Remembering Skip Caray, August 4 Game Thread (by ‘Rissa)

Editor’s note: This should have gone up yesterday, the fifth anniversary of Skip Caray’s death. I apologize for not putting it up sooner.

“Like lambs to the slaughter, the Braves take the field.” For many Braves fans in the ’70s and ’80s, Skip Caray helped to make watching the team more bearable in the years when they were, to put it nicely, not good. Could you accuse him of “homerism”? Yeah, probably. But at least he was vocalizing how you felt. He would certainly cheer with you, but he would also criticize poor play and call things like he saw them. “This is as much fun as writing an alimony check.” And it was.

Or so I’ve been told. By time I was old enough to take an interest in the sport, the ’91 team had already gone worst to first, and the playoffs were an annual event. I was definitely spoiled by the Braves’ success that was a part of my entire childhood. TBS brought the Braves to me each night, but Skip made me love them. His knowledge of where fans who caught foul balls was part of the magic of the ’90’s Braves (I am ashamed to admit how old I was before I realized he made them all up), and his monotone reading of promotions that required enthusiasm could always get a chuckle out of me (“Toyota. Oh! Oh! Oh, what a feeling!”) I was heartbroken when the new MLB on TBS regulated Skip and Pete to the radio booth, and overjoyed when fan protests forced TBS to put them back on television. Some of my best childhood memories started with “Hello, there, Braves fans, and welcome to Braves baseball on the Superstation. Along with Pete Van Wieren, I’m Skip Caray!”

Five years ago today, the baseball world lost the man who could always fearlessly give the Atlanta traffic report during an away game without even validating it first. “I-285: bad; I-75: bad; I-85: bad. Spaghetti Junction is just that, and the Grady curve is a parking lot.” I had randomly switched on the radio a few nights before and caught a game he was doing. I distinctly remember thinking how great it was to hear him again, after his health had regulated him to only doing sporadic home games. All seemed right with the world again. Little did I dream that broadcast would be his last. It contained so many wonderful Skipisms that had been a regular part of Braves baseball for so long.

His joyous cry of “There’s a drive!” would often end with “Caught!” I learned never to get excited about a homerun until I could confirm it had actually gone over the fence. During an intentional walk, his play-by-play always included, “As day follows the night…ball four.” In close games you would hear that “a little insurance would be nice,” and throughout the division title run we often enjoyed “the stretch…the pitch…there’s a chopper to Chipper.” Many times the “Jones boys, no relation” would “hit the daylights out of that one.” In quick games we were “zipping right along here,” while a pitcher throwing over to first during a long game that contained “free baseball” would cause Skip to exclaim, “Oh, now, that’s all we need.”

During the less than stellar ’70s and ’80s, his humor shone through. “The bases are loaded, and I wish I was too.” When the games were well out of reach, he would be known to give viewers permission to go walk their dog, as long as they patronized the game’s sponsors. After Ted Turner forbid his newscasters to use the word “foreign” in an attempt to give CNN a more global appeal, Skip calmly explained that a batter had called time and stepped out of the batter’s box because “he had an international object in his eye.” Once, during an extra-inning game, Pete mentioned that a senior citizens group was at the game, and without missing a beat Skip intoned, “They were young when they got here.” When attendance was down, he would note “Folks, it’s blue seat night. Dress like a blue seat and get in free.”

To Skip, everything was possible. With the Braves trailing big early in a game, he once commented, “Well, a single here, a double there, a couple of walks, a home run, another double, another home run, a few more singles, another home run…and we’re right back in this one!” Another time he declared, “Just as soon as Chris [Chambliss] figures out how to hit an 11-run homer, we’ll be fine.”

He could predict the future at times: “When [Kevin] Mitchell hits into the 6-4-3, The Magnificent Seven will be coming on. Six. Four. Three. Hope that movie’s ready!” You also never knew what he might observe about the players he saw every day. “Andres [Thomas] has an interesting strike zone—he’ll swing at anything between the on-deck circles.” “Bob Horner has deceptive speed—he’s slower than he looks.” He would often offer to pitch in an extra $100 if Raphael Belliard hit a homer during the Goody’s Home Run Jackpot Inning. Opponents were not immune from him, either. He always saved a special wrath for the slow-working Steve Trachsel, who, “because of the rules, will inevitably have to throw one.” “The pitch…a ball. He better throw over to first again.” “Look at his own outfielders. They are all pictures of disgust.”

