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Harry Kalas: Never Forgotten

Posted by Amanda Orr, Fri, April 17, 2009 08:00 AM | Comments: 21
Commentary, Harry Kalas Tribute, Posts

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.

Avatar of Amanda Orr

About Amanda Orr

Amanda Orr has written 713 articles on Phillies Nation.

Amanda has been writing for Phillies Nation since 2009.

 
 
  • Posts: 0 Brooks

    Nice job Amanda. I wish I could figure out something to bring to tonights game in honor of Harry Kalas – one will never, ever forget him and what he meant to this city.

    How do you measure your life? At the end of the journey, when you are looking to close out the final chapter, how do you measure up? Harry was well known, loved and will be missed by the entire city of Philadelphia. What more could one achieve?

     
  • Posts: 0 Manny

    Nice post, Amanda!

     
  • Posts: 579 Brian Michael

    Avatar of Brian Michael

    Print out this patch and tape it to your shirt.

    http://www.philliesnation.com/images/HK_Patch.jpg

     
  • Posts: 0 nick

    great post amanda…………summer and phils baseball will never be the same

     
  • [...] A fan reflects on Kalas’ career. [Phillies Nation] [...]

     
  • Posts: 0 Kieran Kelly

    The simple way Harry called the game will be what I miss the most.

    He just had a great way of doing it that is lacking among the younger broadcasters.

    I’ll be at the game tonight, and it will be very emotional I’m sure.

    -KK

     
  • Posts: 1650 Tim Malcolm

    Avatar of Tim Malcolm

    I wrote a long eulogy for Harry, but just to boil my thoughts…

    I’ve lost a few relatives in my life, but no death has ever been harder than Harry’s for me. I used to scream “outta here!” as a baby. I emulated Harry’s voice throughout my entire life (I actually do an extremely good impression). He was the human connection to the Phillies for me. And, really, he was the reason I’ve always wanted to be a play-by-play broadcaster. Seriously, that’s my dream job. But anyway – he humanized baseball for me, and surely, for all of us. He was just a very, very good friend. One of my best friends.

    The day he died, as the news began trickling, I moved fast to update the site. But the moment his death came across, I started shaking. I felt numb. I’ve never felt numb about a death. A few co-workers asked if I was okay. I wanted nothing more than to go outside and breathe, and probably cry. Sometimes it just happens.

    Part of me wishes we were able to give him the proper sendoff. But he’s been involved in a lot of special events, and you know, he never fit right doing them. He made sense in the box, doing his work, being Harry. It is appropriate that he went on those terms. But boy, I wish I had him back. I miss him badly.

     
  • Posts: 0 Marisa

    I wrote one too I think you should post them…can we send them?

     
  • Posts: 0 Josh

    I am looking forward to watching the game tonight and going to game and ceremonies tomorrow.

    Harry was the best.

    He is what made me such a huge baseball fan and I will dearly miss his voice.
    I look forward to telling my children some day all about the VOICE of the Fightin Phils….

    He will surely NEVER be forgotten.

    Rest in piece our friend…. You will be missed……….

     
  • Posts: 0 Corinne

    I’m a long time reader, but have never commented before. It has been so comforting to read these tributes to Harry, that I felt moved to share my thoughts.

    I was at the game in DC on Monday, sitting in my seat and feeling the rush of finally seeing our Phillies out on the field. Then, the unthinkable happened and my phone rang. I must have had my sister repeat the news 10 times, it simply couldn’t be true. I felt the wind was knocked out of me. I sat there for a moment and realized that I needed to find my dad.

    Somehow I formed the words and gave my dad the news. I knew how lucky I was to have my dad there, who else could understand this feeling? My dad was the one who turned off the radio in my childhood bedroom the countless nights I would fall asleep listening to Harry’s voice and he was the one who taught me to always find Harry on the radio if I had the misfortunte of being in a car during a game.

    We returned to our seats, stunned, looking around the stadium and up to the broadcast booth wondering how it was possible that Harry had been there just 2 hours ago and then taken from us. Pregame ceremonies happened around us, I’m fairly certain I stood for the national anthem, but it was all a blur. Harry was gone.

    I wish I could be in Philly this weekend. I need the comfort of being around those who understand. Instead I’m in upstate New York turning to internet tributes and radio broadcasts… Intellectually I know we will get through this and move forward, but I am devastated to know summer will never sound the same and my children will never know baseball through Harry’s voice.

    Our World Champion Phillies have suffered through many miserable seasons and miserable teams, but through it all we were always blessed with the finest broadcaster in baseball. Harry helped me to learn to love the Phillies and the game of baseball and for that I will always be thankful to him.

    I miss him too.

     
  • Posts: 0 Joe

    Amanda great post! I have to say tho he died on the 13th not the 12. I lost my grandmom and Harry that day.

     
  • Posts: 0 Chutley

    Joe, the 12th is the last day he announced

     
  • Posts: 579 Brian Michael

    Avatar of Brian Michael

    Send your stories to us – http://www.philliesnation.com/contact

     
  • Posts: 0 shannon

    I get Phillies mobile updates from Phillies.com and CBS3.That is how i first heard of Harry’s death.In about 2 weeks the Phillies play in STL.I will cry i bet at those 2 games.I meet Harry 2 or 3 times.He signed my Phillie Phanatic Stuffed animal and a Phillies sign for me.Plus he talked baseball with me for several minutes.I have meet several baseball media guys.Most are kind of cocky etc.But Harry was such a nice guy.I could tell after i meet him.That he really loved Baseball and the Phillies.

