attracting an audience

Embarrassmonth: Trying To Get Harry Caray’s Attention

I waited in front of my dad. A baseball mitt covered my hand.

“Go ahead, Matthew,” he said, motioning his hands forward.

I took two steps forward. A couple men walked past, dropping a plastic cup on their way. Another couple guys zipped past after that, too.

“Go ahead!” Dad said, trying his best to curb any sort of impatience.

The Cubs had just lost to the Montreal Expos. It was June 1987 and this was my first trip to Wrigley Field. All of it was possibly my most enchanting experience to date since this was the third summer I’d spent glued to the TV watching them. There I was in person. It really didn’t seem real.

And Dad was trying to get me to walk by the TV booth. I spotted it down the steep stairs. A crowd of people gathered around it and they were all yelling.

“Don’t you want to go say hi to Harry?” Dad asked. Of course I did. Harry Caray was my hero. I paraded my Pound Puppy stuffed animal around the house nearly every day while I yelled “Cubs win! Cubs win! Holy Cow!” The stuffed dog was spotted like a cow, so good enough. And it didn’t matter if the Cubs didn’t win or even play that day.

To be standing this close from Harry – 20 feet away – blew my mind. To this point he was no more real to me than Fred Flinstone or Betty Boop, and there I was, in yelling distance.

I gingerly stepped down the stairs. I stood five feet from the yelling, waving people who were trying to get his attention behind the TV booth glass.

“Don’t you see him? See Harry over there?” Dad asked. I nodded and lightly punched my glove as I shifted my weight. I did see him, sort of. He was hard to see behind all the waving arms. That was surreal, too; no one ever got that excited about much of anything in my small town of Charleston.

“Well, Matthew, say hi to him! Say hi to Harry!” Dad said, waving his hands to show me how. But I didn’t join him. I froze.

A few moments passed. Dad tapped me on the shoulder again. “Go ahead! Say hi! Like this!”

I turned around and mustered all my strength. Finally I opened my mouth. “Harry!” I said, barely loud enough for even myself to hear. I waved my arms but not even above my shoulders, looking more like I was waving off a cookie than trying to get someone’s attention. And it didn’t get Harry to turn around.

It baffled me why I didn’t have a jolt of energy like everyone else around me. It hung on me like a cloud as I turned to give Dad a look. He put his hand on my shoulder once more.

“Ready to go, Son?”