The Paducah Chiefs baseball team was a farm team with the St. Louis Cardinals. During the early 50s, Stan Musial was in his prime and we all listened to the games on the radio.
The voice of the Cardinals was Harry Caray, and he had quite a fan base! We loved hearing him as he shouted “Holy cow!” or “Cardinals win! Cardinals win!”
In 1951, the Chiefs sponsored a special promotion in Brooks Stadium, their home field. We just had to go, but it was on a Wednesday night. As the preacher’s daughter, I could not miss prayer meeting. Toby said that was OK, we would just go later.
We arrived during the fourth inning, looking for our friends who were saving seats for us. We spotted them just below the press box. As we moved into our seats, I realized Toby was laughing. People were looking at us and then everyone was clapping. It seemed Harry Caray had said, “Ladies and Gentlemen, there is a beautiful brunette walking right in front of me!”
My 15 seconds of fame!
Thirty-six years later, Toby had a massive stroke that left him unable to talk. He spent four months having intensive therapy. During his rest time after lunch, he watched the Chicago Cubs on WGN-TV.
Harry Caray was by now the voice of the Cubs. Harry had suffered a stroke during the off season that year and was making a comeback announcing the games.
During the “seventh inning stretch” he would lead the singing of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” One day, I realized Toby was singing along, saying all the words.
The speech pathologist explained that this could happen with melodies that a person knew from childhood. He later would sing “Happy Birthday.”
Several months after I brought Toby home, I had just dropped him off for outpatient therapy.
The phone rang and a man asked for Mr. Parsons. I would know that voice anywhere. It was Harry Caray! I told him Toby was at therapy. He said that a childhood buddy of Toby’s worked with him on “Make a Wish” projects and had told him about Toby singing along with him. He wanted to let Toby know how much that meant to him and to encourage him not to give up but to keep working toward full recovery.
I let him know when Toby would be home, and he said he would call back. I told him Toby would respond to him saying “alright.”
I decided to not tell Toby, just in case he did not call back. Sure enough the phone rang. I handed it to Toby. With a puzzled look on his face, he answered, “alright?” The expression on his face changed to joy and excitement. He knew that voice. As he listened he was nodding and saying lots of “alrights.”
Toby was smiling from ear to ear as he handed the phone back to me.
As I thanked Harry for calling I shared with him the Brooks Stadium experience. He said he remembered being there, but did not remember pointing me out. I told him I was now a white-headed grandmother.
His words to me: “But I am sure you are still beautiful!”
Harry not only made Toby’s day, he made mine.
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