Skip Caray, 1939-2008
Ask me how I feel about crying when someone close to you dies and I’ll tell you it’s a perfectly natural, healthy emotion and it’s nothing to be ashamed about. Ask me how I feel about crying when the announcer of your favorite sports team dies and I’ll tell you: a little queer.
But I cried anyway. I guess if you listen to someone so intently for so long you grow married to the idea of them always being there, always painting the picture for you. It’s jarring when you realize you’ve experienced something for the last time. It sure doesn’t feel right that there’s a Braves game coming up and Skip Caray won’t be around for it.
What struck me, and I think it’s safe to say most people, about listening to Skip was that he never really put up with the bullshit. He wasn’t afraid to call a duck a duck, so to speak. If the team was playing crappy, he’d say so. If the league or the organization or even his own bosses at Turner tried to pull some lame stunt/marketing ploy on the fans he’d note it for what it was, a load of bull.
Skip once said of a game so far gone that only a miracle could salvage it, “You have our permission to turn off the TV and go to bed now … as long as you promise to patronize our sponsors.”
He had a caustic, self-deprecating wit that the Joe Buck’s and the Tim McCarver’s of the world will never understand. As good of an announcer as he was, Skip could just have easily been the guy sitting next to you in the bar, ranting about how awful Francoeur looked in that last at-bat or how ridiculously overplayed the whole Manny Ramirez saga is. As tongue-in-cheek as that quote was, it pretty much encapsulates what Skip was all about. He knew who he was talking to. And he never took their intelligence for granted.
The funny thing is, no one ever really turned the TV off. Because as bad is it may have been, and during his 30-year tenure there were plenty of bad nights, Skip never really let it get boring. Whether it was his constant ridicule of the B-movies that so often followed games (in case you were wondering, there’s a reason I have a soft spot in my heart for movies like Roadhouse) or his famed colorful aphorisms (“The bases are loaded again, and I wish I was too”) or his undying affection for former reliever Jung Bong and the numerous puns his name provided (“The Mets take another hit off Bong!”).
But as good as he was during the blowouts and the rain delays, Skip was at his best in the big moments, that pinched, nasally voice rising to a yell, bubbling over with excitement and joy. People could argue day and night about who was better, but there was no one I’d rather hear call a big moment.
Game 7 – 1992 NLCS
Game 6 – 1995 World Series
While most other fans complained that Skip was a homer openly rooting for the Braves to win, Braves fans loved him for it. So what if he rooted for the home team? Skip had a passion for his team and he lived and breathed with them just like the rest of us.
I’ll miss Skip. I grew up listening to his voice. I’ve shared laughs, triumphs and heartbreak (a whole lot of heartbreak) with him, and never once did I ever want to turn it off. Right about now it feels like we’re in the midst of a blowout, and without Skip around it just doesn’t feel right listening.
So maybe it is OK to turn the TV off now … so long as I remember to support the sponsors.
So long, Skip. Life sure will be a heck of a lot duller without you.