Monday, June 2, 2014

288 consecutive nights in bars—Harry Caray in 1972

    This fell into my lap late last week, and while plenty of media attention shines on Harry Caray's restaurants as it is, I couldn't resist flipping through Harry's expense diary. 

    It isn’t the “Vampire Diaries” or “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.” It sure isn’t the diary of Anne Frank.
   But it is a diary, of sorts. An 8-by-5-inch, dark green, 1972 “Day Book” owned, once upon a time, by famed baseball broadcaster Harry Caray.
     Grant DePorter, CEO of the Harry Caray’s chain of eateries, inherited the diary, one of eight, all from the ’70s and early ’80s, in four boxes of memorabilia, World Series tickets and cashed checks, that the executor of Caray’s estate found when he cleaned out his office.
     Knowing my interest in all things historical, DePorter asked if I wanted to take a peek at one, and I swung by Harry’s and walked away with 1972. 
     I should say right away that this is not a Dear Kitty, pour-out-your-heart, frank-assessment-of-my-friends kind of diary. Old Harry was not big on introspection, as he was the first to admit.
     “I’m a convivial sort of guy. I like to drink and dance,” he told an interviewer once. 
     For those just joining us, Caray had been the Cardinals’ color broadcaster for many years in St. Louis. Driven out of town in 1969, he migrated to Chicago, via a misfire year in Oakland, to announce first for the hapless White Sox, finishing his career in a golden twilight glow with the Cubs. 
     In 1972, he had just begun his tenure with the Sox. 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.  
     “Remember, you used to be able to deduct a three-martini lunch,” DePorter said.
      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...

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  1. Jan 16 "Super" would have been Super Bowl VI, although it was played in New Orleans rather than Miami

    1. Good call but Caray was likely too drunk to realize that, or care.

    2. Though Miami played in that game.

  2. I suspect "Miami" was his bet in that game, wherever he was drinking at the time. Or he wrote down who won it so he'd remember.