If the 100-loss teams managed to string a few victories together, Skip would comment, “win, win, win…it gets boring after awhile.” Once the Braves started actually winning and began to reel off division titles, he would often say, “Boy, this is fun!” Some of his most iconic calls are forever paired with the most exciting moments in Atlanta Braves’ history: “He is…SAFE! Braves win! Braves win! Braves win! Braves win! They may have to hospitalize Sid Bream.” “Fly ball, deep left center…Grissom on the run…YES! YES! YES! Your Atlanta Braves have given you a championship! Listen to this crowd!”

Even in those later, successful years, his humor never failed him. During the opening of the first game the Braves ever played in Arizona, Skip stared straight into the camera and threatened, “Hello Braves fans. The next person who says it’s a dry heat gets it in the neck.” After a ball struck a pigeon during a game at Shea Stadium, Skip said in a very matter of fact manner, “all the statues in New York are applauding.” During one of the last games he ever called, he noted “I’m sure that when the Braves AAA team opens their season at their new stadium in Gwinnett, the Department of Transportation will decide to pave the roads around that ballpark.”

Braves’ fans were lucky to have him for as long as we did. With his dry humor and wit, spoken in his nasally voice, no longer there to guide us through Braves’ games, we have to figure out on our own the hometowns of the fans who catch foul balls (“A fan from Kansas City comes away with that one…must be on vacation.”) Skip certainly left us with some treasured memories. I just wish we could “have it to do all over again.”

“So long, everybody…”

171 thoughts on “Remembering Skip Caray, August 4 Game Thread (by ‘Rissa)”

  1. Just fantastic, Alex. My favorite memory of Skip is the way he would listen to Don Sutton (whom I am on record as loving and to whose commentary I ascribe much of what I understand about pitching) go on at the mouth for a bit like a slightly loopy uncle. Once Sutton’s meandering train of thought finally lumbered to a stop, there would be a long pause…and then Skip, dry as a martini sans the vermouth: “Thaaaaaaat’s right, Don.”

    Classic. Better than Abbott and Costello.

    By the way, a nice bit about Terry Pendleton’s opinion of Andrelton Simmons’s value in today’s Buster Olney column. Apparently TP calls Simmons “The Reason” – as in, the reason the Braves are very good. Great piece. You can read it here.

  2. Phenomenal.

    There are very few people I would ever try to emulate when it comes to broadcasting the games I am fortunate enough to get to call. However, if I could be half as good as Skip and/or Vin Scully, I would be very satisfied with any baseball game (or any football or basketball game) I am asked to broadcast.

  3. Great post, ‘Rissa. For future reference, I think the word you are looking for is “relegated” and not “regulated.”

  4. Oh, my mistake. Of course my congratulations should go to ‘Rissa, not Alex. Wonderful post.

  5. Goosebumps, indeed. Beautiful, beautiful post, and exciting video.

    Watching Wohlers and Grissom make me excited for this postseason.

  6. That moment where Grissom catches the ball, and Skip and Joe scream call-and-response “Yeah,” and how Skip gets back in to calling the action on the field and Joe continues to yell “Yeah!” behind him… that’s just magic to me.

    What I think makes Skip, and that whole broadcast team, so elemental is that they perfectly bridge the gap between the team, and the fan. All game, every game, a broadcaster walks a line between watching and wondering, along with the fans, but still, he’s a part of the club, both as a coworker and traveling companion, but also as an outward representative.

    But Skip was so willing to, and good at, blurring that line.

    When you tune in to watch any team, you’re watching the team plus its presenters. When you tuned in to watch the Braves, you were also watching Skip and Joe and Pete and Don. In that sense, they were part of the Braves. But when skip poked fun at the team or spoke frankly when others might not, he was one of us.

    And when he earnestly celebrated their victory, he was both. He was us, and he was them. He was a teammate, there through all of it. And in that moment, that ecstatic, euphoric moment, so were we.

    Thanks Skip.

  7. Win tonight and it’s 12.5 going into DC. Which means a sweep means it’s still a 9.5 game lead. Sweep them the other way and you’re looking at a second place New York Mets team.

    Let’s do that latter.

  8. As expected, Fredi slots Heyward back into the leadoff slot with BJ batting seventh ahead of Simmons. Like that.

  9. @18, It’s almost as if your default setting isn’t to nitpick and criticize everything Fredi does! And they say strawmen don’t have brains. ;-)

  10. ‘Rissa, thank you for reminding me of Skip’s anti-Trachsel opines. Again, I wish old games were readily available for download from MLB or whomever. I’d order up a random Trachsel v. Braves game just to relive the memories.

  11. @24, It ain’t me, babe. I’m on record for applauding Fredi for his Heyward at leadoff, Simba in the 8-spot lineup, so I’m already caving to the groupthink.

