White Sox celebrate 50 years since Harry Caray became announcer on eve of home opener

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Thursday may be the Chicago White Sox home opener, but Wednesday marked the 50th anniversary of when Harry Caray began his legendary run in Chicago as their announcer.

It was April 7, 1971 when the South Siders first welcomed Caray into their play-by-play booth. Now, walking through the restaurant that bears his name, his widow Dutchie Caray sees walls covered with memories. There are pictures of Harry posing with celebrities everywhere from the time he started doing baseball in Chicago.

"People loved him. I couldn't understand why," she said with a laugh.

It was during the hey-day of Caray's legendary drinking and nightlife. Business partner Grand DePorter has Harry's diary, which kept track of bars he visited every night. In 1971, the year-end total was over 1,300. He also has a pile of canceled checks for the thousands of dollars he spent buying rounds of drinks.

At the same time, Caray's oversized personality was helping draw hundreds of thousands of fans to Comiskey Park, even though the teams were less than memorable. That's where he first started singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during the seventh inning stretch.

While her husband was out every night, Dutchie stayed out of the limelight. It worked for them; they remained married until Harry's death in 1998.

Harry left the Sox after 11 years to go across town to the Cubs well before the park that's now called Guaranteed Rate Field was built, but he attracted generations of fans there, and some will surely be in attendance at Opening Day Thursday.
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