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Celebrating HK Two Years Later

Posted by Pat Gallen, Wed, April 13, 2011 07:07 AM | Comments: 13
Analysis, Harry Kalas Tribute, News, Opinion, Posts

Tim Malcolm, Phillies Nation reporter emeritus, wrote this heartfelt reaction to the death of Harry Kalas the day after he passed in the press box at Nationals Park. That was two years ago today. To this day, he is still missed, but there is no doubt that his voice lives on. We’ll share some old audio clips later on today.

———————-

My mother’s and father’s were the first two voices I heard after I was born. Now I’m not sure, but I would bet the third was the voice of Harry Kalas.

It was a stunning voice. His rich, regal baritone felt like the wind shaving across a midwestern field. He was an Illinois boy, honing his craft in the fields of Iowa – closely neighboring the fields where Richie Ashburn rooted. He moved to Hawaii, then to Houston, then to Philadelphia. Despite his youth, he carried that majestic voice, deep and hearty, assured and personable. It honestly felt like baseball.

And for millions of us, Kalas’ voice wasn’t simply something that felt like baseball, it was baseball. It was the first sound heard when we turned the radio dial, then it was the first sound heard when we clicked to the television. It greeted us to the park as if we sat there ourselves. His words wrapped around the hollow concourses of Veterans Stadium, echoed into the field, warmed us on those chilly summer nights. And yet it defined our lazy summer afternoons, sitting at the public pool, or on the stoop, or in our living rooms. It cradled our hopes and ambitions of a team that always let us down.

Harry never let us down.

Even if we had the opportunity to meet the man, he didn’t let us down. I attended a Philadelphia Sportswriters Banquet years ago, and during an intermission my brother took me outside for a cigarette. As we stood outside, I – no more than 12 – noticed him, that iconic image: Clean black tuxedo, well-quaffed gray hair, a cigarette in one hand, a glass of scotch in another. All alone, he contemplated the night sky. My brother and I walked past him, and I let it out, as if showing my father I could ride a bicycle:

“Long drive … watch that baby … outta here!”

He glanced over, chuckled and tipped his head to me. I could have floated in air.

That wasn’t my first run in with Harry. At age 6 he mulled over my scorecard during Terry Mulholland’s no hitter. Upon learning this news, no longer was the greatest joy that I witnessed a no hitter, but that Harry Kalas spoke about me on the air. That voice spent a few seconds with me.

Since those moments, I cherished Harry as he had grown older and, sadly, sicklier. We all knew it, and we all recognized it, but we didn’t dare speak about it. Scott Franzke denied ever thinking Harry would leave the booth. Even though we mocked his missed calls and premature vocal rises, we never, ever wanted him to leave the booth. Not our voice. Not our baseball.

Harry Kalas was baseball. And he was Philadelphia. He was as much part of the city as William Penn’s hat. As much part of the city as the green of the Walt Whitman Bridge. We would hear him on NFL Films and think “he’s our guy.” We would hear others speak about the golden voice and think “he’s our guy.” Our pride for Harry was greater than maybe our pride for the Phillies themselves.

Of course, that pride grew in 2008, the special season that redeemed our faith in the local baseball club. And when Brad Lidge uncorked that final slider, it was Harry’s call we longed to hear:

“The oh-two pitch – swing and a miss! Struck him out! The Philadelphia Phillies are two-thousand eight world champions of baseball!”

Just as we knew he’d call it. And it remains our lasting memory of Harry. It joins the bin with his iconic call of Mike Schmidt’s 500th home run as his greatest moments. There are numerous others, from Pat Burrell’s defiant home run off Brian Wilson last season, to Garry Maddox’s final out of the 1980 National League Championship Series. The phrases are etched in our minds: “Long drive!” “Struck ‘em out!” “Could it be?!” “This ball’s outta here!” The character follows.

