ATLANTA -- As longtime Braves broadcaster Chip Caray called Thursday’s game against the Blue Jays, he proudly carried on a tradition that was celebrated on May 13, 1991, when he shared the Wrigley Field press box with his father, Skip Caray, and his iconic grandfather, Harry Caray.
On the 30th anniversary of that momentous occasion, Chip discusses his memories of that Braves-Cubs game and the proud family tradition that will be extended by his sons, Chris and Stefan, who will serve as the broadcasters of the Cotuit Kettleers of the Cape Cod League this summer.
MLB.com: What do you remember feeling as you prepared for this experience?
Chip Caray: It was just very surreal. I think it was my first year with the Braves. So I was excited just to be with my dad, and traveling and doing stuff with him and going to Chicago to see Harry; you know, I didn't know him really well. I had no idea of how big a deal this was for my grandfather or my dad. But I guess I got an inkling of that when we were walking from our hotel to the restaurant (Harry Caray’s in Chicago) for the press conference. There were like 30 camera guys with the boom microphones and the big fuzzy things at the end of the poles.
So that was sort of my first inkling of how, I guess, unprecedented it was. It didn't really hit because I was just a dumb, wide-eyed kid going to do my job. I guess, like all of us, we sort of take for granted that our dads and our grandparents are going to be around forever. As time has gone on, obviously, I've reflected and thought a lot about and how special that was. God, I wish I could go back and enjoy it a little more and think about it more, because who knows if it'll ever happen again?
MLB.com: What was your most vivid memory from the game itself?
Chip Caray: I look to my left, and I was working with my dad. And I look to my right and see (Cubs broadcasters) Harry and Steve Stone. It was sort of an out-of-body experience. I don’t even remember who won the game. I just remember going back and looking at the highlights of that game and thinking just how young I sounded. I was sort of new to the business, and certainly new to Major League Baseball. But it was just so comforting to know that my dad was with me.
From a family perspective, to be honest with you, I didn't know Harry very well. And any chance I got to spend time with him was more to try to understand him than to really know him. I didn't have a great deal of touchstones with him. I didn't have Christmases or Thanksgivings. I mean, I probably had three meals with him in my life that I can remember.
For Harry, it was, I guess, a crowning achievement professionally. Back then, when he was a young father, you know, you wanted your son to do what you were doing, because that was the ultimate compliment. He kind of tricked my dad into the business. My dad didn’t do that to me.
But for Harry, knowing that his son and his son were following in his footsteps with the same last name and doing the same thing, I think was, in a way, really rewarding for him.
MLB.com What did you know about your grandfather?
Chip Caray: He was an orphan. He didn't know what family life was about. He didn't prioritize that, in a lot of ways. You know, for Harry, it was beer, babes and baseball, in that order. Family at times really suffered. I think that as I got into the business, and I started doing games and started to make my way up the ranks, as it were, I think he came to understand me in a way that he wasn't able to understand me, because I was doing something that he could relate to.
Very late in his life, I think he came to understand the importance of family and legacy and all that kind of stuff. Looking back, I wish we'd been able to share some of those moments together in Chicago when I was there, because that was the original plan. And obviously, that never happened.
(NOTE: Chip was hired to begin calling Cubs games with his grandfather in 1998. But Harry passed away approximately six weeks before the season began.)
MLB.com: What do you think that day meant to your dad?
Chip Caray: Anytime your kid does something, it makes you feel good. You're happy for your child. When I came to the Braves for the first time, in ‘91, he had a very honest conversation with me. He said. "Look, you're my kid, I'll do everything I can to help you. You have to help yourself, obviously, but I'll do everything I can to help you. But if you run afoul of a coach or manager, general manager or something, I can't help you."
I think he was really, really proud. Again, my parents divorced. I didn't have much of a relationship with my dad until I got out of high school and went to the University of Georgia. I've said all the time that baseball has given our family everything. It's also taken away a lot because of the things we missed; those family relationships. I've always said that the opportunity to work with my grandfather would have closed a huge circle in our family. That never happened.
So for me personally, to be able to come back and work with my dad, be his son, take him to the doctor's office, take him to lunch, get his suitcase on the road, have a drink with him as an adult, be a colleague, and be his kid, I hope it was rewarding for him, because it was rewarding for me. I'm eternally grateful for the stupid stuff that he and I got to experience together for those five or six years before he died. It was life changing.
MLB.com: What was the seventh inning stretch like that day?
Chip Caray: I was like everybody else growing up in the Midwest. I came home from high school, watched the Cubs and saw this crazy, old, goofy dude with the big glasses sing terribly and laughed along with it. My impression that day was, "This is really cool. Wow, I’m related to this guy." God, it’s terrifying to see your future.
Then there was the fact that 10,000 sets of eyes or however many people were in attendance turned and looked at him. You know, that's when I started to come to grips with the idea that, you know, Harry Caray is a big deal. To me, he was my grandfather. From afar, I didn’t buy into the celebrity part of it. At the end of the day, it's supposed to be entertainment and fun. And he made those games fun.