Thursday, February 25, 2010

Harry Caray...holy cow!

I liked Harry Caray. In fact, I'd probably say that my opinion of him has drastically increased over the last 12 years since he died.

I was reading Ed Sherman's blog on Crain's Chicago Business where he was commenting on Harry's ranking of 7th in all time baseball announcers on the MLB Network show "Prime 9".

Sherman argued that Caray was ranked too low.

I disagree.

Sherman lists the announces who ranked ahead of Harry Caray in his blog:
Vin Scully, Mel Allen, Red Barber, Jack Buck, Ernie Harwell and Harry Kalas

and the two others after Caray on the list of nine:
Phil Rizzuto and Curt Gowdy round out the nine.

I'm sorry, but every single one of those 8 announcers I consider better than Harry.

I do realize the my opinion of Harry is a bit skewed...he could indeed call a good game back in the day, and going back to listen to him during the early to mid eighties was quite a pleasure.

Thanks to MLB Network, I have also had the pleasure to hear him call a number of games while he was with the Cardinals...and he was good at what he did.

But often times when we think of Harry Caray, we now recall the man who appeared old and distracted...who couldn't get 5 words out of his mouth without stumbling a bit. A man who never was quite the same after his stroke in 1987.

So where does Caray rank? I'm not sure, but when I think of great announcers in baseball, I find it hard that a list like this wouldn't include people like Jack Brickhouse and Jack Buck. (Sherman does pick out Brickhouse as well.)

And what about more recent announcers like Jon Miller or even Bob Uecker? Miller has great national exposure right now on ESPN, and if it wasn't for the fact he has to deal with Joe Morgan ever Sunday night, he probably would be much more highly regarded. And Uecker? I have the pleasure to listen to him often up here in Wisconsin, and one thing I have discovered is that he has influenced a number of the current announcers around baseball with his style of calling a game (including Pat Hughes).

Now about thing that is another strike against him on a list like this is the fact that he moved around so much. Right now most people remember him as the voice of the Cubs...but he announced for them for less than 1/3 of his career. The fact that Caray moved around so much (the announcer for 4 different teams) in a time when radio and television voices were matched up with their team as much as a superstar player was should count as a strike against Caray. 

Old time White Sox fans will remind you, also, that the "trademark" seventh inning stretch thing started while Caray announced (with Jimmy Peirsall) for the Sox in the 70's. In fact, Caray and Peirsall were a more entertaining duo in the booth than Harry and Steve Stone were for the Cubs.

And everyone pretty much knows that Caray started out announcing Cardinals games and did so for 25 years before being fired. I wasn't there, but if he was indeed so loved in St. Louis, he couldn't have been fired and Jack Buck wouldn't have moved into the position so well.

Anyway, Ed Sherman, before you go nuts about the fact Caray was ranked only seventh in this list, really think about what we are comparing him to. While Caray did do some national games back in the 60's, his voice was not as "national" as almost all the others I have mentioned above who are not on this list. Uecker, Miller, Buck, and Brickhouse are all voices that, when you heard them, you expected an important game to be on TV or radio.  And you can argue the same for most of those others on that list of nine as well.

Harry Caray's voice, when heard now, reminds us that Salazar spelled backwards is Razzel-ass.