New Book Looks Back On Harry Caray's Life

Rob Hart
April 15, 2019 - 1:46 pm
The Legendary Harry Caray:  Baseball's Greatest Showman

photo provided

Categories: 

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- A new book looks at Harry Caray's life and career before he joined the Chicago Cubs.

WBBM Newsradio's Rob Hart talked to Don Zminda, author of "The Legendary Harry Caray: Baseball's Greatest Salesman."

Zminda said Harry Caray was responsible for turning his hometown St. Louis Cardinals into a broadcasting powerhouse that was heard across most of the United States thanks to the 50,000 watt signal of KMOX-AM.

Caray left the Cardinals in 1969.  Rumors of an affair between Caray and a woman connected to the Busch family that owned the Cardinals were denied by both parties.

Officially, Zminda said, executives at Budweiser were growing tired of Caray's controversial comments. Zminda cites a 1969 broadcast in which Caray ripped the conditions at Jarry Park in Montreal, home of the Expos.  Fans called the station to say Caray had been unfair.

"And (St. Louis Cardinals owner) Gussie Busch actually wrote a public letter apologizing for what Harry said...and that kind of turned the tables a little bit," Zminda said.

"He was at the end of his 25th year, and it had kind of run its course at that point."

After an unhappy year calling games for the Oakland A's, Harry moved to Chicago to broadcast White Sox games.

Harry arrived in Chicago in 1971.  The Sox had lost 105 games the year before, and less than 500,000 people attended games at Comiskey Park.  Attendance more than doubled by 1972, and Zminda said Harry Caray deserves some credit for reviving the White Sox in Chicago.

Harry left for the Cubs in 1982 after the White Sox announced plans to move their game broadcasts from Channel 9 to a pay TV service called SportsVision.

Chicago Cubs baseball announcer and Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Harry Caray conducts fans singing 'Take Me Out to the Ball Game' from his television booth during the seventh inning stretch in a game against the Colorado Rockies at Wrigley Field
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Zminda said Harry Caray was a tough sell inside the Tribune Company, which owned the Cubs, but their market research said it was going to be a hit.

"Incredibly, 44 percent of the people who identified themselves as White Sox fans said they were now open to rooting for the Cubs just because of Harry," he said.

Harry Caray became a national celebrity because of the availability of WGN-TV on cable systems across the country.

Caray died prior to Spring Training in 1998, and Zminda sids he would have remained behind the mic in 1998 and beyond if his health allowed.