On April 13, 2009, Harry Kalas went to a better place. The voice of the Philadelphia Phillies died at the age of 73.
It has been two years and 730 days since Harry the K passed, but it still feels like yesterday.
I am only 23 years old, so Harry Kalas and his voice were Phillies baseball to me.
A lot of the articles I write contain a lot of facts and statistics, but this article quite simply will be one fan honoring one of his heroes. I hope I can do the man justice with this piece.
He will forever be my all-time favorite Phillie.
He loved Philadelphia and he loved all of the Philadelphia fans. His delivery and signature "Outta here!" home run calls provided the soundtrack to Philadelphia baseball for nearly four decades. His voice will never be replaced and it will never be forgotten.
The love story between Kalas and the fans continues to this day with the Phillies announcing that they have gratefully accepted the gift of a bronze statue of Kalas, for placement outside their home stadium. The statue was completely funded by the fans who loved and cherished Harry Kalas.
Harry Kalas will always stand guard outside Citizens Bank Park.
You can be sure that Harry and Whitey are looking down on the Phillies with a smile because of the sell-out crowds and winning baseball since their passing.
It is still hard to turn on the television or radio and not hear Kalas' voice calling the Phillies game. Kalas quite simply, was Philadelphia.
He even was the voice of so many famous football clips, joining NFL Films as a narrator in 1975. He did the voice over for "Inside the NFL" from 1977 through 2008.
If you have ever met the guy (I was lucky enough to meet him) only complimentary things could be said of him. He was the most genuine, charming man I have ever met.
It was only fitting that he passed after watching his beloved team win one more World Series. He was found unconscious in a broadcast booth, and it was later determined that he died of heart disease.
Kalas was unable to call the Phillies World Series in 1980 and there was such outrage by the fans of Philadelphia that the rule was changed by Major League Baseball the next season. He will forever be the voice of the Phillies and at least he got to call one World Series.
I come from a huge family of Phillies baseball fanatics and his calls still reign throughout our household. We always thought of Kalas as a member of our family. Gathering around the television or radio as a family listening to Kalas is one of the fondest memories of my childhood. He called games for the Phillies since 1871, but every game seemed to endear him more and more to Philadelphia.
He became known for many things as the announcer of the Phillies.
The sound of Harry leading the clubhouse (and now stadium) to the tune of "High Hopes" by Frank Sinatra will be forever a part of Philly as the E-A-G-L-E-S EAGLES chant.
He would call homers by a certain Hall of Fame third baseman by noting the player's full name: "Michael Jack Schmidt." I never was able to watch Schmidt live but because of Kalas I feel like I had.
He was even known for leaving voice-messages on answering machines for fans. My uncle was lucky enough to have the following voice-mail recorded by Kalas personally:
"Sorry Joe can't reach you right now, but he's on A LONG DRIVE AND WAY OUTTA HERE!!!"
It is selfless acts like that will forever make Harry Kalas one of the most beloved figures in Philadelphia sports history.
Kalas was nationally recognized as well. He was a recipient of the Baseball Hall of Fame's Ford C. Frick Award for his contributions to the game, and was inducted in the MLB Hall-of-Fame in 2002.
Do you still find yourself watching or listening to old Harry Kalas clips? What was it about this man that enabled him to connect so to the city of Philadelphia? Is it because in baseball, it seems you are listening to the announcers every night? Then why aren't all baseball announcers as loved as Harry the K?
Why was Harry so loved?
It has been two whole years since Harry passed, and I still get a little choked up every so often when I don't hear his voice or see his smile when I turn on the game. He seemed to find the good in everybody and was loved by his colleagues and the players as much as the fans.
As mentioned earlier, I was fortunate enough to meet Harry Kalas when he came to my high school before our state championship football game (to wish us good luck of course.) Hundreds of people flocked around him as soon as he entered the gymnasium and it seemed as if everyone in attendance, young and old, referred to him simply as Harry (first name-basis with a legend was the type of man he was.)
I sat patiently while the festivities ensued not thinking about the biggest game of my life to that point, but if I was going to have the opportunity to meet my idol. A whole hour of speeches, drums, cheerleaders (you get the picture) played out in front of me and I became content with the fact that I had at least seen Harry up close and personal.
When I was leaving the gymnasium with the team, I saw my opportunity when he was walking to his car with his son. I ran over to him and called out, "Harry K!" He turned around with that same smile that I'd seen on TV a million times before and my nervousness and awe turned into comfort and relaxation.
I will never forget what was said that day:
"Mr. Kalas, I just wanted to let you know that you have been like a father figure to me and even though this is the first time we have ever met, I feel like I have known you for years. Thank you so much for everything you have done and you will always be my favorite Phillie."
His reply was simply, "No, thank you young man. It is incredible comments like those that make me feel like the happiest and luckiest man in the world."
And he embraced a 6'2", 210 pound, 17-year-old strong-safety like he was a young child.
And that same teenager who is now 23 years old, can still admit that he gets as choked up now thinking about that moment as he did when it first happened.
For all of the deserving and astounding accomplishments Harry Kalas received during his time as an announcer, his greatest feat is that of a human being that so loved his city, the fans, and his team.
Cheers Harry. We will never forget you and thank you for being such an incredible part of our lives. Our hearts and prayers continue to go out to the Kalas family, and we thank you for allowing this great man to be apart of our family for so many years.
You will always be our favorite Phillie.