Lemme Hear 'Ya!
2/25/2013 9:45:00 AM
The Cubs want to revamp the ballpark experience at Wrigley Field. The team wants to make sure the people who sing “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” actually know something about the Cubs or Harry Caray. It’s about time.
I’m a White Sox fan. But I am a Chicagoan and a baseball fan. The modern tradition of singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” started in at Comiskey Park in 1976. Haray Caray was the announcer for the White Sox back then, and he had a tendency to warble the old baseball standard during the Seventh Inning Stretch. At one point during the ’76 season, Bill Veeck stuck a ballpark mic in Harry’s broadcast booth.
Harry did not have much of a singing voice, but Veeck encouraged Harry to sing loud and proud. Veeck thought the fans would be encouraged to sing along with Harry, because they knew they could do a better job of carrying a tune.
Harry Caray and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” were part of the fun at Comiskey Park during the “South Side Hit Men” summer of 1977, and the tradition stuck.
Harry Caray and Jimmy Piersall were the biggest stars on the White Sox. If the players or the manager did something they didn’t like…they would say so. The players clearly didn’t like the fact that they were being criticized from the booth. This led to clashes over the years. In the early 70’s, Harry had confrontations with slugger Bill Melton and manager Chuck Tanner.
When Jerry Reinsdorf and Eddie Einhorn bought the Sox from Veeck in 1981, they also bought Harry and Jimmy. In the early days of the new ownership, Einhorn was responsible for the baseball side of things…and that included the broadcasters. Einhorn was the former head of CBS Sports. He was used to Brent Musberger and Vin Scully. To him, Harry Caray was unprofessional. The two butted heads throughout the 1981 season.
In the fall of 1981, it appeared the bad feeleings had been papered over. Caray had talked to Reinsdorf, and it looked like he would stick around for 1982, despite the fact that most of the games would be on a pay-TV outlet called SportsVision.
At the last minute, Caray bolted for WGN TV, WGN Radio, and the Cubs. He brought the act with him, and he became a national star thanks to the national reach of WGN on cable. In 1998, he died a legend. The tradition of singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” would continue, with “guest conductors” singing the song.
But the “guest conductors” have been a mixed bag. Some actually get it. Others see Wrigley Field as another stop on the publicity tour…or the pub crawl.
So it would make sense that the Cubs would want to bring the song back to its roots. For example, in the 15 years since Harry Caray died, the memory of Harry Caray is not of the man himself…but of the Will Ferrell version of Harry Caray.
Everyone who sings the song…should watch a couple of examples of the master.
Underneath the boozy exterior, Harry Caray was an extremely savvy broadcaster. When Comiskey Park was rocking with “Na Na Hey Hey Goodbye” and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” in 1977, he went to a recording studio in Indiana to record disco versions of both songs. He knew he would have a higher profile on WGN-TV than SportsVision. He attached his name to a restaurant in 1987, which has since turned into a successful chain with locations throughout the Chicago area.
I’m glad the Cubs are making an effort to pull the song away from the likes of Jeff Gordon, Ozzy Osbourne, and Denise Richards. Harry deserves better.