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Whether we like to think about it or not, a good percentage of the most important characters in the history of baseball were slobbering, fall down drunks. Two former teammates of Wade Boggs, for example, claimed he used to drink 50 beers on travel days. Legendary Yankee manager Billy Martin regularly drank with his own players and on multiple occasions, fought them. From Babe Ruth to Dock Ellis, the latter of whom allegedly threw a no-hitter on LSD, there’s way too many partiers to mention, but apparently, every single last one of them was put to shame by broadcaster Harry Caray.
The mouthpiece of the Chicago Cubs during the later years when he turned into a cultural legend, Caray first worked for the Cardinals, A’s and White Sox. During his stint with the Sox (71-81), he kept a diary of his carousing because “entertaining” was tax deductible. Recently, a writer for The Chicago Sun-Times came across Harry Caray’s diary for 1972, and it is epic. Between January 1 and December 24, he spent 354 of the 357 days inside bars all across the United States, including one stretch of 288 days in a row. Then, to relax from all that hard work, he hit up Acapulco to vacation the rest of the year out. Assumedly, he had more than his share of drinks South of the Border too, but since none of those beers were for work, they couldn’t be written off.
Don’t think these nights at local bars were brief affairs either. On January 1st, for example, Caray visited the Back Room, Sully’s, Peppy’s and 20 E Delaware in Chicago, racking up a total bill just under $40, which was quite a feat back in 1972 when many drinks cost less than a buck. His guests were pretty impressive too. During the year he hosted everyone from Jack Dempsey to Wilt Chamberlain.
God only knows what Harry Caray talked about and laughed about during these nights out, but in all honesty, it was probably the same bullshit he ranted about on the air.
I love how that little rant sideswipes Chicago politicians out of nowhere. It’s probably jarring for everyone who didn’t grow up in Illinois, but to those of us from the area, it’s warranted. Hell, it doesn’t even require any kind of transition, as Caray knew since he eventually became one of us by living in the city for long enough.
No doubt Caray’s alcoholism was a problem for those who actually knew him in real life, but from the outside looking in, there’s an old timey charm about it.