Caray savors bond he had forged with dad
Years after Skip's death, Chip reminded of father daily
Distanced because of a divorce and the daily demands of a long baseball season, Chip Caray spent his youthful days in suburban St. Louis savoring every opportunity he gained to hear the voices of his grandfather and father beamed through the power of cable television.
Many afternoons were spent watching his grandfather, Harry Caray, complete his duties as the Cubs' beloved broadcaster on WGN. When evening arrived, it was time to flip to TBS to watch the Braves and at least gain a sense of what might be going on in his father's life.
"The way I was able to keep in touch with him was when cable came to the western suburbs of St. Louis in the early '80s," Caray said. "Like everybody else in America, I watched Skip [Caray], Pete [Van Wieren] and Ernie [Johnson] on TBS, and I could just tell instinctively from the sound of my dad's voice, or how he described a play, whether it was a good day or a bad day."
It has been two years since the Braves sadly said goodbye to Skip Caray, who had the opportunity to go to his grave with the satisfaction that he had spent the previous 3 1/2 years developing a father-son bond that Chip continues to savor on a daily basis.
When the younger Caray reports to Target Field to handle his broadcasting duties on Sunday, he'll be missing his dad on Father's Day and drawing fond memories of the one they finally had a chance to share together while calling a Braves game in Cincinnati on June 19, 2005.
Just three months earlier, Chip had become the newest member of the Braves' broadcast team.
"It's kind of funny because of our careers we never got to spend a whole lot of time together in a ballpark until we got to work together," Chip said. "So it was kind of an odd day for us. I think it was kind of bittersweet for my dad. The sweet part was that he got to be with me. The bitter part was that it reminded him that his dad wasn't there anymore."
Over the course of the past 2 1/2 seasons, Chip has entered the television booth at Turner Field with bittersweet emotions. It gives him great pride to be working within a booth that is named the "Skip Caray Broadcast Booth." But at the same time, he is constantly reminded of how much he appreciated the short time that he and Skip had to truly form a father-son relationship.
"It gets very hard to walk in that booth every night," Chip said. "I see that big beautiful picture of my dad. I know he's happy, he's smiling and he's not hurting anymore. But he left too fast, and it was just as we started to reconnect and rekindle as one. It's a big void."
During his childhood days, Chip would have a chance to spend about two weeks every summer with his father in Atlanta. He'd serve as a batboy during this short stretch and enjoy the late-night discussions they would have about the game they had just witnessed earlier that evening.
But the two didn't truly develop a strong relationship until the younger Caray ended his role as a Cubs broadcaster at the end of the 2004 season and traveled to Atlanta excited about a chance to reunite with the Braves family and get to know the man that he referred to as "dad".
During the 3 1/2 seasons they shared as members of the same broadcast team, the Carays shared their passion for baseball and routinely arrived at Turner Field with jokes or funny tales about the traffic they had just encountered while journeying to downtown Atlanta.
All of this abruptly came to an end on Aug. 4, 2008, when the younger Caray finished calling a game for TBS at Yankee Stadium and learned that his father had suddenly passed. Just three days earlier, Skip had called what would prove to be his final Braves game.
"The first year after he died was the hardest for me, because those ballpark rides were always so much fun," Chip said. "We would laugh, scream and yell at the traffic and make fun of the people at the [Department of Transportation]. He'd tell me how to drive. He was a terrible front-seat driver, but now those rides are really, really quiet. I miss him giving me a hard time. That's what he was so good at."
During their short time working together, the Carays established a bond that allowed them to move past the fact that they had spent so much of their lives apart from each other. In the process, a son appreciated the chance to see his father prove that he was indeed a loving parent.
"I think he felt he got a chance to be a dad," Chip said. "He was always very regretful that he wasn't there for me and my sister during our formative years. I'm just very grateful for the time that we had together and grateful that we had a chance to share our love for these players, [manager] Bobby Cox and the Braves organization. It just sort of cemented our bond as a family more so than colleagues."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.