December 13, 2018

Harry Kalas – Gone But Not Forgotten

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Nine years ago today, many Phillies fans, or even just Baseball fans, probably remember where they were when the news that Harry Kalas, the longtime voice of the Philadelphia Phillies had passed away.   It was one of those “I can’t believe this is happening” moments.

I was working as a Collection Representative for a large credit card company in Delaware at the time, and I remember my reaction at the time as being completely shocked.   Harry Kalas? He can’t die, I thought.   It just can’t happen.   Unfortunately for all of us it did.  His life ended in the broadcast booth at Nationals Stadium in Washington, D.C. about an hour before the Phillies/Nationals game was set to begin.   He was getting ready to do what he loved – call a Baseball game.

28 years earlier, Phillies fans had no idea the national treasure that Harry Kalas would become.  He was an outsider, brought in from the Houston Astros in 1971, where he had been part of the Astros broadcast team since 1965, and called the first game ever played in the Astrodome.  He was brought over by former Astros executive and current Phillies executive Bill Giles to replace the very popular Bill Campbell and work with longtime Phillies announcer By Saam.  Kalas also served as Master Of Ceremonies for the opening of the Phillies spectacular new home, Veterans Stadium.  At first receiving a tepid reception from Phillies fans, Kalas won everyone over with his easy-going style and his baritone voice.  Famous calls like “It’s outta here, home run Michael Jack Schmidt” are still recalled by fans to this day.  Kalas admitted that his famous “outta here” actually was inspired by then Phillies shortstop Larry Bowa during batting practice one day.   After Phillies Leftfielder Greg “The Bull” Luzinski belted a ball into the upper deck, Bowa marveled and said “Wow! That’s way outta here.”  Kalas liked the unique ring to it and used it ever since.

Kalas called six no-hitters, Six NL Championship Series, and three World Series (1983, 1993 and 2008).  Major League rules prohibited the use of local broadcasters during the World Series and Kalas was not allowed to call the 1980 Phillies World Series Victory.  Audio recordings of the final out of the series were re-created.  Kalas also called the first and last games at Veterans Stadium (April 10, 1971 and September 28, 2003) and also the first game at Citizens Bank Park (April 12, 2004).  He was given the Ford C Frick Award in 2002.

I grew up at a time when there was no ESPN, and not all the Phillies games were televised.   There was many a Summer’s night when all I had was Harry Kalas and his partner, longtime Phillies Hall Of Fame Outfielder Richie Ashburn, painting the picture of that night’s game on the radio.  The same scene was played on front porches in South Philly as well as on the beaches in New Jersey and Delaware.

Harry was one of a kind.  He may be gone, but he will forever be remembered in Phillies history.

 

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