  12. Thanks for that ‘Rissa. The only thing you left out was the beginning. For us old timers, it’s hard to describe what a breath of fresh air Skip was after the unctuous Milo Hamilton was fired. That that “fresh air” stayed fresh for so long was a wonder.

  13. @14, the Spink award is reserved for true giants of the baseball writing genre, like Bill Conlin and Murray Chass.

  14. At this point I think it’s fair to say CJ say turned the tables: he is mean to the regression, not regressing to the mean.

  15. I absolutely LOVE when Struggla goes down looking on the pitch right down the pipe. Jeesh

  16. Wood has the letters BM written into his ball cap. Brian McCann? Bunt More? Bowel Movement?

  17. @41

    Is it a BM or an 84? I thought the latter, but they’re not giving me a better look.

  18. You know what’s weird? I just thought to myself, “CJ is everything that I ever really wanted or expected in Prado.”

  19. @41 Bad Mechanics?

    But if he keeps making outs, let his mechanics be bad.

    Who is this Upton guy? Because he’s not the original Bupton.

  20. So happy they could work in some stuff on biogenesis during the game. And they’re coming back later with more? Awesome!

  21. I notice Uggla is back down under .200. In the grand scheme of things, I’ll deal with that, given his power numbers, but just from the POV of having a little self-respect… Damn. I mean, how do you be a Major League ballplayer and be okay with that? (I say that because, unlike BJ and Jason, you don’t hear a lot about Dan trying hard to improve at the plate. He may, but you don’t hear about it.)

  22. @58, yeah, highlight of the game so far.

    PS: It might have been fun for the announcers to note that CJ just started a brand new multi-hit game streak in the very third inning they were talking over. But…Biogenesis! Yeah!

  23. MELVIN!

    EDIT: the arrangement out there with fans RIGHT behind that screen is totally stupid. It invites reviews.

  24. BJ!!!!

    Thank you ESPN, for interviewing Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee, while BJ crushed that ball. It really added to the experience.

  25. There is absolutely no evidence that that shouldn’t be a home run.

    In addition, every time this happens when we’re in the field, it doesn’t get overturned. I will be displeased if they overturn this one.

  26. Tying it into ‘Rissa’s game thread, seeing Rich Dubee does remind me of Skip’s singing Dubee’s name to the tune of “Strangers in the Night”.

  27. We’ve already had several minutes of game delays because whoever designed this stadium is an idiot.

    Oh screw you umps. Screw you.

  28. @79

    We discovered earlier this year that you can review fan interference, you just can’t give the batting team an out via review unless it was called that way on the field. It’s either a double or a home run.

  29. You’ve got the god damn pitcher up behind you, you have to get that guy to third so a grounder will drive him in.

  30. This stadium puts fans in an impossible position: don’t interfere and let a home run ball hit you, do interfere and risk all kinds of ugly outcomes, or jump out of the way and fall to your death.

  31. Wood made him throw 6 pitches though, so not a bad at bat for a pitcher

    Edit- Nice job J-Hey

  32. Just now getting in on the fun tonight. Two overturned home runs called in one game? The first one was more enjoyable to see.

    Thanks for all of the kind words above. Skip was one of my favorites. I always love hearing people’s favorite stories about him!

  33. Basically, it hit a guy’s hand, bounced off a fat guy’s gut, hit the top of the rail, and came back on the field.

  34. Scored the run anyway. No thanks to the umps or the moron who wasn’t escorted out. (Don’t they escort fans out who interfere with balls in play?)

    There ya go, Justin!

  35. I don’t think fans should be thrown out of games unless they’re blatantly infringing on play. I don’t think it was at all clear that it was fan interference, anyway, but even if it was, throwing a fan out for daring to try to catch a ball that’s less than an arm length away is absurd. That doesn’t count as “doing something wrong” in my book.

  36. I hate the Phillies and their fans as much as anyone but everyone within five feet of that ball had the right to reach out for it if only for self preservation.

  37. Gattis approached Kruk for his thoughts on the “Art of Hitting?”

    And nobody stopped Gattis? Thanks a heap, guys.

  38. I remember Kruk’s thoughts being quoted as, “See the ball, and commence to hacking.”

  39. Maybe ‘moron’ was a strong word.

    These Jeffrey Maier-type incidents could be avoided if all stadiums were built like Turner Field, where it’s impossible to reach over the outfield.

  40. Nice. And huge block by Simba. I always wondered why more people didn’t do that when guys come back head first with just a stray arm.

  41. Good grief, Ruf just slung the bat after that flyout like he’d hit one to Pat’s Cheesesteaks.

  42. I approve of Alex Wood’s on-going campaign to make me look like a fool for thinking he wasn’t ready to start in the bigs.

