Monday, April 13, 2009

RIP Harry Kalas

Harry Kalas died today.

The Voice of the Phillies passed out in the press box at Nationals Park hours before the Phillies played the Nationals, and he was pronounced dead at a local hospital shortly thereafter.

As strange as it may sound to be so attached to an announcer I never met, this is kind of hard for me to take.

Because other than perhaps my father, nobody is more responsible for my profound love of baseball than Harry the K.

Some of my earliest memories of the sport involve waiting for my dad to get home from work, turning on the old PRISM network and listening to Harry call a few innings before I had to go to bed.

I had his trademark home run call down pat by the time I was five:


I wore out my VHS copy of "Whatever it Takes, Dude" the video retrospective of the 1993 season that he narrated, and loved the scene where he sang "High Hopes" with the team in the training room.

After I moved to Connecticut, I'd try to catch the fourth inning of the Phillies game on 1210 WPHT on nights the station was powerful enough, because that was the inning Harry would switch to the radio booth.

More recently, when I watched big games on national networks or on opponent's stations, I'd always have to go and listen to Harry's important, dramatic calls on the internet after the game.

Driving back to school after Game 5 of the World Series last year, I kept thinking how I couldn't wait to listen to Harry's call on the Web once I got back.

My dad introduced himself to Harry at one of the World Series games in Tampa last year, and when my dad called me to tell me he saw Harry again the next day--and Harry remembered him--he spoke with the enthusiasm of a starstruck child.

As a coordinating producer on Baseball Tonight, my typically stoic father has spoken to dozens of current and former players, but he never reacted to me like he did when he encountered Harry. "He called me 'MISS-ter. KIM-mel' though," my dad said, imitating Harry's baritone as you always had to when recounting any kind of story about Harry. "But I didn't even bother to correct him."

Sports fans across the country were probably more familiar with Harry as the voice of NFL Films or from his Chunky Soup Commercials. His voice was distinctive enough that I'm sure you knew it even if you didn't know it was Harry.

But Harry Kalas belonged to Philadelphia.

He was a constant figure in the Philadelphia sports scene for the past 38 years. You don't last 38 years in the most passionate, unforgiving city in the country unless you really bring something special.

And you don't last 38 years in Philadelphia without becoming a part of the fabric of the city.

Harry called all 548 of Mike Schmidt's home runs, the Phillies' last four National League Championships, and the entire 2008 World Series run in his last full season.

When national broadcast rights prohibited him from calling the Phillies' first World Series title in 1980, the resulting public outcry led to a revision of the rights to allow for local radio broadcasts the following year. He was that good.

It may sound cliche, but without Harry Kalas, watching a Phillies game will truly never be the same.

You're 'Outta Here,' Harry. Rest in peace.


  1. Could not have said it any better myself. Just hearing his voice reminds me of summer nights listening to games and Sunday afternoons watching on TV. I'm very glad I was home this Sunday and got to catch the last inning he ever called. Check out the Inquirer's Bob Ford's take on Kalas if you need further explanation of what he meant to Philly.