ATLANTA - Skip Caray, the voice of the Braves for more than three decades, was remembered Monday for simple contributions like cracking jokes to players in the clubhouse and his cries of 'Braves win!' during the 1995 World Series.
Friends, colleagues and Braves players remembered the broadcaster at a two-hour memorial service at an Atlanta church. Caray, who came from a dynasty of baseball commentators - including his father, Hall of Famer Harry Caray - died Aug. 3 at his home. He is survived by his wife and four children.
At the opening of the service, which included a Catholic mass, a priest offered Caray's own take on his eulogy.
'Caray is coming home ... can he make it?' Msgr. Tom Kenny quipped. 'He slides. He's safe. Listen to the crowd!'
Pitcher John Smoltz, Braves general manager John Schuerholz and announcer Pete Van Wieren, who worked alongside Caray for 33 years, were among more than 400 who attended. Braves players Jeff Francoeur, Chipper Jones and Brian McCann served as pallbearers; Terry Pendleton, Otis Nixon, Tom Glavine and Brian Jordan were among players past and present in the pews.
Van Wieren said his partnership with Caray extended beyond the broadcast booth to parties, dinners, card games and, of course, a drink or two after the game. He remembered his friend as a 'true original.'
'His ability to capture the moment was second to none,' said Van Wieren, who estimated the pair called more than 5,000 games together.
'It never got old,' Van Wieren said. 'Win or lose, we had a great time every day.'
Caray and Van Wieren began broadcasting Braves games with Ernie Johnson Sr. in 1976. Caray's sarcastic wit made him a popular lead voice of the broadcast team, and his fame grew as TBS carried Braves games to a national audience for 30 years.
Johnson recalled that Caray didn't like long games, or for fans to call in during his radio talk show. At times, the service was more like a roast, with even Caray's doctor, Charlie Wickliffe, chiming in.
'He loved jokes,' Wickliffe recalled. 'The raunchier, the better.'
But Wickliffe also recalled the softer side of Caray, who continued to work in the booth until his death.
'His generous, wonderful heart just gave out,' he said.
Schuerholz called Caray a 'remarkable talent and a unique wit who had an unbridled joy for the Atlanta Braves.'
'His impact on the Braves can be characterized so simply: Braves win! Braves win! Braves win!' Schuerholz said, borrowing from one of Caray's most memorable phrases, which he exclaimed with regularity as the team won 14 consecutive division titles beginning in 1991 and the 1995 World Series.
Smoltz heard Caray announce Braves games for years on TBS before he was traded to the organization in 1987 and met Caray in person.
'He really loved the Atlanta Braves,' the pitcher said, recalling that even as Caray's health failed, he would still make his way down to the team to say hello and crack a joke. 'As players, we were truly blessed.'