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Skip will be missed

Hank Aaron, Bob Gibson and Mike Schmidt were my boyhood baseball heroes.

I could memorize their stats in my sleep.

Just as heroic to me were the baseball announcers from my youth.

St. Louis play-by-play man Jack Buck, Philadelphia's Harry Kalis, Curt Gowdy and Joe Garagiola became old friends.

Growing up in St. Louis, Buck and his sidekick Mike Shannon were often the last voices I heard as I drifted off to sleep tuned to KMOX radio on summer nights.

While many of my friends said they wanted to be fireman, policeman, or football players, I wanted to be a sportscaster.

I would practice in front of the television set, calling the game into a tape recorder, as I tried to paint the picture for my imaginary listening audience.

Skip Caray can be added to the list of baseball announcers who I welcomed into my home on a daily basis.

Caray was the sports voice of Atlanta, calling the Hawks for years too.

But he was most known for bringing the Braves' games to life.

He came to Atlanta back in the 1960s to escape the shadow of his dad, legendary baseball announcer Harry Caray. In the decades he was here, he became a trusted voice in this town, and across the globe as owner Ted Turner beamed his team's games around the world on cable television.

His sons Chip, now with the Braves, and Josh, who calls games for the team's minor league affiliate in Rome, are left to carry on the familes' three-generation broadcast legacy.

With Skip Caray, you knew exactly what you got. If the Braves were playing well, he told you so. If they were stinking up the joint, we knew that too.

Caray was the complete package. Funny, informative, and yes, at times annoying, especially during his stint as a pregame talk show host when he would get irritated with listeners' questions.

He knew the game of baseball so well, explaining the infield fly rule was something he got tired of doing time and time again. Sometimes it showed with the way he treated callers.

Once in a while, his pregame show became comical like when a caller during a rare weekday afternoon segment of the show tried to get under Caray's skin by asking if he should refinance his house.

The question was more approriate for Clark Howard, the consumer guru who was normally on the air at that time.

Without missing a beat, Caray said something like "sure, go ahead" in a surley and sacrastic tone.

But deep down, Caray was known to be a nice guy.

His friends loved him, and the players on the Braves had a great deal of respect for the man who was as well known as any infielder or pitcher on the team.

Monday night when long- time broadcast partner Pete air you could sense a big void. He was doing a game without his buddy, and it was tough. Van Wieren too is a great professional, but it has to be painful to carry on without his partner.

The duo made a great team.

Even when the Braves were bad, and there were plenty of bad times, especially back in the 1980s, these guys made it worthwhile to tune to the game, only if for a short time.

Thankful the Braves made their great run through the 1990s, giving Caray something to get excited about.

To this day, my favorite Skip Caray call remains 1992 when the Braves beat the Pittsburgh Pirates in game seven of the National League Championship Series to advance to the World Series.

He said:

"A lotta room in right-center, if he hits one there we can dance in the streets. The 2-1. Swung, line drive left field! One run is in! Here comes Bream! Here's the throw to the plate! He is...safe! Braves win! Braves win! Braves win! Braves win!...Braves win! They may have to hospitalize Sid Bream; he's down at the bottom of a huge pile at the plate. They help him to his feet. Frank Cabrera got the game winner! The Atlanta Braves are National League champions again."

Unfortunately, Skip only got to witness one World Series win, but he gave us all plenty of memories.

Like Frank Sinatra, Caray did it his way.

He was Atlanta's announcer, and he will be missed.

(Doug Gorman is the sports editor of the Clayton News-Daily and Henry Daily Herald. He can be reached at dgorman@news-daily.com)