Monday, April 13, 2009

Harry Kalas - 1936 - 2009

I was stunned this afternoon when my son yelled down the stairs to me: "Harry Kalas died!" The words didn't sink in quite so fast, but then I started getting messages on Twitter and Facebook, as well as text messages. Harry Kalas passed away this afternoon after collapsing in the broadcast booth just hours before today's Phillies game in Washington against the Nationals.
Harry Kalas, was in my opinion, the greatest voice ever to call the game of baseball. The Hall of Fame announcer of the Philadelphia Phillies was "it." He had the goods. The best pipes in the business. His voice is embedded in my head, with Kalas and his trademark "Outta here!" home-run call. His voice uttering the name "Michael Jack Schmidt" every time Schmitty hit one out of the park. And most importantly, his voice calling the final out of the Phillies' World Series victory last season.

Kalas joined the Phils as an announcer in 1971, and was the voice of the Phillies for all but the first nine years of my life. You can look back at all the great players who have donned a Phillies uniform over the past 38 years. Schmidt. Luzinski. Carlton. McGraw. Utley. Rollins. Howard. But players, and certainly managers, come and go. Even the broadcast booth saw a bit of a revolving door, but for the past 38 years, Harry Kalas has been there, and in some ways, defined the Phillies. He was the constant...through all the lean years, as well as through the World Series Championship seasons of 1980 and 2008, and of course the "almost" seasons of 1983 and 1993.

I still get chills listening to his voice, and some of his trademark calls. I was fortunate enough to have met him on three separate occasions, one of which was a seminar called "Take Me Out to the Ballgame: Baseball on the Radio," which I moderated at the Museum of Television & Radio in NYC. The seminar featured legends, and local NY announcers, but Kalas was clearly the star of the panel, with the other announcers recognizing the talent in their midst.

As I write this, the fans at Nationals Park in Washington are observing a moment of silence for Harry. I'm merely a fan, and there is an empty feeling inside. I can't imagine what it must be like for Harry's colleagues to have to call today's game...or for the players to play the game. All I know is...Harry, you will be missed.