The first thought in my mind was getting to the apartment as fast as possible so I could get downtown before the festivities were over. This was exhilarating— A weekend in the big city surrounded by some of my favorite people. I had completed the first step of flying into Chicago alone and was ready to use the eL as my main transport for the next few days.
I dropped off my stuff— luckily the apartment was on the way— and headed downtown to hear his voice yelling from the top of the balcony. On the main floor were thousands and thousands of die- hard, Cubby- blue- blooded Chicago Cubs fans. Above us were our heroes from television, posters and the Friendly Confines.
This was my senior trip and I was in what my 17 year old mind had equated to heaven. No beaches, no lakes, no oceans. I was in Chicago in January. And for 2 and half days I would hang out with Cubs players, fans and announcers. I think I was most excited for the announcers. One in particular. Harry Carey.
He was seriously one of my favorite people on earth. And on Sunday he was allowing people to take pictures with him. This was priority one! I had been a major fan since he came back to announcing on my birthday in 1987 after he had a stroke and was out for months recovering. I wasn’t as important apparently as President Ronald Reagan in welcoming him back but no less pleased.
Harry was old, well past everyone’s retirement age and sometimes it showed. Most likely that is one of the things that fans like me enjoyed about his announcing. He was so crotchety and stumble-y and occasionally confusing. But he made the game fun with his excitement and real sadness when the Cubs blew a one run lead, again. While we still lived in Chicago it was a ritual to turn the sound on the TV down and turn on the radio during the middle 3 innings to keep listening to Harry. This tradition kind of continued when I watch Cubs games on WGN Cable because I started sleeping during those 3 innings. It is the perfect time for a Saturday afternoon nap!
So with this excitement I am at Cubs Convention 1997 and ready to meet Rick Sutcliffe, Andre Dawson, Ryne Sandberg, Harry and all those other guys that came. I remember the first night I was having my “retired” Cubs hat signed and a couple of the players commented it was time for a new one, which I think I pointed to my head and my new bright fitted cap. Of course I thought they were joking, or trying to sell me a new one. In fact, some of these guys whose names I don’t remember were full of themselves. Luckily not all were, and I do remember getting to shake Rick Sutcliffe’s hand as he talked to some guys about the rotation of some new pitcher’s curveball. He was nice.
I remember hanging out with Ronnie Woo-WOO, and some of the bleacher bums, and plotting my eventual move back to the North side so I too could become a regular in the bleachers. This was of course when those tickets were $10 and less.
Honestly, I probably sat in a lot of corners, stood in a lot of lines and was my standard introverted self. But I don’t remember that part 13 years later.
On Sunday, the time arrived and I was standing in line for my picture with the Great Harry Caray. I was super excited and am thinking what I will say. Will I tell him that I turn down the TV and listen to the radio just to keep hearing him? Will I tell him I liked his book “Holy Cow” and said it as my favorite book for many years? Or will I tell him that the day he came back from his stroke was my eighth birthday and that made me a huge fan?
It was my time to get my picture. He was seated on the far side of a couch and you got to sit next to him and shake his hand. In my nervousness, I told him about making my 8th birthday fun and he told me, “That’s great kid”.
WHOA! Harry Caray just spoke to me. The dude that started “Take me out to the ballgame” and was a Cubs Fan and Bud Man, just spoke to me! I think one hour photo might have been used to develop that picture and I was so happy. As I went back to school and church, people asked where I had gone. “To meet Harry Caray” or “On my senior trip” was the response a lot of times. This trip is still one of my favorite weekends in time and it was the day that I met Harry.
This was originally published by me as The Day I Met Harry on 13 June 2010.