Remembering a man who taught generations of fans to love baseball.
There was a time when the Phillies gave away baseball bats to young fans entering Veteran’s Stadium.
I remember being a 5-year-old dragging a long, heavy wooden Phillies bat around the concrete stadium in 1976. I was dismayed when my father and I arrived at our seats and I picked up the bat, only to find that the end had been filed down at an angle by the concrete floor. I think I cried.
Everything became fine again when my father propped up his feet on the seat in front on him and rested a small radio in his lap. After a few seconds of scratchy static, the familiar sounds of Harry Kalas, Andy Musser and Richie Ashburn wafted around us as though they were sitting in the empty yellow seats next to us.
That was perfection. Harry the K giving the play by play. Richie tossing in random anecdotes. Andy Musser offering his shrill commentary. And my father teaching me about the game in between.
It was days like that that established my love of the game, and a dedication to the Phillies.
But life goes on. I grew up, got a job. My father eventually moved out of the area. Richie passed away in 1997. Andy Musser retired in 2001. Harry persisted past retirement age, right up until the hour of his death—they literally carried his body out of the press box.
In a city so reluctant to change, one of the great constants has been Harry Kalas, an Illinois native who was enshrined in Cooperstown in 2002.
Mayors and mafia figures have come and gone. The skyline has steadily been altered. Stadiums have been torn down and new ones erected. Our star athletes have changed so constantly over the years it’s hard to keep track. Fourteen different people managed the Phillies during Harry’s tenure with the team.
All along, his slow, velvet barritone dragging out the key syllables was the sweet soundtrack to our sporting life—in ballgames, in NFL highlight films and, awkwardly, in the trailers for Kung Fu Hustle and Leatherheads.
“The 0-2 pitch,” he offered last October as Brad Lidge brought the season to a close.
“Struck ‘eeeeem out,” Kalas roared with the enthusiasm of a fan. “The Philadelphia Phillies are the 2008 … World Champions of baseballllllll! Brad Lidge does it again, stays perfect for the 2008 season.”
Some people may find solace in the fact that Harry passed after the Phillies finally won another championship. But for me, it never mattered if the Phillies won. It probably mattered to Harry -- but it's worth noting that when he was inducted as a broadcaster into the Hall of Fame, he wore the National League Championship ring of the 1993 team—the one that melted down so memorably in that year's World Series. And when the Phils finally did win, there was Harry, on the field, leading the fans in a rendition of "High Hopes," the perfect song for a city—and a team—that seemed to be destiny's sucker for so long.
I’ve always loved listening to Harry. I would have listened to Harry read a law school textbook. We spent many years together, connected by airwaves, often when the best thing about the Phillies was Harry—and, maybe, the Phanatic.
And anytime I hear his voice, I’ll always remember those innocent times when baseball teams could give away bats at the stadium.
Harry Kalas, the Phillies radio announcer, died today after collapsing in the press box at Nationals Stadium in Washington. Kalas' death comes after the opening week of the 2009 baseball season -- and months after Kalas called the long-awaited Phillies World Series championship.
The other guy is going nuts, but Kalas is always the gentleman. I love that little smile, though. For more great Kalas moments, go here.
No, it’s not music related, but I’m just completely heartbroken that Harry Kalas has died. He WAS Philadelphia, and some of my greatest memories from my childhood growing up in the Philly suburbs involve listening to the radio with my late father, hearing Harry and Richie Ashburn call Phillies games. Now they’re all gone. Life [...]
Harry Kalas, the Phillies Hall of Fame radio announcer, is dead. I am new to Philly, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have an appreciation of Kalas. He had that voice. And the voice, of course, is what people are going to remember. But what struck me on Opening Night this year — while the Phils [...]
The students at Benjamin Franklin High School wanted to do a talent or fashion show, but the principal, Christopher Johnson, challenged the students to combine everything into a spring play. The result? A chance for students to empower themselves.
Prior to the evening of Friday, April 17th, 19-year-old Philadelphia native Kane Kalas had already sung the National Anthem before Phillies games a few times in his life. Kane Kalas, the youngest of Harry Kalas’s three children, wowed the ballpark (and those watching on TV) that night with his deep, rich, operatic voice. Kalas talked to PW about his legendary father -- and about finding his own voice.
First Person Arts Podcast: Proud Mom