In a funeral mass marked by more laughs than tears, the sports world said goodbye to Hall of Fame baseball broadcaster Harry Caray.
He was remembered Friday as a people-loving master of the microphone who got generations of fans hooked on the game.
“He led more fans to the ballpark than any other announcer in the history of baseball,” declared Tribune Co. executive vice president Jim Dowdle. It was Dowdle who hired Caray 16 years ago to be the voice of the Chicago Cubs.
“There’s no one on the horizon who comes close to equaling the affection the fans had for him,” sportscaster Brent Musberger said.
Cubs greats Billy Williams, Mark Grace, Ryne Sandberg and Rick Sutcliffe were among those crowded into Holy Name Cathedral along with White Sox old-timer Minnie Minoso and former Bears coach Mike Ditka.
The much-loved broadcaster made games fun by singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seventh-inning stretch and offering his exclamation of “Holy Cow!”
Those standing on the steps of the gothic-style cathedral on Chicago’s Near North Side watched after the mass as a single-engine plane carried a banner that proclaimed: “Heaventh Inning Stretch.”
In keeping with Caray’s zest for life and laughter, the eulogies were laced with stories that brought roars from the crowd and kept sticky sentiment to a minimum.
Dowdle recalled that Caray was distraught several years ago after his doctor made him cut out one of his favorite activities - having a few. He said Caray complained so much, “the doctor said you can have two martinis - if the Cubs make it to the World Series.
“He sure went out on a limb on that one,” Dowdle said.
Caray collapsed the night of Feb. 14 while celebrating Valentine’s Day with his wife, Dutchie, in Rancho Mirage, Calif. He never regained consciousness.
He was a veteran of 53 years in the broadcast booth, and had been the voice of the St. Louis Cardinals, the Chicago White Sox and the Oakland A’s before moving to the Cubs and WGN-TV.
Angels deny Hernandez report
Responding to reports that Cuban defector Orlando Hernandez is about to sign a contract with the Anaheim Angels, general manager Bill Bavasi said Friday the team hasn’t even made the pitcher an offer.
A source who spoke on the condition of anonymity told The Associated Press late Thursday that Joe Cubas, the agent for Hernandez, was expected to meet with Angels president Tony Tavares in Arizona on the matter.
Hernandez, who was once his nation’s top pitcher, is the half-brother of World Series MVP Livan Hernandez of the Florida Marlins.
On the diamond
Jose Canseco had his second consecutive strong day for Toronto, going 2 for 3 with a three-run homer and four RBIs off Curt Schilling to lead the Blue Jays over the Philadelphia Phillies 5-0 at Dunedin, Fla.
At Port Charlotte, Fla., Lee Stevens and Kevin Elster hit two-run homers, and Mark McLemore and Ivan Rodriguez hit solo shots in Texas’ 7-0 win over Minnesota.
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