     
  • Posts: 0 Vicki Anderson

    My heart is heavy as well as all phillies fans must be. I know he is the was best and still is the best announser there ever was. I have listen to his wonderful voice since I was 9 years old. If anyone goes straight to heaven I know it will be him. We will miss you HARRY!!!!, A beloved fan, Vicki Anderson

     
  • Posts: 0 Joe

    My fault, I misread it.

     
  • Posts: 0 GIVETOMMYMCACHANCE

    GIVE TOM MCCARTHY A CHANCE AND GET OVER YESTERDAY CAUSE ITS ALL OVER !!!!!!!!!!!!

     
  • Posts: 0 Marisa

    here is a tribute I wrote for this great man….we love you HK!

    “It’s hard to believe…Harry. Hard to believe” – hard to believe that Harry Kalas will no longer be calling Phillies games. The voice of my childhood, of my passion, silenced forever at the age of 73.
    On April 13, 2009 Harry Kalas arrived at RFK Stadium ready to do the play by play of the game. He was early, like usual and went about his business of preparing. He collapsed and was found about an hour before the game…dead at the scene.
    Some say it’s poetic that Harry died in the booth. He died doing what he loved and at the ball park, the place he loved more than any other. I wish he wouldn’t have died alone.
    Watching the tributes and reactions from the players, coaches and his fellow broadcasters these past few days I am amazed at how loved Harry was and how many lives he really touched in Philadelphia and throughout the baseball world. It feels like we lost a friend, an uncle perhaps.
    Personally, my summer will never be the same. Since the age of 9 I have been a die hard Phillies fan. I have cheered them through so many losses, so many near wins and finally this year the world championship. So many of my memories are peppered with the voice of Harry…almost like a sound track to my life.
    Harry had a nickname for everyone. One of the reasons I fell so in love with the Phillies was that Harry brought them to life for me. I felt I knew them personally because after hearing Harry talk they weren’t Lenny or Darren or Jimmy- they became “the dude”, “Dutch” and “J-roll”. I could be in the worst mood but hearing Harry call my favorite players name over the TV would brighten my day. I mean, who doesn’t smile when they hear the way Harry used to introduce Mickey Morrindini? How could you not? Even when Mitch Williams was giving us a heart attack one call of “Mitchie Poo” and he was back on top in our hearts. Harry did that. He exuded love for the players and made you love them. I was listening to some call- ins right after his death on WIP and Greg “the bull” luzinski said “there were times that I turned on a game (after I was done playing) to hear how the phils were doing. If Harry was speaking…I didn’t know whether we were winning or losing. He was so excited – always.” I think at times it was that excitement that let the team in 2008 have a never say die attitude. When you know someone is in your corner, why give up? Make him right. Make that come back.
    Harry Kalas had a true love for the game and no matter what he was calling – Thome’s 400th homerun, Michael Jack’s 500, or a normal double play you know he knew the team was playing hard and doing their best. From the calls of assuring us that “Chase Utley IS THE MAN” to the simplest calls of letting us know that “the ball was outta here!” we could feel the energy.
    Harry helped turn me into a Phillies fan. I don’t know if I could be that excited about baseball (come on it can be boring on TV) if there wasn’t someone there getting excited with me. Harry did that. From the first game I can remember watching (Terry Mulholland’s no hitter) to the in between banter with Whitey and L.A. to that final pitch Brad Lidge threw to end the world series, Harry was there. His voice will forever bring back some of the best moments, still give me chills. He was more than a commentator; he was a fan and became a friend to all who listened to him.

    Now, Harry joins his best friend Whitey in heaven. I am sure the two of them will be watching over our Phils and having a good laugh during the seventh inning stretch. His voice will forever live in video and our memories. He was there when we won it all. And when Shane pointed at that booth after hitting his homerun in tribute, we knew these boys wanted to keep winning it all for their biggest supporter and fan. I hope that my children are lucky enough to experience Phillies baseball the same way I did with love and passion.

    So Harry the K, thanks for the memories. For the excitement you brought to the wins, and the hopes you brought through the losses. We will miss your enthusiasm, your spirit and your voice. Rest in peace.

    ***it is my thought in Harry’s memory that during the 7th inning stretch at all Phillies home games- High Hopes should be played******

     
  • Posts: 0 Jodi

    I had the pleasure to meet Harry not once, but twice. He is also the only member of the Phillies family I was able to get their autograph twice.

    First time was a spring training game in 1994 in Clearwater that I was lucky to go down there on a sweepstakes trip that my mom won to the Tampa, FL area. I was able to walk right up to the broadcast booth at then-Jack Russell Stadium.

    The second time was in Aug 2004 at Dodger Stadium on a trip to visit my father. We attended the entire Phils/Dodger series that weekend and on the last day on Sunday’s day game, when the Phillies were getting on their bus to begin their departure from L.A., I called Harry over ( frankly, he looked surprised I knew who he was ) and he signed a baseball for me then.

    Both times meeting Harry was great and he was such a professional and having heard about 50-100 Phillies games via the internet here in Oregon, his voice sure will be missed.

    RIP Harry.

     
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