Monday, August 4, 2008

Skip Caray, 1939-2008

Posted By on Mon, Aug 4, 2008 at 4:09 PM

There's the great story where Ted Turner, not long after he purchased the Atlanta Braves, told Skip Caray to lay off criticizing the team from the television booth. Skip's response to Turner was something like, "Have you looked at the standings lately?" To which Turner said, "Good point." And he never tried to temper Skip again.

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Like any long-time Braves fan of a certain age, I grew up listening to Skip Caray. First, through the crackle of AM radio and then on TBS. Skip was often a curmudgeon in the booth, but he did it with wit and a basic honesty that was endearing. During the Pistol Pete Maravich era, he called the Atlanta Hawks games and was always especially cynical. But, as with the Braves, Skip's call of the game was often the only reason to stay tuned in.

When I started covering the Braves for Atlanta magazine 10 years ago, I got to see Skip around the press box and in the dugout, where he'd often hold court. He wasn't the friendliest person to strangers (remember how he'd go off on people who called his pre-game radio show with inane questions), but I did get the chance to talk baseball with him a few times.

One night I was at a game and my father called. He was listening to the game, and Skip had just spent air-time talking about one of my stories and recommending it to his listeners. It wasn't even a sports story.

I'll always believe that was the moment I'd "arrived" in my father's eyes, because Skip Carey had given me his blessing.

Skip did that a couple of more times through the years, and I was always flattered.

I'll always carry memories that go beyond sitting beside him in the dugout a time or two. One time, I criticized him in print for being a little too snarky on the air. I also misspelled his last name, and got a hand-written note from him that made me feel horribly guilty on both accounts.

He was one of the reasons I fell in love with baseball. Skip had a flair for articulating the drama of the moment, but he also had the honesty to let you know if you were watching a stinker. One night he told TBS viewers mid-game that it was OK to turn off their television ... so long as they did business with the sponsors that had purchased ads.

For me, Skip Caray and the Atlanta Braves were one and the same. It's impossible to think of one without thinking of the other. Even after the geniuses at TBS dismissed him from the main announce team last year, I'd often listen to the radio broadcast just to listen to Skip and Pete.

This call, from 1992, I'll never forget:

A lotta room in right-center, if he hits one there we can dance in the streets. The 2-1. Swung, line drive left field! One run is in! Here comes Bream! Here's the throw to the plate! He is...safe! Braves win! Braves win! Braves win! Braves win!...Braves win! They may have to hospitalize Sid Bream; he's down at the bottom of a huge pile at the plate. They help him to his feet. Frank Cabrera got the game winner! The Atlanta Braves are National League champions again! This crowd is going berserk, listen!

It's sad to know that voice is silent today.

(Photo: Wikipedia)

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