I've mentioned before that as a courtesy to my wife's sometimes overly sensitive reactions to celebrity deaths that we began using what we call the "death alert." If I read about a celebrity death I have to preface any announcement to her with "Death Alert" and then give her a number on a 1 to 5 Likert-type scale with 1 being some obscure actor from the 1930s and 5 being, say, Eddie Vedder (don't ask). Anyway, sometimes I wish we could all have the courtesy of that filter. This morning I could have used it.
If you were to ask me for a narrator for my childhood, it wouldn't take me long to come up with Skip Caray's name. How many hundreds of hours did his voice come through the tinny speaker of my family's television or over the AM radio on summer Sunday afternoon drives to the grandparents. Even during those many lean years when the Atlanta Braves would be lucky to make it to the end of May without being eliminated from the playoffs, my father and I never quit listening. It was baseball and something we shared and Skip (along with Pete and Ernie, and later Don and Joe) were the voices that brought us those games, that put a voice to memories.
Then into the 90s after I'd left home and the Braves miraculously became a winning franchise, it was Skip who brought us the moments: the Otis Nixon catch, the Sid Bream slide, the last out of the 1995 World Series..."Fly ball, deep center field, Grissom's on the run ... Yes! Yes! Yes! The Atlanta Braves have given you a championship. Listen to this crowd. A mob scene is on the field. Wohlers gets them, 1-2-3."
A few years ago TBS decided to give Skip and Pete a smaller role with the club, relegating them to radio only. For those of us who lived thousands of miles from the nearest Braves radio affiliate, it was like a bad hop ground ball to the nethers. And the outcry from Braves fans was loud enough to be heard, even by corporate stiffs the likes of AOL-Time Warner, and soon enough Skip and Pete were back on TBS and all was right with the world.
Then word came that TBS was dropping the Braves altogether and many of us knew that we were losing not just a regularly televised baseball game, but a direct link to our past. At least we had the ability to still pay to listen to games over the Internet or XM Radio, and many nights the last few weeks I would tune in just to hear a few innings worth of Skip and Pete. Even though the Braves were stumbling to their worst record since 1990, it seemed only fitting to let Skip and Pete console me, the now-spoiled Braves fan. To hear them and to remember what it was like back in the bad old days of not knowing what October baseball was like, but also to remember what being a kid was like sitting on the floor at my dad's feet not worried about the final score, just enjoying the moment of being a baseball fan and being in that moment with my dad, and in many ways, with Skip and the thousands of other fans just like us.
I'll miss the calls, the deep voice, the sarcasm. Braves baseball, and Summer nights, will not be the same.