The Phillies honored the memory of longtime radio and television announcer Harry Kalas with a public tribute on Saturday at Citizen Bank Park.
Kalas, the voice of the Phillies since 1971, died Monday, April 13, 2009, as he prepared to announce the Philadelphia Phillies vs. the Washington National game in Washington, D.C. He collapsed in the broadcast booth and died at a local hospital shortly after.
His last home run call was Matt Stairs' pinch hit home run in Colorado in a 7-5 Phillies win on Easter Sunday.
So what does this picture above mean to the life of Phillies announcer Harry Kalas? It is to show that all of us, as Phillies fans, have met briefly, or a few times, a member of the team, broadcast team, or other member of the Phillies family.
The picture above is my mother-in-law, Lois, with the late Paul Richardson, the longtime Phillies organist, at a Christmas party in 1980 for season ticket holders. Here Richardson shows off his 1980 Phillies World Series ring.
I had season tickets once, in about 1985, as I had a 13-game Sunday plan. Living in Ocean City, NJ, I went to about half the games, gave a few away and ate the rest. It wasn't worth it.
But I did, as an 19-year-old, meet Mike Schmidt, Garry Maddox and Tug McGraw. I was of legal drinking age and me and my buddies would buy cheap seat tickets and go to the Stadium Club to watch the game. My buddy knew that if we waited 45 minutes after the game (enough time to have another beer), we would take the elevator down to the first level, near the Phillies locker room.
One night, when the elevator door opened, Mike Schmidt was on the elevator. He was very gracious and signed an autograph for me (I guess he was outnumbered and we could always hit the stop button, JK).
I also, three years ago, met and talked to John Kruk on the Ocean City Boardwalk. I talked to him for about a minute or so and left. No picture or autograph, just a meet and greet.
You see, whether you met him or not, Harry Kalas was a member of the Phillies family. You invited into your home, your car, to the beach with your transistor radio, on your boat, through XM satellite radio or MLB.com, or however you listened to Phillies broadcast their games.
He went places you would not invite your mother-in-law on most days! (JK).
Hey, I don't have blinders on. It would be the same for any team who lost a longtime and/or beloved player or announcer. It is like losing Jack Buck, for Cardinals fans, Harry Carey for Cubs fans, Red Barber for Brooklyn and Yankees fans, or Phil Risotto, again for Yankee fans.
Kalas was not only a great baseball announcer, but the Hall of Famer also broadcast Notre Dame football games and was the voice of NFL Films.
"This ball's outta here," was his familar refrain.
Those who love the broadcasting part of baseball could tell that Kalas was not as sure about what was a home run or not, later in his career ("Could it be, could it be?"), but he never, ever lost the voice that made him famous.
I watched some of Saturday's broadcast of the memorial service at Citizens Bank Park. I had to put the moment into perspective: I still had to go shopping with my wife, cut the grass and do things that a man, husband and father does.
But make no mistake. On Monday, as a Phillies and baseball fan, I lost a member of my family.
The broadcast won't be the same for a long, long, time ...