ESPN just reported that Phillies' longtime play-by-play announcer Harry Kalas, one of the most popular and well-respected men in not just the city, but all of sports, has passed away at the age of 73.
Wow. That's shocking.
It's always difficult when something like this happens. It's especially difficult when it's a guy I have grown up listening to and adoring my whole life.
From what I heard, Kalas collapsed in the booth before the game. He was rushed to the hospital and pronounced dead at the scene.
Coupled with Eagles' announcer Merrill Reese, I have always said that we as Philadelphia sports fans have been blessed with two of the best announcers in history. Kalas has been announcing sporting events since 1958, and Phillies games since 1971.
And we'll never get to hear him announce another game.
I'm too young to remember some of Kalas' older calls, but I have heard them on TV a countless number of times.
There's the famous “Swing and a long drive, there it is! Number 500 for Michael Jack Schmidt!” Kalas called this one back in 1987, when Schmidt hit his 500th home run, and Kalas has always maintained this was his best call ever.
There's his call when the Phillies captured the NLCS in 1993 and advanced to the World Series: “Swing and a miss! Struck him out! The Phillies are the '93 National League Champions!”
And there are his recent calls—the ones I remember hearing. I remember the excitement in his voice as the Phillies won the 2007 NL East title, the team's first playoff appearance in 14 years. “The fans are on their feet! I'm going to be on my feet! This is truly exciting!...Curveball, struck him out! The Phillies are National League East champions!”
I loved his call when the Phillies won the NL East last year. “Ground ball up the middle! J-Roll dives, to Utley, one, the relay—double play! The Phillies are the National League Eastern Division Champions on a spectacular double play from J-Roll to Utley to Howard! What a play by J-Roll!” In the background, I could hear Larry Anderson yelling, “YES! YES!”
And who can forget his call when Brad Lidge struck out Eric Hinske to bring a title back to Philly. “The 0-2 pitch, swing and a miss! STRUCK HIM OUT! The Philadelphia Phillies are 2008 World Champions of baseball!”
That last call was especially sweet because of 1980. Back when the Phillies won the World Series in '80, a team's announcers weren't allowed to call the games live, so Kalas was unable to call the final out.
He later did a remake of it, but it wasn't the same. It's rewarding that Kalas was able to see the Phillies win it all once again in his lifetime—and make the call live.
I remember when I was younger and wasn't allowed to stay up late for the Phillies games. I would always tune in my radio to listen to Kalas' call of the games. I used to love the way Kalas would call a home run—“OUTTA HERE!”
Sunday afternoons at my house (when the Eagles aren't on) have become a ritual. Put on the Phillies and listen to Kalas call the game.
I used to love watching NFL Films shows on TV and listening to the voice-over done by Kalas. His voice was even used in Chunky Soup commercials.
I wish I could have remembered the duo of Harry Kalas and Richie “Whitey” Ashburn, a dynamic team who worked together for 27 years, until Ashburn passed away in 1997. From what I have been told, Kalas has always struggled with coping with Whitey's death, as the two of them were best friends.
I wish I could have met Kalas. I guarantee I would have liked him. He's seen a lot of baseball, and would be more than willing to talk for hours and hours about the Phillies, major league baseball, and all his memories from the game.
Kalas is like that uncle everyone wishes they had. He had a great sense of humor, was one of the nicest and most friendly people you'll ever meet, and a true man of the game. Kalas was the voice of the Phillies. He was Philadelphia.
I remember when Kalas was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame, the most prestigious honor a baseball man can earn. It is perfect that Kalas' last full season as announcer for the Phillies saw them emerge as World Champions. And his final game as an announcer went into the record books as a win.
It is probably appropriate that Kalas collapsed in the broadcasting booth of all places— the same place where he earned his legacy as announcer of the Phillies, and one of the most popular men in the city.
Rest in peace, Harry Kalas. Your legacy lives on.