Baseball mourns loss of Skip Caray

Baseball mourns loss of Skip Caray

ATLANTA -- The Braves family lost one of its most beloved members on Sunday, when Skip Caray passed away at his Atlanta-area home.

Caray, who would have celebrated his 69th birthday on Aug. 12, went to take a nap Sunday afternoon and didn't awaken. He is survived by his wife, Paula, two sons, Chip and Josh, two daughters, Shayelyn and Cindy, and seven grandchildren.

"Our baseball community has lost a legend today," said Braves president John Schuerholz. "The Braves family and Braves fans everywhere will sadly miss him. Our thoughts are with his wife Paula and his children."

The two sons will carry on the family's rich broadcasting tradition, which began with Skip's father, Harry Caray, a Hall of Fame announcer who remains one of the most popular figures in baseball history.

Josh currently calls games for the Braves' Class A affiliate in Rome, Ga., and Chip serves as both a Braves announcer and the play-by-play announcer for TBS' Major League Baseball coverage. Chip was broadcasting Sunday's game between the Angels and Yankees at Yankee Stadium when he heard the startling news about his father.

"I'm just in shock," Chip said. "I know he wasn't feeling good, but this was unexpected. He hung the moon for me. I got to talk to him [on Saturday], and the last thing I got to say to him was, 'I love you.'"

Caray, who began broadcasting Braves games in 1976, battled multiple ailments over the past year that he linked to diabetes. When he wasn't available to broadcast this past weekend's series against the Brewers, it was revealed that he was suffering from bronchitis.

Although he was visibly weaker, Caray still brought his smile and humor to the ballpark on a consistent basis this season. Since the final month of last season, he had been limited to broadcasting only home games.

"We are deeply saddened by the loss of Skip Caray, whose Hall of Fame-worthy career behind the microphone was instrumental in the growth of Turner Sports from regional telecaster to national sports broadcaster," Turner Sports president David Levy said in a statement. "While Skip's work on our NBA and NFL coverage was significant, his legendary calls and trademark wit on TBS baseball are what resonated most with fans nationally and will not soon be forgotten. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Caray family." Caray was hospitalized during the latter portion of last season and faced even greater complications once the season concluded.

Mark Teixeira
Skip Caray: 1939-2008

In October 2007, doctors were concerned enough about Caray's health that they asked for all of his family members to come to the hospital to possibly pay their last respects. His liver was failing and the doctors in the intensive care unit felt they had done all that they could do.

"We are overwhelmed by the number of friends, colleagues, co-workers, MLB players and people in the baseball community who have reached out to us and so grateful and touched by their support and prayers," Caray's family said in a statement. "We are also deeply appreciative by the outpouring of support from the fans who grew up watching him and shared the ride."

Caray battled back and spent most of this past winter continuing to fight ailments that were affecting his liver, kidneys and heart. He said some of his prescribed medications worked in a counteractive manner and made it difficult for him to sleep.

When Caray returned to broadcast games at the beginning of this season, he talked about his near-death experience and said that he was happy to at least have an opportunity to return to the baseball world that had provided so much to himself and his family.

"I'm 68," Caray said on April 2. "If I go tonight, I've had a hell of a life."

While his presence may be gone, Caray's voice will continue forever live with the history of the Braves. His most memorable call arguably came when he exclaimed, "Yes! Yes! Yes!" after Braves center fielder Marquis Grissom caught the final out of the 1995 World Series.

The son of a Hall of Fame broadcaster, Skip devoted much of his life to the broadcasting world. He began his broadcasting career at KMOX Radio in St. Louis as host of a 15-minute high school sports show and later had an opportunity to broadcast University of Missouri football games with his father.

While he was most recognizable as a baseball announcer, Caray's versatile broadcasting skills allowed him to serve as an announcer for NBA games, NFL games, and other ventures like the Goodwill Games. He was named Georgia Sportscaster of the Year six times.

Caray's baseball broadcasting career began in 1963 with the Tulsa Oilers. He joined the NBA's St. Louis Hawks' broadcasting team in 1967 and relocated with them to Atlanta the following year.

Caray's arrival in Atlanta allowed him the opportunity to develop a friendship and working relationship with Ted Turner, whose innovative media initiatives allowed Caray and his close friend, Pete Van Wieren, to broadcast Braves games to a national audience on a superstation that would become TBS.

Caray and Van Wieren began broadcasting Braves games together in 1976 and were still serving as broadcast partners during radio broadcasts this season. Both of them were inducted in the Braves Hall of Fame in 2004.

Last year, when TBS ended its 30-year affiliation with the Braves, Caray was saddened to know he was saying goodbye to a number of people that had been so good to him. He was always extremely grateful for the outpouring of sympathy he received after his father died in 1998.

"In essence, you're saying goodbye to people who you've been part of their life for a long time," Caray said last August. "My access to them will now be denied."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.