  43. So, Wood is through 6 with 98 pitches. Do you send him back out there to throw those 2 more, get it right up to 100?

  44. @120

    He was thinking about how quickly he’s gonna make a beeline to Pat’s after the game and got excited about it.

  45. Alex — I agree with you about Kruk. What gets me is that I think (hope?) that most of his fat dumb jock act is an act. I like all of the genuine Kruk and hate the cutesy Kruk. YMMV on where to draw the line.

    The call in question was the “second baseman making the transfer so out at second” Actually, I didn’t think it was any worse than the typical call of that play. I think the argument is really that if he hadn’t been trying to throw to first, he’d have caught it, which is correct.

  46. @127 – I was being facetious.

    @126 – McCann grounded the third, relay went to second, Utley muffed it and the ump said it was in the transfer, gave him the out at second. But he never actually had the ball.

  47. Utley was trying to catch that ball two-handed and put his bare hand in his glove before the ball got there, accidentally. So the ball enters the glove, hits his bare hand and comes out of the glove. That counts as catching the ball and dropping it while taking it out of your glove, apparently.

  48. Tonight’s game is on ESPN, which means it is blacked out on MLB.tv, which means I don’t have video feed. Just GameDay. So I don’t really have a feel for how Wood has been laboring the last few innings. He seemed to get through the sixth with very little effort (but again, just GameDay so I don’t really know.)

    Unless I’m missing something, I would send him back out for the 7th. Not for two more pitches. To see if he can get three outs in a row and call it a night at 115 or so.

    100 pitch limits are guidelines, not hard and fast rules. If he’s going to be a big league starter, he needs to be able to throw 115-120 pitches on a good night.

  49. @128

    He’s gotta actually catch the ball. Utley failed to do that. It was different from catching it and immediately dropping in it because you’re trying to transfer. He never actually had control of the ball.

    Incidentally, it would be nice if we could get another run here and save ourselves from having to rest Kimbrel in Game 1 of the Washington series. Along the same lines, if it’s a three-run game, I’d just go ahead and rest Kimbrel today.

  50. I’m not really disagreeing with you Nick. It’s the way they’ve called that play for years, though, so I just didn’t think this was a particularly egregious counterexample.

  51. I don’t suppose an ESPN producer could tell Orel Hershiser how to pronounce “Andrelton.”

  52. And for the record, yes, I think Ayala and David Carpenter can get through the Phillies last six outs tonight.

  53. @135

    I have a note to cover Orel’s confusion of our shortstop with Reginald Dwight in my recap (subbing in for Mavery).

    On that note, Alex, how do I go about posting on this new site? Is there a new login page?

  54. Varvaro hasn’t pitched since 8-1. You might trust him with a 3 run lead.

    EDIT: If Downs gets Kratz and Young in order, you can send him back out to face Utley leading off the 9th.

  55. Kruk just gave Papelbon an alibi regarding his recent remarks and said the following: “He said, hey, I’m not discluding me from this. I need to pitch better.” Discluding is now the opposite of including.

    Edit: jjschiller, we jinxed so I must buy you a Coke.

  56. Normally a Fredi defender, am I, but not on this one.

    Just start with the obvious… use him today and he’ll be unavailable tomorrow. And we might NEED him tomorrow, unlike today.

  57. Where are all the people who were saying that 85 games of .500 ball were a better indicator of team quality than the 12-1 start? (Note: I am NOT saying that the 12-1 start is a better indicator either.)

  58. Anyway, great game. Very happy to see the team operating at all cylinders. Heck, BJ had two hits, Andrelton drew a walk, what more do you want in a game?

  59. @163, I don’t recall that I made any statements of “belief” one way or the other. I will say that 85 games of .500 ball certainly *feels* like a better indicator than a single 12-1 stretch. And, frankly, after enduring August-October of 2011, I’m more inclined to operate on feeling than placing my faith in the certainties of playoff probabilities.

  60. No 13 game run is indicative of anything other than how the team played for 13 games. The best indicator of the team’s overall skill is the overall record. Which is pretty good. They’re not a 13-1 team. They’re not a .500 team. They’re a damned good team who can reel off 10 in a row when they’re on but don’t lose more than 2 or 3 in a row when they’re struggling.

    That’s a really good team.

  61. Yeah, you can’t choose either set of games. You have to take the whole picture. I’m sure if you searched through the threads you’d read John say somewhere that this team was mediocre and the 12-1 start was a fluke, but I think he’d have a real hard time saying it now.

    You’re never as high as your highs or as low as your lows.

  62. If you play 500 when you’re doing poorly, and 22-0 when you’re going good, that’s a good team.

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