It was the sound of summer. The voice of Phillies baseball. It’s hard to believe that April 12, 2009 would be the last time we’d hear it. But our voice is gone, and listening to Phillies baseball won’t be the same without hearing the legendary voice of Harry Kalas.
Knowing that in the seventh inning we won’t hear: “For play-by-play, here’s Harry.” “Alright, thank you Wheels,” is devastating to think about.
He passed away in the press box at Nationals Park, in the town he watched his hero Mickey Vernon play, doing what he loved to do.
The tears in every Phillies fans eyes show that Harry was more than a broadcaster. I never met Harry the K, but my tears show how one man can impact an entire city, and the entire baseball community. The players loved him. The fans loved him.
During the seventh inning stretch, he threw peanuts to the fans while singing “Take me out to the ballgame.” There was never a time he turned down an autograph or photo. He recorded messages for cell phone answering machine with pleasure. He had celebrity status, but he didn’t let it get to him. My dad’s friend met Harry why waiting to vote and asked why he wouldn’t cut to the front of the line; but Harry refused, waiting in line like the average Joe.
Harry and his best friend Richie Ashburn were one of the best broadcast duos in the business, until Whitey passed away in 1997. Harry carried on his memories of his late friend and frequently told his favorite Whitey stories, whether it was on the air, or in the back of the plane to the players.
Harry’s love of the game started as a child, and his enthusiasm never left, even in the most meaningless of games. He could read the ingredients off “Mitchie-poo’s” salsa, and make is sound fun and exciting.
Like most people in the area, I grew up listening to Harry, whether it was on television, or the radio. He’s all I know. All of calls give me goosebumps. His “Outta here!” calls are world famous, originated from Larry Bowa on a Greg Luzinski batting practice home run, but his other calls were just as great. “Struck ‘em out!” “Looong drriiiive,” “Could it be?” “Can you believe it!?”
Even “Walked ‘em on four pitches,” “the throw to the plate,” “goes down swinging,” or the simple words “base hit” had a defining tone.
He was getting older, and he may of lost a few steps. There were time we’d “Watch this baby.. get caught right in front of the warning track.” But it didn’t matter. Harry was in the booth and that is all we cared about.
If Harry didn’t have a nickname for a player, he said everybody’s name in a unique fashion. It didn’t even need to be a player. In many games, he gave birthday wishes, including my grandfather’s back in 2001. Roc-CO Ac-ITO.. not quite Mic-KEY Mor-an-DI-ni. Many players said that you weren’t an official big leaguer until Kalas announced your name.
We remember Phillies baseball by his calls. He didn’t have a chance to call the 1980 World Series on air. However, the love of the Philadelphia fans helped changed the rule three years later to let team broadcasters get a chance to call playoff games. In 2008, he had that opportunity.
The 2008 World Series call, as well as Michael Jack Schmidt’s 500th career home run are his two most notable calls of thousands. If it was a walk off or great way to end a game, fans knew the call by heart. Any or every exciting Phillies moment was capped off with a legendary call that will stick in our memories for the rest of our lives.
After the Phillies clinched the division, or moved to the next round of the playoffs, we’d be sure to hear his rendition of “High Hopes!”
Phillies fans were spoiled listening to him. He was one reason why so many fell in love baseball. Nationally televised games were dreaded because it meant no Harry the K.
We remember his voice. We remember his speeches. We remember his first pitch during the ring ceremony. We remember him taking down the final number at the Vet. We will always remember Harry.
He was imitated by many, but nothing was like hearing the Hall of Fame voice; the voice that belonged to the Phillies since 1971. The voice that will forever be missed.