Monday, April 13, 2009

Harry Kalas 1936-2009

This is a sad day for baseball and especially Philadelphia. A real person has passed away. Harry Kalas, the longtime voice of the Phillies collapsed in the broadcast booth before a game in Washington and died shortly thereafter. He was 73. Kalas also narrated NFL films and broadcast NFL football for Westwood One. He was inducted into the baseball hall-of-fame in 2002.

Harry had the deepest voice you’ve ever heard. It was strange hearing God tell me to go to the fridge right now and get a beer. But more than the richness of his baritone was the warmth of his voice. Harry was a genuinely nice man and it came across on the air. When you listened to him it was very assuring to know that God was a good guy.

I’ve known Harry for close to twenty years. Had dinner with him in the Dodger Stadium press box last summer. For fun I would have him say mundane things like, “Take out the garbage, willya?” just to hear it in that voice.

The Phillies won the world championship last year and Harry got to make the final call. It’s only fitting that he would go out on top. After all, who is better than God?

18 comments:

Aaron Barnhart said...

The only thing slightly wonderful about this is he died with his mike on.

Dimension Skipper said...

Thanks for the reminiscence, Ken. It's truly a sad, sad day in Philly (for those who love baseball anyway).

I like to think that Harry's catching Whitey up on last year's championship run right now. I'm so glad he finally got the chance he deserved to call a Phillies Championship. Apparently the rule prohibiting local broadcasters from calling their own teams' world series games was eliminated after 1980 as a result of Phillies fans complaining that they couldn't hear Harry and Whitey the first time they won it all.

I only wish my own Dad could have lived three more years to have experienced their second championship and hear Harry's call. He would have so enjoyed the whole thing.

The game today was irrelevant, but it was nice that the Phils "won it for Harry" 9-8. I was hoping they would, but as Whitey would sometimes say... "No doubt about it, Harry."

I will greatly miss that smooth voice on the broadcasts. Thanks for the memories, Harry. We were blessed to have had him to listen to for the past 39 years. He even made the many losing seasons tolerable.

Write Away said...

I grew up listening to Harry, as my grandfather and uncles were devoted Phils fans. I remember long afternoons of listening to the games on the radio, eating peanuts and hanging on Harry's every word. He made the games more than they sometimes were, and, often, made them better than they were. He became a familiar voice -- the voice of a friend. I will miss him. Thank you, Ken, for your kind words... Rest in Peace, Harry.

Mary Stella said...

I can't believe that I'll never hear Harry the K call another game. So many milestones etched into our memories are accompanied by Harry's incredible voice. Mike Schmidt's 500th home run. The night in 1993 when the team clinched the NL Championship, Harry called them something like a wonderful rag tag bunch of throwbacks. Last year's Series win.

He made everything sound terrific -- even Chunky Soup. I never felt like Harry injected his own ego or "expertise" into the broadcast. No need for histrionics or bluster. He was always a gentleman and the anchoring influence of the broadcast team. God knows he managed to call games with Tim McCarver and not throw him out of the booth at the Vet into the crowd.

You always know that your sports heroes won't live forever, but that doesn't make their passing any less sad.

R.I.P. Harry. Long drive. Watch that baby. Outta here! Home run!

VP81955 said...

Great announcer, great guy. I lived for nearly a decade in Philly and really came to appreciate the work he did. He was to Philadelphia what Ernie Harwell was to Detroit, Harry Caray to both sides of Chicago or Vin Scully to Los Angeles -- not just the voice of a franchise, the voice of a city. He became as synonymous with Philadelphia as the Academy of Music, cheesesteaks or Wawa...not bad considering he grew up in the Midwest, and Philadelphians sometimes find it tough to warm to outsiders.

I remember that September night in 1997 when I entered Shea Stadium for a Phils-Mets game to learn that Rich Ashburn had passed on. I know how difficult it was for Harry to broadcast the game that evening, and I know the current Phils announcers must have had the same sense of loss today.

Thank you, Harry.

Dave Mackey said...

A radio colleague of mine (back when I worked in radio some 20-odd years ago) once said that a lot of cigarettes and other substances helped create that classic Kalas sound.

Until I moved out of the Philadelphia area, I would go out of my way to listen to Kalas on the televised Phillies games, even though my baseball loyalties lie elsewhere. It was a little disheartening to only hear Kalas in small doses after that, usually in the fourth inning of radio games, and then only when the Phils were at home due to XM's policy of carrying home games only. But I would hear him in so many other places like Chunky Soup commercials, so it didn't matter much.

Vin Scully had a wonderful tribute to the man today. I'm sure you heard it.

Between Harry Kalas, Mark Fidrych and Nick Adenhart, this season has NOT gotten off on the right foot.

♥♥♥♥♥ Jennifer™® ♥♥♥♥♥ said...

your blog is so good

John said...

