The Good Phight continues its commemoration of legendary Phillies announcer Harry Kalas, who passed away Monday at age 73 while preparing to call a game in Washington. In such times, we believe it's a comfort to share memories and thoughts, and we want to hear yours as well. Feel free to add them in the comments or through a FanPost.
I’ve never been an autograph guy. One summer when I was eight or nine, my uncle took me up to Eagles training camp in West Chester, and I filled up half a notebook with the signatures of guys most of whom met “The Turk” a few days or weeks later; while the day was a lot of fun, soon afterward I determined that this practice of getting strangers to write their names for you was both silly and a little creepy.
Twenty-five years later, though, I got an autograph I’ll cherish as long as I live. This was three springs ago, when I was taking in a game at Bright House Networks Field and realized Harry Kalas was in the booth a few rows behind me. After the game ended, I joined the throngs of people crowding around the booth, and when the time came, I handed Harry my Vet-era maroon Phils cap, a giveaway item from the 2003 season that had managed to avoid the left-in-airports or on-subways fate of most of my baseball caps. Harry’s contract was up after that season, and rumor had it that he and the team might part ways. As he signed under the bill—“Harry Kalas HOF 2002”—I told him that I hoped he’d broadcast Phils games forever; he smiled and said “me, too.”
But when Harry passed on Monday, my first thought wasn’t this single interaction, which was certainly thrilling for me but not otherwise significant. What I thought of was all the time I had spent with this man’s voice—time that, if stretched on end, I imagine would amount to months. I became a baseball fan at five or six, but my parents weren’t hugely into the sport beyond buying me cards at Burger King and, starting (fortuitously enough) around 1980, taking me to a game or two each year. So I got into it watching TV or listening on the radio—which meant Harry and Whitey. Thinking about it on Monday afternoon, I realized I probably had gotten more of my fandom from Harry Kalas than any other single person—player, fellow fan, writer, other broadcaster, whoever. Harry’s voice was my guide into baseball, which if it isn’t my favorite thing in this world is damn close.
The other thought I had, while numbly watching the game in Washington and suffering through the Nats announcers, was just how friggin’ great a broadcaster Harry was. Harry let silence tell the story as much as speech: he seemed to recognize, as so few of the younger announcers do, that the background hum of a ballpark filled with fans is itself a marvelous sound, and far superior to words that add no value. My abiding memory of the man isn’t one home run call, exciting as his were, but the almost sacred feeling of being in the car, usually by myself, listening to that background hum before Harry's baritone broke through the silence with the next pitch: "fastball down low, the count is two and one."
Thanks, Harry. You gave us something beyond value.