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Letter From Kentucky: I Hated Harry Caray And Other Observations On The Cubs Bandwagon

Dee Davis is the founder of Center for Rural Strategies, which "seeks to improve economic and social conditions for communities in the countryside and around the world through the creative and innovative use of media and communications." He is also on the board of directors of Media Burn, a Chicago-based video archival organization. Dee writes a weekly NFL e-mail that found its way to the Beachwood through Media Burn's Tom Weinberg, a pal of our White Sox writer Roger Wallenstein. We thought it was worth posting, though we skipped the football picks.

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Long before Harry Caray (not his real name) was a Will Ferrell character, he was the St. Louis Cardinals' play-by-play guy on KMOX. I hated him.

I'd listen to the games under the sheets on my transistor, rooting for no good to happen to Tim McCarver that tool or Julian Javier who never bothered anyone, but mostly to Harry Caray, the smug bastard. He was a wildly popular announcer, beer spokesman, and, not known to me, a drinking buddy and fellow womanizer with St. Louis owner Gussie Busch.

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Harry was not as close to Gussie's son and heir to the Budweiser empire, August III, but he did happen to be conspicuously friendly with August III's young blonde wife. Shortly after taking her out for a scandalous public nibble and pawing at Tony's fine dining, Caray was struck by a hit-and-run driver seen revving his engine in wait. Big Gussie sent Harry to Florida to recuperate on his dime in his mansion, but the III had the corporate detectives (ex-FBI) create a dossier on the announcer that finished him in St. Louis. Under actual cover of darkness Harry slipped away to Chicago where he would soon be employed by Bill Veeck, Tom Weinberg and a legion of right-sized White Sox investors.

I am told by Veeck biographer and Pine Mountain competitor Tom that at old Comiskey Harry always sang "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the seventh-inning stretch in the booth by himself. Team owner Veeck wanted him to sing it over the P.A., but Harry refused unless Veeck paid extra, which he would not. Then one day when Harry was singing, Veeck turned on the mic, the crowd roared, and a spontaneous tradition began that Bill Murray and Eddie Vedder carried on long after Caray figured out how to get the Cubs to pay for it.

So it's a 108 years later and time this football letter hopped on the Cubbie bandwagon.

Here is my all-time favorite Cubs team.

Announcer: Jack Brickhouse (Budweiser III should've backed up over Harry when he had him down).

Manager: A lot of great names: Maddon, Durocher, Piniella, Baker, Zimmer, and Riggleman is at least a funny name. But the Cubs went five years in the '60s with a rotating "College of Coaches" managing cooperatively until they topped out at 103 losses. Even now a disruptive idea.

Pitchers: I like Chapman throwing at 102. The Cuban Missile was my favorite Red hurler until he shot up his garage and domestic tranquility in Cincinnati, sadly reducing his trade value. I also loved Bruce Sutter when he threw that unhittable forkball. Honorable mention to Kerry Wood and Travis Wood. "Cubs got Wood up in the bullpen."

Third base: I go with Ron Santo. Good stick. He led my dice baseball league in doubles every year, and I hated it when he lost his leg.

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Shortstop: Ernie Banks, twice MVP, over 500 homers, half while playing short. What other athlete is so cool that he gets a Pope-like funeral on live TV? OK, Ali. And Smarty Jones.

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Second base: I want to give it to Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg because of the stories of his wife Cindy with the likes of Rafael Palmeiro, Dave Martinez and Harry Caray. But I better go with the straight edge Mormon Ken Hubbs. He homered in the championship of the Little League World Series while playing with a broken toe, starred in a high school football game with a broken foot, won the Rookie of the Year and Gold Glove the same year with a broken heart, and was killed at 22 in a small plane crash.

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I am probably not the first to say, Now you will not swell the rout, of lads that wore their honors out, runners whom renown outran, and the name died before the man.

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First base: Mark Grace and Anthony Rizzo are very talented, but here I go with Ernie Banks. He hit over 500 homers, half while playing first.

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Catcher: Gabby Hartnett was supposedly the best catcher in the game for 20 years, and the best defensive catcher pre-Johnny Bench. And he was there, inches away, from the Babe Ruth called shot that never happened.

Outfield: You can make the case for base-stealing king Lou Brock, Andre 'the Hawk" Dawson, and Billy Williams. Hall of Famers all. But I go with exiled icon Sammy Sosa who hit more than 600 home runs, over half of them while playing chemically enhanced. The morning the White Sox traded Sosa to the Cubs, I called Weinberg. "Tom, why in the hell would anybody trade away Sosa for George Bell?" He said, "Turns out Bell is not slapping his wife around."

I also go with Hack Wilson, a stump of a man, a tippler who hit 54 home runs and 191 RBIs in a single season. Only man ever to knock in more runs than the pounds he weighed, 190.

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And then Dave Kingman, whom no one liked. When my son Boone was 5-months-old I bundled him in a snuggly, zipped my coat around him, and trundled to the frigid Pirates. Bucs starter Burt Blyleven (best curve I ever saw) tried to sacrifice bunt a runner to second. Bill Buckner fired it over the shortstop's head and a charging Kingman let it get past him and roll to the wall for a two-run bunt homer. Kingman was strikeouts or home runs. He was more immortalized by Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda: "What's my opinion of Kingman's performance? What the fuck do you think is my opinion of it? I think it was fucking fuck. Put that in, I don't fuck. Opinion of his performance? Fuck, he beat us with three fucking home runs! What the fuck do you mean, 'What is my opinion of his performance?' How could you ask me a question like that. What is my opinion of his performance? Fuck, he hit three home runs! Fuck. I'm fucking pissed off to lose that fucking game. And you ask me my opinion of his performance! Fuck. That's a tough question to ask me, isn't it? What is my opinion of his performance?"

So that is my all-time Cub team. Sorry there is no time left to hear yours.

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See also: Cub Fan, Bad Man?

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Comments welcome.

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