HARRY CARAY: March 1, 1914 – February 18, 1998
Originally published February 18, 2016.
I spent most of my youth in Chicago, despite being born in Ohio and descending from generations of Ohioans. Being born in 1970, I was the perfect age to discover baseball right as The Big Red Machine, the dominant Cincinnati Reds teams of the mid-1970s, began to dominate baseball. My parents and grandparents were all baseball fans, and I was hooked. I was a fan of Johnny Bench and Pete Rose. I tried to always wear Johnny Bench’s #5 or Davey Concepcion’s #13 when I picked a Little League uniform. My grandfather eventually retied after selling his company to then-minority owner (now majority owner) Bob Castellini, and we would regularly go to Riverfront Stadium and sit in Castellini’s personal seats, just down he row from Marge Schott and her St. Bernard, Schottsie. I remain a lifelong Cincinnati Reds fan, despite spending 17 formative years in Chicago. Living on the north side of Chicago, it seemed like everyone I knew was a Cubs fan. Even my parents, who were born and raised in Ohio by Reds fans, eventually shifted their allegiance to the Cubs. But I could never get onboard with the Cubs worship. Yes, I appreciated the fact that Wrigley Field was still nestled snugly in an actual neighborhood. And yes, I appreciated the ease of getting to the park on the el. But Cubs fans, on the whole, were annoying. They partied like amateurs, made too much noise, treated the neighborhood they claimed to love like a garbage can, they invaded cool bars like locusts and acted like they owned the place… More disturbingly, they had a very strange relationship with losing. They seemed to enjoy it. The Big Red Machine (and later the “Nasty Boys”-era Reds of the early ‘90s) had trained me to enjoy winning big. They were dominating teams. Cubs fans seemed to enjoy the cellar, and never seemed to mind the century-plus without a championship. They clung to a weird shabby nobility, girded with nachos and Old Style and trips to the Cubby Bear after. To this day, I don’t understand Cubs fans. But there is one thing about the Cubs that I always loved, and always will. The Cubs had one thing that will always be legendary: Harry Caray.