Thursday, February 21, 2008

Here's to Harry

As I type this, I am joining many fans across the nation, toasting the 10th anniversary of Harry Cary’s death. In just two minutes, Harry’s widow, Dutchie, will be making a toast to Harry at Harry’s old restaurant in Chicago. I can’t believe that he’s been gone for ten years, especially since I feel that I am personally responsible for his death.


In March of 1998 I was at HoHO Kahm park in Mesa, Arizona, watching an exhibition game involving the Chicago Cubs. As was usual in those days, octogenarian Cubs announcer Harry Cary grabbed a mike in the middle of the 7th inning and lead us in “Take me out to the ball Game”. Harry usually left the park after that duty and as I saw him walking toward my seat and toward the exit that day it suddenly hit me that I really wanted to introduce myself to Harry. I’d been listening to the guy all of my life and I had always enjoyed the fact that he seemed to drink pretty heavily on his job. I also enjoyed the fact that he did not much care how he pronounced the player’s names, whether properly or not. He was just my kind of guy.


So Harry is strolling toward the exit with an entourage of hangers on and security men. I hesitated in leaving me seat. Indeed it was that hesitation that was my (and Harry’s) undoing. Realizing that Harry was moving faster than anticipated, I picked up my pace to a very fast walk, some may argue a trot, and I am not going to dispute the fine difference between the two forms of locomotion. At any rate, Harry looked up and saw this six four three, two hundred and whatever pound man moving toward him at a quick clip. I might have also had a rather determined look in my eye. Harry, I must say, over reacted, his did the rest of his crew. Harry flung himself backwards and up against a wall next to a restroom door and began to sort of slide or slither down the wall, limiting himself as a target in case I was armed. A couple of security guys stepped forward to block my progress. After a few seconds, the security noticed that my hand was stuck out in the universal sign of friendship and they relaxed a bit. Harry, his eyes clouded from drink and fear, slowly began to rise to his full old man height and he very gingerly, with bent are, stuck a hand over the arm of one of his protectors for me to wringe.He withdrew the hand as quickly as possible and, continuing to hug the wall, continued his exit from the ballpark. I will never forget the look of drunken terror behind those owlish black framed glasses. I took a second to recover my thoughts and began the walk back to my seat. I remember telling my friend Gaston, damn, I could have given him a heart attack. Gaston agreed and we both had a good laugh over it. We laughed about it right up until the next February when harry did die. I have felt responsible ever since.


Here’s to you Harry.


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