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A voice not soon to be forgotten

POSTED: August 24, 2008 5:03 a.m.

In 1983, my mother fell off a ladder and broke her hip. In time, it healed and because of the break she was sensitive to changes in the weather.

 

“I can tell the weather better than Guy Sharpe,” she used to say. Sharpe was an Atlanta television institution for many years.

 

The hip injury was the first time I had really seen my mother sidelined. For a few weeks, she had to use a walker. She spent a lot of time watching television.

 

Mama was not a sports fan. She understood the very basics of baseball and basketball. She didn’t care much for football.

 

But the awful lineup of summer reruns forced her to turn over to channel 17 to watch the Braves. It was that summer that she became a baseball fan.

 

Toward the end of the season, she was getting around better and I took her to a Braves game, walker and all.

 

Mama pretended to enjoy it, but she didn’t. She didn’t have her trusted friends Skip, Pete and Ernie to tell her what was going on.

 

At home, the story of the boys of summer was told in complete detail by the guys in the booth.

 

When we left, somebody invited us to go through the tunnel to make it easier on Mama. We came by an elevator and who stepped off but Skip Caray.

 

She spoke to him quickly and he wished her a speedy recovery.

 

We would see him a few years later when we went to an affiliate day when I was with WDUN. I took Mama and she had a blast. I brought along a radio for her to listen to the play-by-play.

 

Mama’s love for the Braves continued to grow and she was so excited when they started winning in the 1990s.

 

She felt a special kinship to Skip, having met him a couple of times.

 

I thought about both of them in the past few days when news came of Skip’s death.

 

Skip Carey with his nasal delivery didn’t have the warm, friendly sound of his cohort Ernie Johnson Sr., but he took you to the game.

 

My dad, like many of his age, grew up listening to baseball games on the radio and never lost his affinity for listening to them. Even after the days of televised games, he would sit out on the porch on a glider and listen to the Braves.

 

Skip, Ernie and Pete Van Wieren were our guys. The TV gurus have tried to tell us in recent years that they weren’t telegenic enough. They’ve tried to bring younger guys with better hair and whiter teeth to call the games.

 

What happened to the day when folksy seemed to work?

 

The legendary Dizzy Dean murdered the King’s English, but folks loved to hear him talk about someone who “slud” into third.

 

An English teacher once wrote him a letter about his use of “ain’t.”

 

Dean fired back that, “A lot of folks who ain’t sayin’ ‘ain’t,’ ain’t eatin’. So, Teach, you learn ‘em English, and I’ll learn ‘em baseball.”

 

It’s true in other sports.

 

Georgia folks love Larry Munson and are holding their breath that he can make it through this home season. Tech folks still talk about the late Al Ciraldo in glowing terms.

 

We love ’em because they become our friends, and we lost a really good one in Skip Caray.

 

Harris Blackwood is the author of “When Old Mowers Die.” His e-mail address is harrisb@forsythnews.com.

 

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