him many times since," he says, "and we get along splendidly. Of course," Caray adds, repaying Brosnan with a needle straight to the ego, "he doesn't throw the home run ball anymore."

In the prudent little world of sports announcers most men stand ready to go to the North Pole, if necessary, to avoid any conflict. The announcer is hired and fired by the ball club or sponsor, or by the two in concert; he is, in short, an organization man, whose paycheck is a writ of mandamus that says, "Be positive." Inasmuch as the Cardinals are owned by a brewery, Anheuser-Busch, Inc., and in a sense are a continuous promotional campaign for its various beers, their announcer figures to be positive through hell, 6% and 10-game losing streaks. But the trouble with Harry Caray—born, orphaned at 10 and raised in St. Louis—is that he has never got it through his head that he is not still sitting in the bleachers, still endowed with the right to issue a loud raspberry.

"Harry is a fan," says Cardinal Manager Red Schoendienst. "Hell, he dies with the Cardinals." Their acts of heroism move him to deafening cheers, but their failures make his teeth grind. And because his exasperation leaks from his lips into his microphone, he has been despised by more than one Cardinal manager, denounced in print by a clutch of Cardinal players and called onto the carpet so often that it is almost threadbare. Pinching his forefinger and thumb together, Caray says, "I can't tell you how many times I've been this close to getting fired."

A fairly typical example of Caray's attraction to turbulence involves Eddie (The Brat) Stanky. As he lunches at Busch's Grove, a posh suburban St. Louis restaurant not owned by Cardinal President Gussie Busch, Caray traces Stanky's antipathy toward him. Caray's face is, as Brosnan suggested, right off a tomato counter, but at 51, a thickset man measuring a fraction of an inch under six feet, he is a picture of sophisticated leisure. Fresh from a $15 tonsorial treatment by Walter of the Colony Salon, his wavy hair is graying gracefully. He wears a black blazer, white turtleneck, tattersall slacks, white loafers and, of course, large sunglasses. He orders another Scotch sour—"Have Otis make it," he specifies to the waiter—and then delves to the bottom of the Stanky-Caray Seventeen Years War.

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