It is a sad time in Philadelphia. As David Montgomery said, “We lost our voice.” But it’s only during times like these that we realize how truly lucky we have been over the past 39 years.
Watching the Phillies will never be the same. And I don’t think I’m being overly dramatic when I say my life in general will never be the same.
I am 24 years old. To me, Harry has always been there. He is the Phillies. And there are many other young Phillies fans who feel the same way. We have known nothing but Harry. We were spoiled.
In much the same way that we live vicariously through sports to begin with, broadcasters like Harry Kalas become our friends. We can depend on them game after game to be there for us, even when things are going wrong in our own lives.
It’s a one-way dialogue, but when you are as good as Harry was, you truly make the listeners feel like they are experiencing the game with you.
Especially when he was paired with Richie Ashburn, Harry had a way of making it seem like you were sitting down with a couple of buddies enjoying a Phils game. Maybe you never met the man in your life, but if you were a Phillies fan, he felt like a great friend.
I have one personal story about Harry. In the summer of 2001, I went with some friends to Dorney Park in Allentown, PA, on the day before the MLB All-Star Game. Much to our amazement, we spotted Harry Kalas sitting on a bench, waiting for his grandchildren to finish a roller coaster ride.
We swarmed Harry and told him we were huge fans of him and the Phillies. Harry was probably taken aback that these 16-year-old kids were such fans of him. I wonder if it ever dawned on him how much he meant to so many young people because he had been a constant in their lives.
I also told him that his Hall of Fame induction was long overdue. But instead of stating his case and showing any kind of disappointment or resentment about having been left out for far too long, he was humble about it.
He said that he never expected to be in the Hall of Fame but instead would see it as a great honor to be enshrined after he saw how long it took his partner Whitey to achieve that milestone. He clearly had no sense of entitlement about it and was grateful just to be mentioned as a candidate.
I told Harry that I thought he would be inducted the following year and that I would go to Cooperstown to see it. He was, I did...and so did an army of thousands upon thousands of Phillies fans.
We as fans have a special place in our hearts for broadcasters because they are a direct link between us and the organization we so fervently support. Harry was a fan himself and wanted the Phillies to win just as badly as we did. We lived and died along with him.
If you thought it was difficult to get through those 2008 World Series Championship DVDs without breaking down before, just wait until you watch them again and see Harry celebrating among the millions of fans he brought so much joy to for decades.
We were just as happy to see Harry in that parade as we were for any of the players, because players tend to come and go, but we can spend decades enjoying someone like Harry.
He ended his Cooperstown speech with a poem, the last line of which was, “Philadelphia fans, I love you.” Not as much as we loved you back, Harry. It will be difficult without you.
Outta here. But never to be forgotten.