So, I learned this morning, via email, that my all-time favorite sportscaster, Skip Caray, of the Atlanta Braves Radio Network passed away. This news is hitting me pretty hard, harder than I would've thought, and it's even more shocking given that he had this done a few years ago. Baseball has always been a huge part of my life, and the Atlanta Braves have long been at the center of that baseball world-view. Given their primacy, in my mind, in the baseball universe, and with Skip Caray having long been the "voice" of the Atlanta Braves, his loss is like losing a piece of the Braves, a piece of my baseball world, a piece of my youth.
His nasally, sarcastic, clearly Braves-biased delivery made him my favorite annoucer. While Pete Van Wieren, Don Sutton, and Ernie Johnson were good, Caray was my favorite. You never had to wonder who was talking, his voice was distinctive and unmistakable. From knowing that the Braves' game would always be on in my grandma's house, from Dale Murphy crushing a homerun at my first game in 1985, from Glenn "Mother" Hubbard repeatedly tying the NL record for most assists in a game, from Jeff Treadway pulling off the hidden-ball trick in a game, from the Braves running off the field after only two outs in that dreaded 1988 season, from Gerald Perry sitting out the last game of the season so he could "hit" .300 (.2997, isn't .300 Gerald), from Pete Smith recognizing me and being a class act, from seeing Darrell Evans at Six Flags and he letting me try on his World Series ring ('84 Tigers) when I saw him a couple of weeks later at a baseball card show, from meeting Tom Glavine and John Smoltz at baseball card shows (and being giddy with joy), from Otis Nixon climbing the wall, from John Smoltz being unhittable in the postseason, from Lonnie Smith pulling up at second because Knoblauch fake-balled him, from Kent Hrbek blatantly pulling Ron Gant off first, from "Chicks Digging the Long Ball," from 1995 World Champions, from "Frank" Cabrera's hit and Andy Van Slyke's center-field sit-down, until today, Skip Caray has always been there.
I still get chills from even reading two of his calls. I was listening, live, to each of them:
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!
Mark gets the sign, the wind and the pitch here it is... swung, fly ball deep left center, Grissom on the run... Yes! Yes! Yes! The Atlanta Braves have given you a championship! Listen to this crowd! A mob scene on the field. Wohlers gets 'em one, two, three. A couple of fans rushing on the field. The Atlanta Braves have brought the first championship to Atlanta!
During the mutiple post-season appearances made by the Braves through the years, when the games were televised on the national networks, my dad and I would turn off the sound on the television and listen to the Skip Caray/Van Wieren calling of the game. That's how much we liked him.
Rest in peace Skip; you'll always have a fan in me.