The obituaries also noted that Kalas' love of baseball came from his first visit to see the Chicago White Sox play the (original) Senators in Griffith Stadium in Washington, so his death today in the Nationals' ballpark was in it's own way, both ironic and a bit like a baseball life coming full circle.

I remember Kalas doing New York Knicks games in the mid-1970s. Harry was only about 4-5 years into his Phillies job, and I recognized him more from being the Astros announcer when I was down in Texas during the summers in the late 60s than from his Phillies work (even at night, midtown Manhattan was awful for Philadelphia AM signals). It didn't seem to be the same having Kalas doing basketball as opposed to baseball, though Harry had the misfortune to replace Bob Wolff as the Knicks' TV voice just at the time their championship teams from the early 70s had begun to break apart. So his lack of association with those teams and his lack of (at the time) iconic status as an announcer meant his winters in the Big Apple were unmemorable, and I think he was happy to put it behind him and go back to being full-time in Philadelphia.

Mike McCann said...

Harry's enthusiasm for baseball, for painting the word picture -- even on TV -- never wavered during the many losing seasons that preceded the Phils' recent championship run. While Vin Scully has been an eyewitness to history and a legacy of achievement second only to the Yankees, Harry Kalas called thousands of loses by the Phighting Phils -- likely more losses than any other broadcaster who worked for one team over such an extended period of time.

Thankfully, his last game Sunday was a victory. A come-from-behind victory thanks to a pinch hit homer by Matt Stairs and a save by the still-perfect-for-the-Phils Brad Lidge.

VP81955 said...

The obituaries also noted that Kalas' love of baseball came from his first visit to see the Chicago White Sox play the (original) Senators in Griffith Stadium in Washington, so his death today in the Nationals' ballpark was in it's own way, both ironic and a bit like a baseball life coming full circle.Actually it was at the old Comiskey Park; Harry grew up in Naperville, Ill. But he became a Senators fan because when he wandered down behind the Washington dugout to get autographs, Mickey Vernon brought him into the dugout when it began raining. In a Paul Harvey "the rest of the story twist," Vernon lived in Marcus Hook, Pa., just south of Philly, and heard Kalas call Phillies games for many years. Harry was emcee when a statue of Vernon was unveiled in Marcus Hook some years back.

Michael Green said...

The story making the rounds today is of the time that Harry was in St. Louis and, like all broadcasters named Harry in St. Louis, had too good a time. He took a nap up against The Arch--THE arch--on the grass and managed to ruin a white suit. One day, the Phillies are in St. Louis and they show the arch on TV. Kalas asks Ashburn if he's ever been in The Arch. Ashburn says, no, but have you ever been under it?

What a voice. And, yes, it's a reminder to us to cherish Vinny.

J.J. said...

Growing up in Philly and being saddled by the memory of Gene Mauch and "The Collapse" the only true happy memory I have is of listening to Whitey and Harry calling the Phillies World Series win...Anyone who heard it will never forget...

And now (if such things are truly possible), Whitey and Harry are together again--and yet it saddens me that we won't have Harry around anymore.

Roger Owen Green said...

His brother, who used to be my boss' boss, has the same great voice: Harry'll be missed.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Reading, PA (home of the AA Phils farm team), so I've been a Phillies fan for about 30 years. I subscribe to MLB.com just to listen to the hometown radio broadcast of my beloved Phils. Even though he was only calling middle innings anymore, I'm going to miss him. RIP, my friend.

DodgerGirl said...

My husband is from Philly and has been very sad at the news. Kalas was a very talented and from all accounts a very nice man.

gjs said...

Thanks for the post.

He was the voice Phillies fans heard 162+ times for almost 40 years. For generations of fans, he *is* the voice of Phillies baseball and always will be.

Like many of the old school announcers, he knew his stuff and, as importantly, knew when not to speak and let the sound of the game do the talking.

He will be missed.

ajm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ajm said...

I attended Syracuse University in the late 1980s and briefly interned at their radio station WAER. On Fridays I'd go into the studio to record demos right after Harry's son Todd recorded material. A very nice guy. Todd's now the Tampa Bay Rays announcer; how fitting father and son should broadcast last year's Series.

I went to Harry's memorial service over the weekend at Citizens Bank Park. The first such service I ever went to where they served soft pretzels and Tastykakes.

Harry grew up in Naperville, Ill. But he became a Senators fan because when he wandered down behind the Washington dugout to get autographs, Mickey Vernon brought him into the dugout when it began raining. In a Paul Harvey "the rest of the story twist," Vernon lived in Marcus Hook, Pa., just south of Philly, and heard Kalas call Phillies games for many years. Harry was emcee when a statue of Vernon was unveiled in Marcus Hook some years back.And Mickey Vernon himself (who happened to be President Eisenhower's favorite ballplayer)only died last September. Sad.