Observations #2: Real Baseball Fans and Harry Caray

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Real Cub Fans know that Harry Carey is not an icon to any true baseball fan; he was an arrogant buffoon more interested in dropping names, drooling at ball girls, telling stories about his adventures on Division Street the night before and spelling players’ names backward instead of calling the game.

HE COMMITTED THE CARDINAL SIN OF PUTTING HIMSELF BEFORE THE GAME WHICH HE WAS EMPLOYED TO DESCRIBE TO THE FANS.   I don’t think you would find any players who played for the Cubs in Harry’s era there who liked him.  Mark Grace described having a flock of fans depart his autographing area when Harry appeared.

 

Read former Cubs, Cardinals and Reds pitcher Jim Brosnan’s books, The Long Season and Pennant Race.   The Cardinals players despised Harry, who was their broadcaster then.  He kept his job by sucking up to Gussie Busch but even that couldn’t prevent his discharge.

 

When Harry worked for the White Sox, he really got into Ripper mode, constantly criticizing the players.   Now, the 1976 White Sox had a lot of material for ripping:  they were 64-97.   The pitching rotation had Rich (Goose) Gossage who was 9-17,  Terry Forster, 2-12, and Bart Johnson, 9-16 all with commensurately astronomic ERA’s.  By far the ace was Kenny Brett who managed a 10-12 off a very good 3.30 ERA, the only guy to start a game that year whose ERA was below the league average.    By mid-season Harry had taken on Brett as his whipping boy:  one night when Brett was having a tough time:  “this Brett, he’s supposed to be our stopper.  He’s supposed to get people out.”

 

   Brett had been called up by the Red Sox at age 18, only pitched one time for two innings in the regular season but Dick Williams added him to the 1967 World Series roster and Brett was called into two games, and finished both of them without allowing a hit.  He had pitched the Pirates to two division championships before being acquired by the White Sox.  That year with the White Sox, Brett led the entire team in WAR.  He was the White Sox best player;  might have been even better if Harry had taken a hike.

 

I was in graduate school and working at Jay Reed’s A-Chromoptics Camera Store at the corner of State and Oak.  Brett came in regularly.   At age 26, Brett looked like someone had applied a tourniquet to his left elbow made of barb-wire — at that age he had already sacrificed a lot of pain and rehab to keep pitching, and all Harry could do was sit on high and pontificate about some one’s fortitude.   Luckily, Brett got a trade to the Angels the next year.  Yes, he is the older brother of Hall of Fame Third-baseman George Brett, who even after his stardom eclipsed Kenny’s, would describe himself to the announcers as “Kenny Brett’s little brother.”

 

Harry is the reverse side of Vin Scully.   That is how he should be remembered.