The Caray Diaries

In my teenage years I would come home from school, flip on the TV and turn the channel to WGN so I could watch the Cubs play. That means I got to listen to Harry Caray get drunk and slur his way through the last few innings on more than one occasion, which might explain why I’m a Cubs fan to this day. (Is there any more tragic team to be a fan of in all of sports?)

I always thought Harry would have been an entertaining guy to hang out with, but after reading this article about his 1972 diary that details all of his stops at various watering holes I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have kept up with him:

A savvy businessman, Caray cut a deal pegged to ballpark attendance, which doubled, largely thanks to his flamboyant presence. It would make him very wealthy, though in 1972 he was still tallying each bar tab.

Saturday, Jan. 1, lists four bars: the Back Room, still on Rush Street, plus three long-ago joints: 20 E. Delaware, Sully’s and Peppy’s, with expenses for each $10.30, $9.97, $10, and $8.95. This in a year when a six-pack of Old Style set you back $1.29.

You needed to cite who you entertained to get the write-off, so on New Year’s Day he lists Dave Condon, the Tribune sports columnist; Billy Sullivan, who owned Sully’s; and Joe Pepitone, the former Yankees first baseman who had been traded to the Cubs.

And so it begins. A chain of old-time Chicago bars — Riccardo’s, Boul Mich, Mr. Kelly’s. A posse of early 1970s sports figures — Wilt Chamberlain, Don Drysdale, Gale Sayers. Plus a few unexpected blasts from the past: boxer Jack Dempsey, comedian Jack Benny…

Jan. 16 something unusual happens. Caray is in Miami, yet there are no expenses, just one enigmatic word, “Super.”

After that break, if indeed it was, comes 288 consecutive days in bars, not only in Chicago, but New York City, and of course on the road with the Sox, beginning with spring training in Sarasota.

The unbroken streak pauses Nov. 3, when all we get is “to K City @310.” The only completely blank day is Monday, Nov. 6 — what must THAT have been like? Then off to the races again.

He’d have lost me around February 1.

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