Sutton recalls fond memories of Caray
Broadcasters teamed together for nearly two decades
DENVER -- Nationals broadcaster Don Sutton was saddened to learn of the passing of longtime Braves broadcaster Skip Caray. Sutton learned about Caray's death after the Nationals landed in Denver on Sunday night.
The last time that Sutton saw Caray was during the three-game series against the Braves, more than two weeks ago, in Atlanta.
"The last thing he said to me was, 'Give your girls a hug. See you next time you are in.' Those were the last words [he said to me]," Sutton sadly recalled.
Sutton and Caray worked together in the Braves' broadcast booth for 18 years before Sutton joined the Nationals. When he started with the Braves in 1989, Sutton was less than a year removed from playing in the big leagues, and the Hall of Famer credits Caray for helping him to adjust in the broadcast booth.
"Skip was one of my tutors and mentors," Sutton said. "I went from being a ballplayer to a broadcaster. I don't think it could been any better to have landed with Ernie Johnson Sr., Skip Caray and Pete Van Wieren. Each of them taught me something. Skip helped developed the foundation for what I am as a broadcaster. He was a great friend."
A lot of Braves fans used to think that Caray and Sutton didn't get along on the air because they would often needle each other, but it was far from the truth, according to Sutton.
"We would get letters and they would say, 'Why do you guys hate each other?' I would say to Skip, 'You think we ought to cool it?' He would say, 'Nah, let's keep them guessing.'"
Sutton said that Caray could be a curmudgeon on the air and "a pain in the butt" outside of the booth, but, according to Sutton, Caray was one of the most generous people that he ever met.
When Sutton's daughter, Jackie, was born prematurely and Sutton developed advanced kidney cancer, Caray was one person who offered a helping hand. Caray went so far as to offer the Sutton family a place to stay in his home.
"My family went through some trying times with my daughter's premature birth and my cancer," Sutton said. "There wouldn't be a day that went by where Skip would say, 'You don't have to come up and drive. I'll come get you. Stay at our house. At least come out and eat. We have an apartment over our garage. You and Mary don't have to be driving back and forth.' We were 30 miles apart.
"He could be a pain in the butt, but he was the generous, lovable uncle that you never wanted to see leave. He was generous, more so than anybody will ever know. He worked very hard to cultivate that grumpy side."
The Mid-Atlantic Sports Network called Sutton on Monday and told him to pay his respects to Caray later this week. According to Sutton, there will be a private family service on Thursday and a memorial service most likely on Monday.
"I spent more time with Skip than I did with my parents. I spent 18 years with him," Sutton said.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.