I was saddened to hear this week of the passing of Skip Carey, the long-time announcer for the Atlanta Braves. Carey wasn’t the baseball announcer of my childhood – that would have been Milo Hamilton (who was not a favorite of mine). But I listened to Skip Carey all through my 20s and 30s and 40s…and, well, I’ve probably heard his voice more than just about anyone in my life with the exception of close family and friends. I know, it has been a life misspent listening to Braves baseball, but you can blame that on my dear, late mother.
There was a nice obit in yesterday’s NY Times about Carey, where they ended with his call of the 1992 NL Championship Series, when plodding, old (to us) Sid Bream trundled around third and barely beat the throw at the plate to put the Braves in the World Series. I was watching that game and I still remember that call (and remember jumping up and screaming in my living room.) Although the Braves had made the Series in 1991, for those of us who sat through many a bad Braves season in the 70s and 80s, going back was like heaven. And Skip got the call right.,,and the Times writer was great to include it.
Skip (you couldn’t call him anything else…hell, he was in your living room 5 nights a week), was sarcastic, funny, irreverent – and a real lover of baseball. A friend of mine indicated that he enjoyed listening to Skip call Atlanta Hawks basketball games as well and told the story of how – at the Boston Gardens one night – Skip said “I hear improvements are coming. They are tearing it down and putting a slum in its place.” I don’t watch much professional basketball, but the story certainly rings true.
While TBS no longer carries the large number of Braves games they did back in their Superstation heyday, it was still good to catch him every now and then. He will be missed.
The other day I was cleaning out files, and I found this wonderful article by Tom Boswell from the 1980s entitled Why Is Baseball So Much Better Than Football? Let Me Count the Ways in which Boswell gives 99 reasons and promises “More after lunch.” Some of my favorites that relate – at least in my mind – to Skip Carey are:
#24: Marianne Moore loved Christy Mathewson. No woman of quality has ever preferred football to baseball. (My mother was testament to the truth of that statement – and sorry if I’ve offended any of my female readers, but giving offense was something Skip did on a regular basis.)
#26: The best football announcer ever was Howard Cosell.
#27: The worst baseball announcer ever was Howard Cosell.
#63: The baseball Hall of Fame is in Cooperstown, N.Y., beside James Fenimore Cooper’s Lake Glimmerglass; the football Hall of Fame is in Canton, Ohio, beside the freeway. (An aside: this is true – I’ve seen both, but only stopped to visit Cooperstown).
#68: Baseball enriches language and imagination at almost every point of contact. As John Lardner put it, “Babe Herman did not triple into a triple play, but he did double into a double play, which is the next best thing.”
#81: Football players, somewhere back in their phylogenic development, learned how to talk like football coaches. (“Our goals this week were to contain Dickerson and control the line of scrimmage.”) Baseball players say things like, “This pitchers so bad that when he comes in, the grounds crew drags the warning track.” (Another aside: Skip would have LOVED that line…and probably used it on some occasion. And only a great baseball writer like Tom Boswell would use a word like “phylogenic.”)
#82: Football coaches walk across the field after a game and pretend to congratulate the opposing coach. Baseball managers head right for the beer. (Third aside: Skip often indicated on the air that he loved to drink…which may have led to that liver problem mentioned in his obit. But read the line in there about “the bases are loaded and I wish I was as well.” Pure Skip.)
#86: Baseball measures a gift for dailiness.
#88: Football, because of its self-importance, minimizes a sense of humor. Baseball cultivates one. Knowing you’ll lose at least 60 games every season makes self-deprecation a survival tool. As Casey Stengel said to his barber,” Don’t cut my throat. I may want to do that myself later.”
#92: Turning the car radio dial on a summer night.
Thanks for the memories, Skip.
More to come…