Cardinal Dreams And Reality
Caray did well in sports, and turned down an athletic scholarship to the University of Alabama in hopes of making it with the St. Louis Cardinals. That dream never came true. He was forced to face the reality he was not going to make it into professional baseball. He took a job as a sales correspondent, which he enjoyed. He would sometimes take afternoons off and go see a ball game. He would come alive at the ballpark; he loved every aspect of the experience. Caray liked the sound of the crowd, the smell of the food in the stands, and anything else that went with a baseball game. A thought occurred to him one day while listening to a game on the radio: either he just happened to attend all the exciting games, or the radio broadcasts were boring. He felt they did not truly convey the excitement of the game. So, he took his correspondence skills and put them to work for his own cause. He wrote to Merle Jones, the general manager of KMOX of St. Louis, and told him how he felt about the baseball broadcasts.
Jones was impressed with what Caray wrote and called him. They discussed the letter and Jones encouraged Caray to get some experience. Caray took his advice, getting a job at WJOL in Joliet, Illinois. Caray said in an interview with Mike Eisenbath of the St. Louis Post, "Before the first month was finished, people thought I was pretty good." He went from there to WKZO in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where he worked as a sports editor and news director with Paul Harvey. These positions gave him the experience he needed to break into the broadcasting business.
In 1945 he moved back to St. Louis where he was given the position of broadcaster for the St. Louis Cardinals on KMOX-TV and Radio. At that time he was still Harry Carabina, and the manager asked him to shorten his last name. He legally changed his name to Caray for his broadcasting career. He remained with the Cardinals for twenty-five seasons. Eisenbath stated, "During the height of his time with the Cardinals, Caray could be heard on more than 175 network affiliates … and fans could pick up KMOX almost everywhere in the country." Dan O'Neill of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch stated, "Caray wasn't just the voice of the Cardinals, he was what baseball sounded like." Due to the breadth of the broadcast, as well as Caray's unique style, Eisenbath said, "Caray might strike a familiar chord with more baseball fans than any other sportscaster."
In 1969 Caray was fired from broadcasting for the Cardinals. Some say it was due to a scandalous affair with an executive's wife, others say it was due to him offending someone with his no-nonsense style of broadcasting. Nonetheless he was angered by the decision and to show his disapproval, was seen at his termination press conference holding a Schlitz beer, a competitor to Budweiser, who sponsored the Cardinals.