clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The Good Phight's Tribute to Harry Kalas: Part I

New, 10 comments

It's taken quite some time for we at The Good Phight to come to grips with yesterday's tragic news, that longtime beloved broadcaster Harry Kalas is gone.  We've decided that the best way to pay tribute to the man was by sharing some of our own memories and impressions of Harry.  We hope you like them, and we invite you to share yours below.


Reading all the written tributes, and hearing all the interviews with people who knew Harry, there's one common theme: Harry was the Voice of Summer.  I'm natrually a skeptic, not given to platitudes or maudlin oversimplification, but this is a notion I simply cannot dismiss.

Harry was the Voice of Summer.  My summers.  If you're reading this, probably your summers, too.

As a kid, you had your summer days of neighborhood pickup games, bike riding, swimming, winding down with a cookout supper and then, at seven o'clock -- there it is, the Phillies game, and there they were -- Harry and Whitey.  A nice cold Coke in the plastic maroon Phillies cup, soggy with condensation in the muggy July nights... reveling in, and mostly suffering with, your beloved Phillies.  But Harry was always there, kidding around with Whitey, calling home runs from gods like Mike Schmidt and mortals like Chris James. 

Things change -- you grow up, go off to school, get a job, get married, have a family -- but baseball is always there.  Harry was always there, his warm, velvety baritone simultaneously comforting and exhilarating. 

But he's not there anymore.  Fate can be cruel, but fate allowed Harry to see his beloved Phillies be crowned World Champions last year, and gave him the privilege of calling the final outs.  Like many, the Championship did not seem final to me until I heard Harry's call -- sorry Joe Buck.

Harry is, was, and always will be the one thing (aside from perhaps Chase Utley) that Phillies fans of all stripes can agree on.  Statheads and traditionalists, Eskinites and Baseball Prospectus readers agree: Harry was the best.

As the unseasonably cool spring turns to summer I'm certain I'll think back to the past, sitting in the family room of the old house in Lancaster, Pennsylvania with my dad and brother, yelling at Juan Samuel for never being able to lay off the down-and-away slider, ranting about Don Carman, or Kevin Gross, or whichever Phillies pitcher was imploding that night, but always knowing how incredibly fortunate we were to have Harry Kalas with us every night.

Harry wasn't just summer.  Harry was baseball.  Harry's voice was the steady backbeat to time spent with friends and family and everything good.

Goodbye Harry, and thank you.


Harry Kalas was the friend we all shared our evenings with, who watched our Phillies together with us on a daily basis.  He screamed with joy along side us when we won, and lamented the losses with us as well.  Many people have said that Harry Kalas was Philadelphia's voice of baseball, and while that sounds cliche, it really is true.  We all grew up listening to Harry report what happened on the diamond, and he experienced the game with us.  When a player made a fantastic play, Harry sung his praises on your television set while you sung them in your living rooms.  Just Sunday when Chase Utley tied the game up with a homerun against the Rockies, I jumped from my chair in my living room, threw my arms in the air, and in a Harry Kalas' voice, I screamed, "Chase Utley, you are the man!"  You see, Chase's heroism has been inextricably tied in my mind to Harry Kalas' love of Chase Utley.  Harry Kalas' voice is baseball to us, and many of the great moments in Phillies history are etched in my memory in both images and sounds, and those sounds are in the voice of Harry Kalas.

During the Phillies 2007 NL East Division Championship celebration and the 2008 World Series Championship celebration, Harry Kalas sung High Hopes to the fans, to all of his friends, at Citizens Bank Park.  Each of these moments made those celebrations more real.  Harry Kalas was a Phillies fan, and his singing explained to us that we had won.

Players come and go, but Harry Kalas was always there.  He was the Phillies, and his footprint is all the more apparent now.  Homeruns are "outta here!"  Mike Schmidt is "Michael Jack!"  The Phillies are the "World Champions Of Baseball!"  Harry was our friend.  When I first learned that he was also the voice of NFL films, that was our success as the Phillies.  When I stumbled across the Puppy Bowl and realized that was Harry Kalas' voice, that was our success as the Phillies.  More than any other Phillie, he was ours.

Watching baseball in a post Harry Kalas world is going to be hard.  Watching today's game, I almost felt numb at first.  As the game went on, I was able to get more excited, but it still did not feel right.  In the end, it was mostly a relief that Brad Lidge did not blow the save, since we all knew how much Harry liked Brad Lidge.  I will always remember Harry's "World Champions of Baseball" call, but I will also remember that right afterwards, he noted that Brad Lidge stayed perfect on the season.  At that time at the stadium, I was not even thinking about Brad  Lidge's save streak, but when I heard the call replayed later on, I realized how special that streak was to Harry.

Harry Kalas was the storyteller who narrated the baseball games that affected our moods so much.  Our Phillies' experiences are tied to him.  Monday when I arrived home at my apartment building, my doorman asked me the same question that he asks me every day, "Did they win today?"  usually I give him a little recap of the game, but today all I could do was just answer him simply, "Yeah.  They did win," I replied.  But that wasn't the story today, and I couldn't really bring myself to tell the story.  How do you tell the story that the storyteller himself is dead?

David S. Cohen

Jerry Seinfeld's famous joke about rooting for sports teams is that we're rooting for laundry.  Players come and go, but we root for the team nonetheless.  In my thirty years of Phillies fandom, I've rooted for hundreds, if not close to a thousand, different Phillies players.  But one thing was constant until yesterday:  I always had Harry Kalas there rooting with me.

I've seen third base go from Mike Schmidt to Rick Schu to Pedro Feliz.  I've seen first base go from Pete Rose to John Wockenfuss to Ryan Howard.  Steve Carlton, John Denny, Shane Rawley, Terry Mulholland, Curt Schilling, Cole Hamels.  The players come and go.  But not Harry.  He was always there, thrilling us with home run calls, no-hitters, game-ending strikeouts, Mi-cky Mo-ran-di-ni, endless chatter, and good spirit through decades-long dry spells.  He was all I've known in baseball.  The game will forever be changed now.

One of my most interesting memories about Harry Kalas is only tangentially related to him.  Sometime in my late teens or early adulthood, I was driving in the middle of nowhere, maybe on my way to Atlanta or New England or some other place where car travel takes you through lots of emptiness.  It was night, so I got to listen to my pick of baseball games broadcast on a variety of "super stations" that reached endlessly.  I think I listened to five or six games over the course of that night.  And it hit me:  the announcers broadcasting these games were just mediocre (at best).  I could understand, listening to some of them, why some of my friends held that blasphemous belief that baseball was boring.  Then it dawned on me -- I thought these guys were mediocre because I was used to the best.  Harry Kalas had spoiled me.  And I was lucky enough to have him 162 days/nights per year, every year, for my entire life as a baseball fan.  Other people in other markets rooting for other teams were so unlucky.

With two young kids, I don't have as much time these days to watch and listen to every regular season game.  I try to catch as much of them as I can, but it's more in snippets than entire games.  I just happened to get to watch the 8th and 9th innings of Sunday's game against the Rockies.  And I got to watch it with my 3 year old son.  He doesn't know the game, doesn't know what's happening, and certainly doesn't know the announcers.  But, he loves cheering for the Phillies.  And the 8th and 9th innings on Sunday, with Chase Utley's game-tying home run and Matt Stairs' go-ahead home run, gave us lots to cheer.  Little did I know that we were also listening to Harry Kalas call his last homeruns.  With Josh sitting next to me just starting to love baseball, if I had to listen to Harry's last, I wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

Thanks Harry.