Holy Cow! Harry Caray’s drinking diary released
CHICAGO — The sky is blue, and Harry Caray guzzled beer—these are not revelations.
What does come as news is the recent discovery of one of Caray’s diaries, which allegedly contains a wealth of information concerning his superhuman barhopping habits.
Neil Steinberg of the Chicago Sun-Times reports that a dark green “Day Book” belonging to the famous Chicago Cubs broadcaster has been found.
According to Steinberg, the diary is one of eight inherited by Grant DePorter, CEO of the Harry Caray chain of eateries. DePorter came into possession of the book after the executor of Caray’s estate unearthed it during a cleaning of his former office.
Within its 8-by-5 pages rests an anthology of meticulous records Caray kept while, well, drinking on a near-daily basis. Where you or I might spill our hopes and dreams into a diary, Caray poured forth the places, faces and sums from his nights out on the town.
The year chronicled in the diary is 1972—a period prior to Caray rising to color commentary stardom with the Chicago Cubs. At this juncture, he had just made his way to the Chicago White Sox by way of Oakland and, judging by the book, was taking in the Windy City bar scene with gusto.
Caray’s diary ticks off a laundry list of old Chicago bars, usually tallying multiple tap houses in a single day.
Steinberg reports Caray’s record for Saturday, January 1, includes the Back Room, 20 E. Delaware, Sully’s and Peppy’s. He racked up bills between $8 and $10 at each of those locations—no small feat in the early ’70s.
DePorter says Caray kept the records of his tabs in order to write the expenses off at the end of the year.
“Remember, you used to be able to deduct a three-martini lunch,” DePorter said.
The broadcaster also kept record of the guests he entertained at each location (as required for tax write-offs). Lakers superstar Wilt Chamberlain, Yankees first baseman Joe Pepitone and boxer Jack Dempsey are listed among Caray’s barhopping buddies.
Jimmy Rittenberg, former proprietor of Faces—a bar Caray visited 14 times over the course of 1972—says Caray and his drinking buddies could outlast men 30 years their junior at the bar.
“These guys did nothing but go out and have a few cocktails,” Rittenberg said. “I don’t know how they did it. They were 20, 30 years older than me and I couldn’t keep up with them.”
The most jaw-dropping aspect of the diary, however, is Caray’s 288-day streak of consecutive bar visits.
The streak begins after January 16, when Caray mentions he is in Miami. He wrote only the word “Super” without any mention of a bar tab (I like to think he meant he attended the original Ultra).
After that, it was 288 straight days—or 41 weeks—of tap house visiting.
Regardless of his proclivities, those who drank with Caray said the man was always warm and friendly even when deep into his cups. Rick Kogan of the Chicago Tribune told Steinberg the broadcaster was always laughing.
“Drunk but joyful,” Kogan said of Caray. “It always wound up being a joyful, laughter-filled time. … He was one of the most charming people in the world.”
Indeed, Mr. Caray charmed us all in one way or another, and it certainly wasn’t through moderation. He was, after all, the guy who told his White Sox employers that he wouldn’t hold back on criticizing their struggling franchise.
“Hey, you can’t ballyhoo a funeral,” Caray said.
Nope. You can’t cheer a dirge, and you can’t miss out on a good time at the tap. Not if you’re Harry Caray.