Chip Caray elated to carry on family legacy as St. Louis Cardinals announcer
For the first time since the first summer of the Nixon administration, a Caray will grace the airwaves in St. Louis this summer, bringing full circle the journey of one of baseball’s great broadcasting dynasties.
Bally Sports Midwest announced Monday that Chip Caray, grandson of Harry Caray and the longtime television play-by-play voice of baseball in Atlanta, would take over those duties for Cardinals broadcasts, bringing a nationwide search back to home and yielding the microphone once again to a native St. Louisian with a deep love and admiration of the position.
“I’m grateful and excited to come home and call games for the team that made me fall in love with baseball as a kid in St. Louis County,” Caray said in a statement released by the network and the team. “As a visiting broadcaster, I have always admired the passion, knowledge, and loyalty of Cardinals fans, both here in St. Louis and across the country.
“The honor of continuing the legacy of my grandfather Harry, my dad Skip, and so many other great Cardinal broadcasters past and present, is the stuff dreams are made of. I can’t wait to start this exciting new chapter with my great teammates at Bally Sports Midwest. It’s great to be home!”
A graduate of Parkway West High School, Caray replaces Dan McLaughlin, who left the position by mutual agreement earlier this winter following his third arrest for driving under the influence. The search for a new voice led back to St. Louis on parallel paths, ultimately narrowing on Caray and Seattle Mariners broadcaster Aaron Goldsmith, himself a local product whose first job in broadcasting was in Sauget with the Gateway Grizzlies.
“I was fortunate to grow up on St. Louis Cardinals baseball,” Goldsmith said on Twitter after withdrawing from consideration for the position. “It will always be extremely special to me. But after 10 years, I’ve found a new home. Seattle is where I’m supposed to be. And calling Mariners baseball is what I love to do.”
Replacing McLaughlin’s estimable play-by-play skills with a seasoned pro like Caray will go a long way toward smoothing a transition very few saw coming and seemingly fewer were eager to usher in. (Disclaimer: the author was once a paid contributor to McLaughlin’s sports website.) More than a caller of games, though, McLaughlin represented an avatar of pure excitement and love for the organization, and through him fans were able to channel their own support as well as frustrations.
It’s poetic, then, the search would land on someone with such an unbreakable tie to the region. Harry Caray first stepped into the Cardinals’ broadcast booth in 1945 and left in 1969 under circumstances that the team claimed were a marketing decision but have long been rumored to be linked to whatever the relationship was between Caray and Susan Busch, the daughter-in-law of Gussie Busch (all parties always denied any impropriety).
Harry and Chip
Harry Caray may have been immortalized in bronze and buried in the ground in Chicago, but it was St. Louis where he broke into the business and began to grow into his legend. Being followed by Jack Buck and Mike Shannon — and, yes, McLaughlin — meant that the elder Caray’s legacy faded more quickly from view than it otherwise may have.
And, of course, he was a Cub. To be the voice of a rival is to rapidly lose the affection of the fans left behind, especially in an era where the landscape was much less flat and there was much less exposure to a universal voice. Harry Caray became their guy, not the guy here, and whatever story might have been written about his time in the St. Louis broadcast booth simply disappeared into vapor.
Still, he found his legend, and decades later, his story does indeed find a fitting coda. Chip Caray is a well-established broadcaster in his own right and leaves behind his own legend in Atlanta, where he was undeniably the soundtrack for some of the highest moments in that franchise’s history. It’s not on him to fill the chair of either someone who just left it or someone who left it half a century ago. The job is his to bring the excitement to the crowd and act in many ways as the franchise’s public face.
Sadness and uncertainty in change
But there are parallels that are hard to ignore. There’s sadness and uncertainty in change, even when it had to happen. There’s a feeling that something was lost, even if there are decades in the archives to enjoy. And there’s a coming adjustment period that’s sure to be unfair to everyone involved.
For most people, though, there’s just baseball, and the voice on TV blends into the background. In many ways, that’s the ideal. Over time, though, the voice gets tied to the experience, and soon enough, memories are narrated in the sound of someone else.
That opportunity is what’s in front of Chip Caray, and his understanding and appreciation of that make him more than qualified for what comes next.