B L O G
Are You Memorable?
by Kim McCarten
As we come to the end of the baseball season (with hopefully a lot of post-season play for my team), it made me reflect on the history of the Cubs franchise, specifically our announcers.
I was fortunate to get to a few games this year, and being at Wrigley Field made me aware of how big the Harry Caray-Jack Brickhouse honor discrepancy is.
As a long-time fan, for me the true, authentic announcer of record as far as the Cubs goes is Jack Brickhouse. Born in Peoria, Jack announced for the Cubs for 40 years. He also announced for other Chicago teams, but the majority of his career was with the Cubs.
Brickhouse was enthusiastic about sports, baseball in particular, but was never showy. His job was to help fans know what was happening, provide some commentary here and there, supply the facts and stats—and get us through rain (and other) delays.
Harry Caray was born in Missouri, announced for the Cubs for only 15 years (he announced for the St. Louis Cardinals for 24). He was also announcer for the Browns and the Oakland A's for a short time—and the White Sox. But his longest stint was with the Cubs rival Cardinals.
And that's the team I associated him with (and also with the White Sox).
Just before joining the Cubs organization, Harry was announcing for the Chicago White Sox. As many know, there's a friendly rivalry between the north side Cubs and the south side White Sox, so no announcer strongly associated with one team would likely be beloved by fans of the other.
Except for Harry Caray.
He was loud, often drunk, kind of sloppy towards the end. He (IMHO) didn't pay consistently close attention to the game, or the stats. But he had fun, a lot of fun—and he brought the fans with him. His antics were entertaining.
I thought when he initially started announcing for the Cubs that there was no way the fans would support him. He came from not one, but two, rival teams.
But somehow, Harry won people over. Even though he was a bit of a letch (allegedly). Even though he was a drunk. Even though he worked longer for two rival teams.
It's his statue that gets a key spot outside Wrigley Field (fittingly, near one of the key drinking holes), along with Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks (who's at the front on Clark St.).
When there isn't a guest singer for the 7th Inning Stretch, it's one of Harry's inconsistent-tempo-semi-inebriated versions of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" that's projected onto the Jumbotron to lead the crowd.
But there's nothing for Jack Brickhouse at Wrigley, save for a little metal 'Hey Hey' on the far left field vertical foul pole, denoting his signature phrase when a Cub would hit one out of the park.
That's a pretty small acknowledgement for the hometown, quintessential Cubs announcer.
Sure, Jack has a statue downtown on Michigan Avenue, where there's a Broadcaster's Hall of Fame. And it's a nice tribute.
But it made me wonder why Harry gets the laudatory memories and Jack doesn't.
I think it's about brand.
It seems to me that the comparison between Jack and Harry is the explanation of the importance of brand. For a long time, it's not something I was really invested in.
People talk about 'brand' all the time, most probably not really understanding what it means.
I think Harry and Jack explain it.
Jack was knowledgeable, announced for multiple sports, mostly baseball. He was a reliable professional, a hometown guy who knew the city. He was respectable, respectful of his audience and the game.
He was a humble, middle-of-the-road, hardworking, non-bragging kind of guy.
Jack didn't let a lot of his personal opinions, or a big personality, show up in his work. He got the job done. Did it well, professionally, and on time.
Harry Caray was pretty much the opposite of all of that. I think he was mostly on time. He did know the game (although I doubt as deeply as Jack did). But I think Harry understood better that baseball was a game, and games are where you have fun.
He wasn't announcing the news or some debate on foreign policy. He was providing entertainment for sports fans (like when he would try to pronounce player's names backwards).
Harry had fun on the job and the fans loved him for it. He was relatable in that way. If you were attending the game, especially sitting in the bleachers, you, too, were going to lift a brew or four.
His mispronunciations, the way his tongue tripped up regularly, made people laugh and provided plenty of material for numerous Harry Caray impressions (which still get a laugh today, 20 years after his death).
Harry died in 1998, and it's like he's still with the Cubs in so many ways.
But Jack, not so much.
I think there's a lesson for businesses here, in terms of brand and the importance of story. The importance of showing some personality, showing some behind-the-scenes stuff to bring people into your process (like how a product is made, or the process for improvements, etc.).
For you can be a hardworking, get 'er done, professional (or firm)—and people will appreciate and respect that.
But if you want to be memorable, you've got to be more, in some ways anyway, like Harry Caray.