And what a character. We knew Harry loved a good drink, and we knew Harry loved a good time. Even at his most downtrodden when calling a game, he sounded somewhat optimistic. With Ashburn, he played the surprised straight man to Whitey’s guffaw and bluster. Together, they played like two uncles, men you knew instantly. And even after Richie died, Harry remained warm and cordial, sometimes straight to Larry Andersen’s dumbfounded northwestern everyman. But more than anything he grew into an exalted man, the kind of legendary person that Philadelphians hardly find. His name adorned a Citizens Bank Park restaurant. Yes, he was baseball.

In simpler times, though, Harry was the lazy summer afternoon, the chilly summer night, the open cornfields of Iowa, the steel and brick of Philadelphia. He was soothing even in the darkest days. He kept us coming back to the team no matter how bad it seemed. Not many can do such a thing.

To me, Harry is part of my family. He is my fifth uncle, my summer retreat. He is Phillies baseball. Throughout the 24 years of my life, there have been few constants, and besides my family, there has been the Phillies, and there has been Harry Kalas. For millions across the Delaware Valley and beyond, the feeling is exactly similar. So listening today was tough – Tom McCarthy and Chris Wheeler, and Gary Matthews and Larry Andersen filled the gaps well, but there was no voice. There was no regal baritone serenading me to the field. There was no optimistic tingle in the hearty chords. There was no “High Hopes.” There was no “outta here.”

In a way, there was no baseball.

But baseball proceeds. There will be a game Wednesday. And a game Thursday. And so on until the season ends, and another season begins. And so on. And we will proceed without Harry, without the voice. At some point, a new voice will emerge. Who knows which voice fills our lazy summer afternoons and chilly summer nights. Who knows which voice fills our stoops and living rooms. Maybe that voice will engage millions more the way Harry engaged us, but it sure won’t be the same. Not at all.

For yes, Harry Kalas was baseball in Philadelphia. He was my baseball. He was my voice. He was my uncle. And he was our friend.

Avatar of Pat Gallen

About Pat Gallen

Pat Gallen has written 1709 articles on Phillies Nation.

Pat is Editor-in-Chief of Phillies Nation. He also covers the Phils for 97.5 FM in Philly.

 
 
  • Posts: 0 TheDipsy

    I remember may years ago I was trying a case in Delaware County Court and I saw Harry sitting by himself on a bench outside a courtroom and I went over and talked. At first I fawned over him and tried to to talk too fast and seem to anxious. But after a minute his easy conversational manner and folksy demeanor had me just talkin to another guy. I had him for about five minuted because I didn’t wanna over stay my welcome. He talked in a real low voice, too. Its was weird hearing him talk in a conversational way and not in his broadcasters voice. I think my last question was something about who the Phils down in the minors that might cause a stir. Now I knew the Phils minor league system but he told me to watch out for Kevin Stocker (“a kid named”), who I had never heard of. It was great a high moment for me personally.

    I also do a great Harry Kalas imitation. I still describe all cool things in my Harry Kalas voice. Births of children, marriages, critiques of one night stands, tennis matches. In short, because of Harry (and Howard Cosell), I often do a running commentary of things I see happening in front of me contemporaneously with their occurrence, be it sports related or not. My brother, too. When we are together we do dueling Harry’s since no one can do Richie.

    To say that Harry Kalas was important to me is a real understatement. We all have our “inner monologues” and sometimes I think mine is in Harry’s voice. When and if I go to heaven, I hope that St. Peter has the day off and Harry is there, resplendent in plaid slacks, white shoes and belt, and a powder blue sports jacket, kicking the gate open with his foot to let me in.

    GO PHILS

    The Dipsy

    As big a Phils fan as I am, Harry (and Richie)

     
  • Posts: 0 TheDipsy

    I remember may years ago I was trying a case in Delaware County Court and I saw Harry sitting by himself on a bench outside a courtroom and I went over to talk to him. At first I fawned over him and tried not to talk too fast and I remember being anxious. After a few minutes his easy conversational manner and folksy demeanor had me just talkin to another guy. I had him for about five minutes because I didn’t wanna over stay my welcome. He talked in a real low voice, too. Its was weird hearing him talk in a conversational way and not in his broadcasters voice. I think my last question was something about who the Phils had down in the minors that might cause a stir because at that time the Phils had bubkus. He told me to watch out for Kevin Stocker (“a kid named”), who I had never heard of. It was a high moment for me personally.

