April 13, 2009.
This will be a date that every Philadelphia sports fan will always remember where they were. It ranks up there with World Series wins, Stanley Cup Championships, and championship parades.
The day the Voice spoke no more.
Harry Kalas passed on Monday in the broadcast booth at Nationals Park before the Phillies opened a series with the Washington Nationals. Our lives are forever changed.
One of the luxuries of this Web site is that there are no deadlines. There are no ninth inning winning home runs that make you scramble to write a new lead. We can sit in our living room or office or Starbucks and write at our own pace. With the number of Harry memories that I am privileged to have, it has taken me this much time to put together.
If you are under the age of 40 and grew up in the Philadelphia area, all you have ever known is Harry the K. His voice is synonomous with the Phillies. Heck, he has been the face of the Phillies.
Harry and Whitey were mostly on the radio in the 70s and 80s. If there was ever a romance between the listener and the announcer, then Harry was the matinee idol. I think back to falling asleep as a kid to Phillies games in the 70s, Harry and Whitey's priceless back-and-forth banter leaving a smile on my face and hoping to hear a timeless Harry home run call.
I remember listening to Harry in the car driving home from my own baseball games. After particularly good games, I would dream that Harry would one day belt out, "Swing and a long drive, that baby's OUTTTA here!" for me, like he has done thousands of times for hundreds of others.
On particularly bad nights, his voice was representative of the surrogate family member in the car, comforting me and breaking the silence of a quiet and disappointing drive home.
Harry was with us everywhere. The Jersey shore. The Schuylkill Expressway when trying to beat the crowd home. In young kid's bedrooms. In work lunch rooms. In cars sitting in traffic on I-95. I can even remember tuning in to listen to Harry in Martinsville, Va. He represented home and needed a friendly voice.
In later years, I was fortunate to work in the Phillies' front office and meet the broadcasting legend. He was truly a kind soul and a gentleman to everyone.
Harry was all substance and no schtick. He was graceful, he was professional. He had a voice for the ages. Harry was wonderful with the dramatic ("Struuuck him out!). But his brilliance was interweaving his Midwestern style and charm in a 7-1 loss for a team that was 20 games out of first. He captured our attention and captured our hearts.
I will always remember where I was for Harry's 500th home run call for Mike Schmidt. I will always remember where I was for Harry's 2008 World Series call. And I will always remember where I was when I heard the legend died.