Monday, April 13, 2009

RIP Harry Kalas - 1936-2009

It was announced today that before today's Phillies-Nationals game Harry Kalas collapsed in the broadcast booth of Washington's Nationals Park. He was taken to the hospital where he then died. For those of you who don't know, Harry had been the Phillies main radio and TV announcer since 1971.

It's no exaggeration to say that Harry Kalas' death will affect virtually every Phillies fan, and each in a different way. Our memories of watching the Phillies's most memorable moments over the years are inseparable from our memories of the voice that was describing them to us. Quite apart from his naturally wonderful voice, Harry's genuine, entertaining, and friendly personality showed through in every broadcast. His easy phraseology has imprinted itself on how generations talk about baseball. He was always fair to our opponants, but always sympathetic, with an unforgettable "Oh, brother!" whenever the Phillies really let one get away.

As a Phillies fan who grew up in New York, my only chance to follow the Phillies live was the pull out the most powerful AM receiver I could find, wait until sundown, and hope weather conditions allowed the crackling signal to come through intelligibly that night. Harry Kalas, calling the middle three innings, was the distinctive, reliable voice I could always hook into for the play before the fading signal merged in and out of another station.

Harry called no-hitters by Rick Wise, Tommy Greene, Terry Mulholland, and Kevin Millwood, Michael Jack Schmidt's 500th home run as well as almost all of his others, nine Phillies division-clinchers, and four pennant wins -- but network deals prevented him from broadcasting the 1980 World Series. It is appropriate that before his death he was able to be in the booth for a World Series victory by his and our beloved Phillies.

It is an understatement to say that he will be missed: perhaps the greatest tribute is that it is absolutely true when we say it will not be the same without him.