By the mid nineties I had been listening to Skip Caray call Braves baseball games on radio and television for almost two decades. I had grown used to him and I expected him to be there.
Around that time a fellow fanatic asked me if I had caught the TV broadcast of the previous night’s Braves game with the Colorado Rockies — an expansion team that the Braves dominated in those years. I forget why, but I hadn’t. We had lost, been upset by these lowly Rockies that we had owned, but my friend and fellow fan wasn’t interested in telling me about the game. He couldn’t wait to tell me how Skip Caray ended his commentary for the night, the button he put on the broadcast at the end: “The Braves were looking at this game like a walk in the park. Little did they know they were going to be mugged along the way.”
At that moment I had an epiphany: Skip Caray was simply the best baseball commentator I had experienced.
With his combination of skills he was now, to me, the Ted Williams of broadcasters — better than Dizzy Dean, Mel Allen, Red Barber, or Curt Gowdy.
I had enjoyed him all those years, but I had also taken him for granted all those years. Now I followed him with more intent. And I was always disappointed when he wasn’t in the booth. Everyone else seemed boring or amateurish by comparison.
Skip was unique — a one-of-a-kind combination of honesty, frankness, wisdom, humility and wit, a wit oftentimes acerbic but never cruel.
He delivered what he had to say with flawless diction and clarity. Did you ever hear him fall back on “uh” or “you know” or “I mean”?
But, unlike so many people with a command of the language, Skip wasn’t grand or showy about it. He could use Shakspeare and not come off as an out-of-place snob. He often made a particular allusion to Hamlet to help point to the inevitability of a fourth ball on an intentional walk: ” …and as the night follows the day.”
And he always deferred to those co-announcers who had actually played major league baseball. He knew they had a knowledge of the game that can only come with the experience of the game and not just the observance of it.
There was a strong simplicity about the way Skip Caray did his job. A few weeks ago he was doing the TV broadcast. The Braves were trailing by a run in the bottom of the ninth with two outs, but had men in scoring position. It was a moment of great hope. That hope was shattered when the batter struck out. Skip simply said, “Totals and highlights after this.” What he DIDN’T say at that moment said it all. His respect for his listeners — his fellow fans — kept him from stating the obvious. He allowed us to feel the impact of the moment.
There was nothing added or extra about him, nothing false. His integrity wouldn’t allow it. He was the best there ever was.
So long, Skip