Tuesday, October 21, 2008

End of an Era

Skip Caray's death hit me like a ton of bricks. Pete Van Wieren's retirement makes me ache with something like sadness:

Over the past 33 seasons the Braves have annually changed faces and maintained the same familiar sound provided by Pete Van Wieren and Skip Caray.

Sadly their days as the most recognizable broadcast duo in Braves history came to a close with Caray's passing in August. Saying goodbye to his close friend while continuing to perform the craft they shared together over the course of four decades was one of the toughest things Van Wieren ever experienced during his remarkable career.

Saying goodbye to two of his greatest passions -- the Braves and the game of baseball -- will also prove difficult at times. But with good health, Van Wieren has decided its time to step away from the microphone and spend more time with his family.
No, neither Pete nor Skip were Ernie Harwell, Red Barber, or Charlie Kalas. But they meant everything to lifelong Braves' fans and those of us who clung to them when circumstances cast us out into the vast unaffiliated expanses that only Ted Turner saw fit to serve with precious baseball.


iwillbeginagain said...

I feel old.

I stayed up many summer nights watching Van Wieren, Caray, and Johnson. Congratulations to Pete and I hope he enjoys his extra time.

Mr. Thursday said...

*Harry Kalas.

I think a lot of baseball broadcasting stations fail to realize the importance of announcers. Football announcers, basketball, hockey, soccer, whatever--these are people who show up in our home once or twice a week for half the year. They're like cousins.

Baseball announcers, though? For as long as I can remember, Harry Kalas has been my guy, in my house, 6 nights a week between April and September. When his broadcast partner, Richie Ashburn, died, it was like a family member has passed. For the past few years, thanks to cable, after Kalas heads out, we've been able to turn to Vin Scully or Jerry and Remy or Niehaus or somebody. These people are like brothers. I know Harry Kalas's voice better than a few of my family members, and that's mainly because I hear it more often (and partly, I suppose, because he's narrated more of my memories).

The Braves aren't the same anymore. The bridge between the team and the fans is gone. Who knows how well it will be rebuilt? So many other bridges are falling. Kalas has seen better days. Scully is rumored to retire every year. Harwell is gone. Carey, and Carey (but, sadly, not Carey) are gone. The voices that constituted the great passion of my life are fading out, and is there anyone who expects them to be replaced? Is this what people felt like when Red Barber went his merry way? Will there ever be another 300 game winner? Who is John Galt?

Mike McClary said...

I grew up with Ernie Harwell and Paul Carey on WJR and George Kell and Al Kaline (who was awful) on the TV side in Detroit. When we got cable in 1980 and I was able to watch games on TBS I loved it. Outside of the occasional Monday Night Baseball game on ABC or NBC's Game of the Week, I didn't get to hear other announcers. Listening to Van Wieren and Caray was a daily bonus. Even as recent as this past season, whenever I heard either of their voices I was brought back to when I was 12 and Canon was the Official Camera of the Atlanta Braves.

- Mike