The son of the Phillies' legendary announcer has pipes of his own.
Did he ever consider leaving here, taking another job in another city?
Not once, not once. The thing about his job is he got to travel and see all sorts of wonderful cities and he really enjoyed that. He loved coming down to Clearwater for spring training, he loved the Florida weather. He never thought of leaving Philadelphia. There were other opportunities and things like that, some of which financially would have been better, but he just loved the city of Philadelphia and he just loved what he did. He felt like he was in the right place and he was doing his part.
Did you ever travel with him to other cities for games?
I didn’t get too many opportunities to travel with the team and my father. I did go to a few close ones – I went to Baltimore a couple times. Oh, I did get to go to Coors Field where the [Colorado] Rockies play, but to be honest I didn’t go very much.
It must have been interesting in high school, both singing and being into classical music and being into sports – you know how it is, those worlds can be mutually exclusive when you’re growing up, when you have the jocks versus the band geeks and so on…was it difficult navigating both worlds?
To be honest, I was never a great athlete. But I did play baseball growing up, all the way through high school. As I said, my main sport was bowling, not really an athletic sport. But when I was 17 I was going bowling literally five times a week, so I dedicated a lot of time to that. I was on the baseball team, and the really difficult part for me was balancing everything. I was just so super dedicated to my work academically, I wanted to be able to go to the best college I could, and I was also on the radio, broadcasting baseball games for the junior varsity and I was broadcasting basketball games as well, and I was asked to sing the anthem at games. So there were a whole lot of things going on! So with all those things put together -- and also I am dyslexic, so reading takes a long time for me -- so when you put that all together, high school was very full of a lot of different things, and that’s one of the reasons why when I got to college I decided, okay, I’m gonna concentrate on what I wanna do. I’m still gonna sing because it’s a passion of mine, but I’m not gonna actually study music per se because four out of five classes I would take – composing, piano – wouldn’t be passions of mine. But with the time that I have, and without depriving myself of sleep, I’m going to focus on broadcast journalism.
When you were broadcasting games on the radio, did you develop any appreciation for what your father did that you perhaps didn’t have before? Did it change your perspective?
Yeah, it did. Especially when I would broadcast on air with him on Father’s Day, which I had the opportunity to do a couple times.
How old were you?
The first time I was 12, I believe. In 2002. I was on air with my father, L.A. [Phillies broadcaster Larry Anderson] and my two brothers – I was doing the play-by-play. It was a really great experience. It’s funny, I’m sure you’ve heard of Albert Pujols, the all-star player.
2002, I believe, was his second or third year in the majors – he was a good player but certainly not as recognized as he is today, and when I was 12, I didn’t really start getting into sports and baseball until I was older. So they asked me to do the play-by-play, I’m 12 years old, and I’m like “Okay!” So the batter is Albert Pujols, pronounced POOH-holes, and my father says, “Who’s batting, son?” And I’m like, “…and now the batter is Albert…puh-JOE-lees!” So to this day I’m still recognized as the guy who called him “Puh-JOE-lees.” So that was when I was 12, and fortunately I had the opportunity to do it again when I was 17, in the booth with my brothers and my father. But yes, it really did help me gain an appreciation for what they do. Just the complete confidence and effortlessness they had when they knew the stuff like the back of their hand, whereas when I was broadcasting they gave me all these media guides and I’m flipping through them, like, “What is going on here?!” And you know, it was a little more casual at my high school. The competition was a little less fierce. [laughs] But basketball, I hadn’t really grown up watching too much basketball and they asked me to do play-by-play mainly because nobody else, I dunno … I went to a pretty small high school and nobody else had a combination of the voice and the drive to do it, I guess. But you have to know so much, not only about the game but also about the players, and be able to announce it, especially since I was doing it on radio and not television so you literally have to say a lot more about what’s actually happening so people know what’s going on. I learned that after my first baseball game in high school because the only time I’d done it before was on TV with my father, so, you know, I was used to there being more airspace and I realized when I went back and listened that, like, “I don’t know what’s going on here.”
There’s so much hard work that goes into sounding so effortless on the air. People always talked about your father being so well-prepared, and I imagine so much of that stemmed from his love for it that it probably didn’t seem like work to him to prepare for a game.
Yeah. For a 7:05 p.m. game he would leave the house at maybe two, two-thirty, and I’d say “Dad, where are you going?” And he’d say, “I’m going to the game, son.” I’d say “Why, the game doesn’t start ’til seven...?” “Well, I’ve got to prepare….” He was just so happy that he was doing it, it was like he was going to go read his favorite novel. Reading the statistics, reading what happened last week … before the game started, he’d know -- and players tell me this, I think Mike Schmidt said this in his speech -- how each player had done versus the opposing pitcher over his career before the game. He’d make comments to them about it. It’s just like the whole way he immersed himself in it was so interesting, every little tidbit.
Of all the things people have been saying about your father the past few weeks, it was especially nice to hear how over the years the Phillies players embraced him as one of their own, and they wanted him around on the plane, on the bus, in the bars, in the locker room. They loved him and trusted him and made him feel like one of them, and that’s really rare, I would think.
Exactly, exactly. I’ve never been in the business but I can imagine that’s a really unique relationship. It’s wonderful. I know my father loved every bit of it. He had a close relationship with a lot of the players, with a lot of his colleagues, and the owners as well, and the people who, you know, the security guards at the ballpark, every single person. My father knew all of their names. He just loved people, whether that was the people at the ballpark or the people on the streets of Philadelphia. They meant the world to him.
Mayors and mafia figures have come and gone. The skyline has steadily been altered. Our star athletes have changed so constantly over the years it’s hard to keep track. In a city so reluctant to change, one of the great constants has been Harry Kalas.
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 [...]
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 [...]
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.
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.
Wow, did you know that Philly R&B/soul icon Teddy Pendergrass and legendary Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas share the same birthday? I didn’t until just now! Teddy turns 59 today, while Harry turns 73. I think they should celebrate together…
First Person Arts Podcast: Proud Mom