Breaking News Bar
updated: 2/3/2018 8:19 PM

Rozner: Two decades later, still missing Harry

hello
Success - Article sent! close
  • FILE -- In this June 11, 1997 file photo, Chicago Cubs announcer Harry Caray leads fans in singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during the seventh-inning stretch at a Cubs game at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Not since Oct. 10, 1945, has a World Series game been played at Wrigley Field in Chicago. As the World Series shifts to Chicago this weekend, all eyes are on the second-oldest ballpark in the major leagues. (AP Photo/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Benny Sieu, File)The Associated Press

    FILE -- In this June 11, 1997 file photo, Chicago Cubs announcer Harry Caray leads fans in singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during the seventh-inning stretch at a Cubs game at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Not since Oct. 10, 1945, has a World Series game been played at Wrigley Field in Chicago. As the World Series shifts to Chicago this weekend, all eyes are on the second-oldest ballpark in the major leagues. (AP Photo/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Benny Sieu, File)The Associated Press

 
 

Time doesn't really march on, much as we'd be comforted if true.

It's more like time races by at 90 mph while we try to get out of the left lane and avoid getting run over by an unforgiving, undefeated calendar.

Witness the 20 years it's already been since Harry Caray left us in February 1998.

It sure doesn't feel like it.

Maybe that's because he is so dearly missed, those summer days and nights of entertaining the faithful even in years when the Cubs offered so little of the same.

Evidence was unnecessary when he was here, but Harry truly was unique to the game, and time has not been kind to the baseball broadcast booth since.

If you subscribe to the MLB package or listen on satellite radio around the game, you know it has become a generic forum of similar voices and groupthink, repeating the same information ad nauseam.

Maybe it didn't seem prevalent two decades ago, but in February 1996 it was already a concern for Jim Dowdle.

The No. 2 man at the Tribune Co. -- largely responsible for the purchase of the Cubs and the theft of Caray from the White Sox -- Dowdle saw what was happening.

"The charm of Harry is that he's a fan and speaks like a fan, and he's different than all of the broadcasters you hear today," Dowdle told me 22 years ago. "Believe me, I sit and listen to a lot of audition tapes and they all sound the same.

"You get down to the final 10 or 12 and eight of them have great, great voices, but they're sort of indistinguishable.

"Harry doesn't fit the mold anymore and I doubt if he was just starting out that he could get hired anywhere."

Caray had suffered some serious health scares, including the last big one in the summer of 1994 when he went down in the heat of Miami, but he returned to the booth, and Dowdle was undeterred by those who said Caray had lost his fastball.

"In America today, it seems like we build people up just to tear them down," said Dowdle, who passed away four years ago, 16 years to the day that Caray died. "Harry is so big and so popular that there's a certain segment of the population that wants to bury him all the time, and I'm not sure why.

"He should be treasured because there'll never be another one like him.

"Harry will be around as long as he wants to be around. That's all there is to say about it. He will broadcast for the Cubs and WGN as long as he chooses to do so."

And he did, until collapsing while out for a Valentine's Day dinner with his beloved Dutchie in Palm Springs, never regaining consciousness.

For those who knew him well, it left a gaping hole in our daily lives.

To be around him was to grasp a traveling circus with a single hand, hanging on with feet off the ground, hoping to stay on pace and get a taste of the cotton candy before heading to the next city.

He traded barbs with Jackie Gleason, sang with Frank Sinatra, danced with Elvis and toasted the sunrise with Mickey Mantle, never one to lose a battle with the darkness.

With the wonder of Oliver Twist -- Caray himself an orphan -- he never came to terms with patience or incompetence, in life or in baseball. But, to the end, he maintained a desire to be with friends and fans at all hours of the day and night.

A 25-hour day would have been just another reason to celebrate.

It was only at the end that he really discovered family, and the last days of his life were spent as he ultimately wished they all had been, surrounded by children and grandchildren.

The unlikely life he lived and all that he achieved came through the TV and radio speakers in the joy he took from being at the ballpark and calling a game.

It was in the grand stories he told that Harry Caray made all who listened feel as if they were part of his family.

And for much of his life, it was as so. Maybe that's why it worked so well for so long.

Just like you, he was happy when his team won and aggravated when his team lost, but never was the day all that bad if he was at the park and there was a ballgame to watch.

The 20 years have gone fast, but not a day goes by that he isn't missed.

Here's to you, Harry, and here's hoping you're somewhere calling a game.

To borrow from the legend himself, what a sensational day for baseball.

brozner@dailyherald.com

• Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.