    I also do a great Harry Kalas imitation. I still describe all cool things in my Harry Kalas voice. Births of children, marriages, critiques of one night stands, tennis matches. In short, because of Harry (and Howard Cosell), I often do a running commentary of things I see happening in front of me contemporaneously with their occurrence, be it sports related or not. My brother, too. When we are together we do dueling Harry’s since no one can do Richie.

    To say that Harry Kalas was important to me is a real understatement. We all have our “inner monologues” and sometimes I think mine is in Harry’s voice. When and if I go to heaven, I hope that St. Peter has the day off and Harry is there, resplendent in plaid slacks, white shoes and belt, and a powder blue sports jacket, kicking the gate open with his foot to let me in.

    GO PHILS

    The Dipsy

    As big a Phils fan as I am, Harry (and Richie)

     
  • Posts: 193 bfo_33

    Avatar of

    I’ve never liked hearing about how things were better way back when (prices, music, sports,…..), but for me, watching the Phils is a little less enjoyable with Harry gone. I’m not a Wheeler hater, but he’ll never be family either. Sarge ranks up there pretty high on the unintentional comedy scale, but can only handle so much of him. There is nothing wrong with Frantze, but nothing great either. None are leads, more of a supporting crew.

    I’m not sure I’d be as big a Phils fan if I didn’t start with Harry and Whitey in the 70s. More and more, I find myself turning off the volume, imagining the two of them call the game.

     
  • Posts: 6 Jay

    Avatar of Jay

    He was and always will be the Voice of The Phillies. Harry saw the game from our (the fans) perspective, the kid who was living his lifetime dream; and he conveyed that through his passion for the game. Everyone says, I remember where I was when……….; I remember where I was when both Harry and Richie died, Rest in Peace.

     
  • Posts: 3084 Chuck A.

    Avatar of Chuck A.

    I hear ya, bfo….but I have to say that Phillies baseball is great with any of our guys. Harry was awesome, but it’s time to move on. Franzke, I think, will emerge as the next “voice”. Sarge is a boob, I’m not a big fan, same with TMac. I actually like Wheeler. I’ve met him and talked with him and he’s a really genuinely nice guy who’s probably the biggest Phillies fans out there and has been with the team for 40 years….so he is “family” as far as I’m concerned.

     
  • Posts: 193 bfo_33

    Avatar of

    One of these days I’ll remember how to spell Franzke’s name. Wheeler has an incredible knowledge of the game, can remember things from 30 years ago like it was yesterday. I have a ton of respect for him, but think he is better suited for the third wheel role (no pun intended), doesn’t really convey the passion of the moment. Now that I watch more than listen on the radio, the game and the players is what propels the interest anyway, but still a loss that hasn’t really been filled. Could be a lot worse – Sterling could have come in (not that it was ever an option).

     
  • Posts: 103 buffy08210

    Avatar of buffy08210

    I am compelled to defend Sarge for his style and respect of the game and for its players.
    Can anyone tell me when the last time LA offered up a useful insight? Is he brain dead? I realize radio can be more challenging than TV but that is primarily in play by play.

     
  • Posts: 0 branderson

    I cried the day Harry died, real hard. He was the voice of my childhood. Something special that resonated with the team definitely carried with the voice of Harry. Ever since I became a Phils’ Phan at age 6, in 1996, there was something that just gave me excitement about listening to Phillies’ games. Through the solidifcation of my fandom from ages 6 to 12, the Phillies were pretty awful but Harry always could comfort me through the worst of times. His booming voice highlighted special moments of lackluster seasons.
    And then 2008 came. How rewarding it was to hear HK call Lidge’s final strike out. I was exalted. There was (almost) no moment like it in my life, and what made it all the more special was that a guy who I felt was basically a grandfather to me was calling the play.

