On This Date in Sports February 18, 1998

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

Four days after suffering a stroke, during Valentine’s Day dinner with his wife, Chicago Cubs announcer Harry Caray dies at the age of 84. Caray had previously worked with the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago White Sox had been working games for the Cubs on WGN since 1982. Known as the voice of the fan, Harry Caray would bring new life to the seventh inning stretch leading the Wrigley Field crowd in singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”

Born Harry Carabina on March 1, 1914, in St. Louis, Harry Caray played semipro baseball before getting a job in radio. While working at a radio station in Joliet, Illinois a station manager suggest that Carabina shorten his last name to Caray because it sounded better on the air. In 1945, Caray got his first job in baseball, announcing home games for both the St. Louis Browns and St. Louis Cardinals. In 1947, Caray became a full-time announcer for the Redbirds, holding the job for the next two decades. This led to Harry Caray getting his first national exposure, calling games for NBC during 1964, 1967 and 1968 when an announcer from each World Series participant called the games with Curt Gowdy. Harry Caray was seriously injured crossing a street in St. Louis before the 1969 season. Receiving a warm reception upon his return, Caray’s contract would not be renewed following the season, due in part to a rumor he had an affair with Susan Busch, the daughter in law of Cardinals Owner Gussie Busch.

After one year announcing games with the Oakland Athletics, Harry Caray moved to Chicago in 1971, becoming the announcer of the White Sox. While with the White Sox, Owner Bill Veeck convinced Caray to sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” accompanied by organist Nancy Faust during the seventh inning stretch at Comiskey Park. This helped increase Harry Caray’s popularity with fans in the Windy City.

After the 1981 season, when he dismissed by the White Sox, Harry Caray went across town to become the voice of the Chicago Cubs. There his exposure grew due to the Cubs presence on Superstation WGN. Carrying over the seventh inning stretch singalong in Wrigley Field, Caray became symbolic of the Cubs struggles he was not afraid to be critical of players that struggled in the clutch. This helped make him the unofficial “Mayor of Rush Street”, a neighborhood near Wrigley Field, where Harry Caray owned a local bar. Caray’s popularity grew after surviving a stroke in 1987 as he won the Ford C. Frick Award in 1989 and inducted into the announcer’s wing o the baseball Hall of Fame. By this time his son Skip Caray also had become a recognizable announcer with the Atlanta Braves on TBS.

In his final seasons of announcing with the Cubs, Caray worked a more limited schedule, working mainly home games and shorter road trips. In 1998 his grandson Chip Caray was hired to work with him on WGN. However, that pairing never came to fruition due to Harry Caray’s death. Caray who lived in Palm Springs, California in the off-season was enjoying dinner on Valentine’s Day with his wife Dutchie. Four days later, Caray died without regaining consciousness. A funeral would be held in Chicago on February 27th, with many local sports heroes in attendance.

The Cubs would play in the 1998 season in tribute to Harry Caray wearing a patch with his likeness. The same likeness was added to the outside of the broadcast booth at Wrigley Field, keeping his likeness forever apart of the experience of a Cubs game. In addition, the Cubs, continued the seventh inning tradition, having famous Cubs fans come up to the booth and lead the crowd in the singing of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”