    Harry is Phillies baseball and he made me PROUD to be a phan.

    Il

     
  • Posts: 79 branderson925

    Avatar of branderson925

    I cried the day Harry died, real hard. He was the voice of my childhood. Something special that resonated with the team definitely carried with the voice of Harry. Ever since I became a Phils’ Phan at age 6, in 1996, there was something that just gave me excitement about listening to Phillies’ games. Through the solidifcation of my fandom from ages 6 to 12, the Phillies were pretty awful but Harry always could comfort me through the worst of times. His booming voice highlighted special moments of lackluster seasons.
    And then 2008 came. How rewarding it was to hear HK call Lidge’s final strike out. I was exalted. There was (almost) no moment like it in my life, and what made it all the more special was that a guy who I felt was basically a grandfather to me was calling the play.

    Harry is Phillies baseball and he made me PROUD to be a phan.

     
  • Posts: 5528 Lefty

    Avatar of Lefty

    That was a really nice piece Tim wrote, he couldn’t have had much time to put it together. It expresses many of the same things I feel about Harry. I remember the first time I heard him when he came here from Houston. He wasn’t beloved at first, Campbell, Saam etc. were entrenched for a while as I remember (I don’t remember much from my late teen years!) In the early 70′s he was on the field as host of a function of some kind, and was booed. I never understood that, I liked him immediately. But it did not take long before the city took to him, as time went along.

    If i had one wish it would be to hear the call of Mike Schmidt’s extra inning home run vs the Expos in 1980 that won us the division, in the second to last game of the year. I’ve never found/ heard that one replayed.

    Harry Kalas was the best at what he did, and can never be replaced. But I have embraced Scott Franzke, and think he’s doing a great job on the radio,

     
  • Posts: 103 Bart Shart

    Avatar of Bart Shart

    Harry Kalas is the greatest announcer in the history of baseball. None better, ever, in my book. He had the voice, the kind personality and a great sidekick in Richie Ashburn to entertain and educate us. He was simply wonderful. I have to say I am real lucky to have been part of his audience. It is not fair to compare other announcers to Harry. He was the Babe Ruth of announcers. I was so happy to see him enter the Hall of Fame.

     
  • Posts: 16 Lyndanne

    Avatar of Lyndanne

    How true, Harry was baseball for me.. Saw the last Atl series 2008 in Atl and went to the back of the stadium where the buses leave.. Harry came out for a smoke and signed autographs of the few Philly Phaithful who traveled to the game.. took videos with us and basically enjoyed his smoke and love of the game.. :) My jersey he signed was worn to few games last year and the usher by my seats noticed the signature and that struck up a 2 inning conversation about how incredibly wonderfull Harry was not only as Philly Baseball God but as a Human Being!!! Thank you Harry for being my summers for so long!!!

     
  • Posts: 0 gmuny2002

    My favorite Harry & Whitey memory comes from back in 1979 where I as a Pittsburgh native in the Navy had my ship in drydock at the old Navy Yard at the foot of Broad St. All I had to do was show my military ID at the gate at the Vet and I got in for $1! Needless to say I was at the Vet a lot that year, but, I digress. I used to carry what we called a “boom box” with me (yes, kiddies this was waaaaay before Ipods and the Walkman was a year away, I think) I’d find a seat, put the boom box in the seat next to me and tune in Harry & Whitey. The Phils were playing the Pirates (baseball’s the only sport where I have two favorite teams and they play each other which is great!) I don’t remember which of the Phils fouled off a pitch, but it caught the Pirates catcher, Steve Nicosia lets say in a very “delicate” area on a male! I’m sort of horrified because I know how bad that must HURT! And over the radio I hear Harry,”Well, Whitey that caught him in a delicate area” (as only Harry could say it) Whitey replies, “Looks like he’ll be singing Soprano!” I laughed so hard I almost fell out of my seat! This began my love affair with the Phils, Harry & Whitey. Thanks for the memories, guys, I really miss you both!

     
 
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